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Live your insecurities. Then get over them.

17 Aug

Gave the blog a makeover: like it? Tell me. Hate it? Also tell me, but then follow it with “you’re pretty.”

It’s four days until the big day and I just finished a slideshow of our childhood pictures. Such a trip down memory lane got me reflecting in a way that’s good for all of us to do (briefly) Who were you? Who are you now? Who are you glad not to be anymore?

This was when I was the only child. Life was full of possibilities. I lived in the back of an orange Datsun (go with me, here). This was also when my mom wore giant glasses and clothes to match our car. I didn’t know who I was yet, but I look confident (and like I might want cake).

Then I became the big sister and I had lessons to teach: “Take my hand, little Kate, let me show you what it’s like to walk in my red shoes. Since red doesn’t match anything, you can wear it with everything!” 17 months of life experience pre-sister gave me all kinds of wisdom that I couldn’t stop sharing with her (she loved this). 

That’s us years later feeding dolphins at Sea World, my only other trip to Florida until 2010. My sister is happy, carefree. At age 8, I’d already started obsessing over my ears sticking out. Note shaggy hair to ensure coverage of ears.

I had braces for two and a half years, yet this is one of the few pictures I could find where you can actually see them because I refused to smile in most pictures. Before braces, I didn’t smile to cover up my buck teeth. Here the wind is betraying my carefully crafted hair-over-ears placement as well. Ear + teeth insecurity was very serious.

Hello, paisley! 10th grade school picture: braces still on. I look at this picture and want to scream, “Smile, you joyless looking bore!” I smile excessively now for pictures (and sometimes with crazy eyebrows). Overcompensating.

Since the slideshow was childhood focused, I don’t have scans of me from college. Secretly, I’m glad of this (I was 20 lbs  heavier), but the visual would be helpful. The 90’s was the grunge era (read baggy clothes and flannel). This look made people at size 2 look large, so on 6 ft’ of me at size 14, it was unfortunate. Grunge was anti-feminine fashion: at one point I was wearing an oversized, black, zip-up hoodie, baggy jeans, and steel toed boots. I looked like a chubby-faced thug. Luckily I was charming.

My point is not that once I started smiling, wearing my hair in a ponytail, and stopped eating entire boxes of cereal as snacks that my life got better. It’s that I stopped fixating on all the stuff that was wrong with me/my life and started focusing on being happy. At that point everything started falling into place.

Leo Tolstoy (who is surprisingly not intense 100% of the time) said “if you want to be happy, be.” So simple, Leo (as most good advice is). Don’t stay in situations and ways of thinking that make you miserable. So obvious, yet it took me years  to get it.

This self help guy also said, “Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable, than risk being happy.” Being happy is a risk, and as a friend said to me “it’s easier not to.” It hurts in the beginning to shake up your routine and your thinking, but once I did I never looked back. At least not more than twice.

Like Conan,  I  hate cynics. It’s so much easier to criticize others than to change your own life. Or to compare your life to others saying “at least I’m not like that.” I speak to you not only as president of the former cynics, but also a member.

Thank goodness I finally GOT OVER IT.

This will be my last post ’til I’m wed, so until then, be happy!

Shredding my memories

7 Aug

I have lived in my house for going on six years. This is (other than my childhood home) the longest I have lived inside any structure. As a kid we moved once when I was 8. From one house in a small town to another house in the same small town. I mostly remember going through stacks of World magazines with my sister in her new room while we waited for the movers (who were my Dad’s poker buddies) to bring in our clothes. Starting in college, moving became part of my life. It went something like this:

Fall 1994: Mom and Dad drive an overly packed Suburban (thanks, neighbors for the lend!) to college. I see Dad tear up through the rear view mirror as we near the campus. (I didn’t see that again until he and I pulled away from his childhood home when we left my grandfather there after my grandmother’s funeral six months later). I’ve officially moved out and even Dad’s choked up. This was going to be different.

Spring 1995: Move out of dorm, sadly leave all my new friends, move back home. Anti-climatic, but no less irritating. Moving = hell.

Rinse and repeat through Spring 1997. This was the year of epic moving. I moved out of my dorm end of exam week  (for one week) then moved into another Summer Leadership dorm. Moved out of said dorm and back home (for one week) and then into my senior year dorm Fall 1997. 4 times moving, one summer. And in case you haven’t done it in awhile, moving sucks. All the boxes and sweating and yelling at your family; it’s enough to make anyone disown you.

Spring-Fall 1998: Graduation! Yay! I’m a real adult! Moving out is triumphant! I’ll miss my friends, but….woohoo! More like boohoo. Enter mild depression for three months, lose 20 lbs. Move again. (Turns out being a real adult blew, and after brief excitement over buying a bed and a dresser, I had to work at the Olive Garden. Neverending pasta bowls still give me nightmares).  Live there for three months and decide to be a teacher, move again to take a job back near hometown working with children under the age of 7 (with plans to return to Richmond).

Summer 1999: Re-enter Richmond with a trailer of my stuff, this time for grad school: I’m going to teach high school English, people! Party time. Real adult was better this time; I was back in school with a plan.

