Spring Anxiety!

It’s 79 degrees outside, and it smells wonderful. After months of blizzards, it’s certainly a welcome change. If I wasn’t such an hermit, I’d go for a walk downtown or even around the block – but I’m content sitting in my house, sneezing my head off, and enjoying the scent of spring. Even if it makes my