Summer 2000: Move again (two blocks away). One of my two roommates (both with the same name, different spelling) moves out to move in with her boyfriend. The two of us left behind can no longer afford our rent, so we move into a Uhaul and down the street.

Spring 2001: Holding pattern of school is over, need job. Grad school graduation party thrown by parents ends with sadness. Jobless, directionless, but not homeless–have an apartment on my own & sign a lease…but before moving into said apartment, accept job teaching 1 hour away. Move into new apt. in Richmond for 2 months, then move again into house on the Rappahnnock River (well, an apartment inside a giant house). Third summer as real adult = another two moves.

Summer 2002: Wait, no Uhaul truck? Sure, I hate it here, but no moving? Totally worth it.

Summer 2003: Whoa, I lived in one place for two years. SO MUCH CRAP I NEVER THREW AWAY! Without the yearly purge, I was floundering. A trip to Goodwill solved (most) of my mini-hoarding issues. I had 4 closets in that place (storing and forgetting = cake). I moved back to Richmond to take a new an exciting teaching job at a brand new high school! (And I would advise the yearbook, oh shit).

Summer 2004: After a fantastic year of living in the Fan again, I had to um, move again. This time for good reason: I bought my first house! So exciting and yet another moving debacle, but OMG, I’m a homeowner. Debt and responsibility ensue. Game nights, dinner parties, and I ended an 8-yr relationship while living in that house. Real adult x 10.

Summer 2010: It’s six years later and I’m trying desperately to get every little thing out of this house. I have tremendous friends and parents helping me go through an excess of memories. The photos of who I was, the 401K statements of what I could be, and the [insert where my friend tells me to shred all my memories and make new ones]. When you have a townhouse full of memories, you need to buy a shredder. So I did (with Target gift cards). I’ve spent the last week shredding (and unjamming said shredder), but at some point when you’re moving to Florida to start a new life with the love of your life, you don’t want to carry all these burdens with you.

Memories are embedded in my brain; I don’t need physical tokens to feel them, be them. Every step I take is on the heel of a past experience. I once thought that experiencing a fire would help me to separate myself from my possessions. Not that I wished for my house to catch on fire but I did think of the positives of such a tragedy. Then of course I met people who lost everything in a fire and I’m marrying someone who lost most everything to Hurricane Katrina. I am grateful I was not them. But the idea is still the same: as much as I love momentos and pour over them for hours when I find them, memory is deeper.  So I shredded and trashed far more than I thought I might. And it felt good. And then I was strangely emotional about an TV show on hoarding–while I don’t understand the depths of real-life hoarders, I understand the need to hold onto papers, to evidence of your previous life. It feels like you’re disappearing.

Thing is, you’re constantly reappearing in better form. Young Kara held onto everything. Young-at-heart Kara lets go in the physical sense and embraces the adventures lying ahead. Life will keep getting better the more you can release the past into the wind. I like to think of it as a warm breeze that comforts us when we need it, and cools us off when things are too hot. Like in Florida. Thank God above for the breeze or the humidity in SoFlo would knock me over. And ultimately, that’s me. Easy. Breezy.

Memories shredded, but I kept most of the pictures. Sometimes the breeze needs a visual.

Rainshine.

2 Jun

Just as school ended today, the sky opened up and all you could hear was the pounding downpour on the roof. I hadn’t noticed the preliminary signs of this as my students were giving research presentations using PowerPoint (shades drawn, lights off). When the artificial lights flickered on, and my students finished rubbing their still adjusting eyes, I saw the gloomy rain beating down on the tops of the yellow buses outside the window. I had wanted to flee the building all afternoon. Mother Nature would like me to hold off another fifteen minutes. I walked outside around 4 to an embracing sunlight and drove home in a sunny rainstorm: this merely elevated the confusing mix of emotions I’d been harboring all day.

Earlier this morning, I drove my fiance to the airport so that he could catch a flight to South Florida (his current and my future home). Some background: less than a week after we got engaged, he left studying honeybee disease and started a new job researching termites a few miles west of Ft. Lauderdale. Yes, I’m marrying an entomologist and yes, I’m moving 14 hours away from all my family and friends so he can follow his dream. Was this an easy decision? Obviously not. I mean leaving a job I love, the moving part, the getting over the fear of change: that didn’t come easy. Saying yes to marrying Aaron? Easiest decision I ever made. But maybe that’s because nothing about our relationship has ever been convenient: we’ve always been long distance (it just went from 3.5 hours to it’s faster to fly). You don’t burn up the highway in your 30’s unless it’s worth it, so pledging a lifetime to my bug man = no brainer.

And yet with all this excitement and all these good things coming my way, the burden of selling my house and unfinished work have me paralyzed a bit. I know soon I’ll get inspired and become so productive I won’t even recognize myself, but in the interim I’ll keep harboring the clouds that block all those rays of the Sunshine State.

Taken at Dania Beach, FL, in January (This was one of the few times the sun peeked out on a generally cloudy day; despite this post, I'm an optimist).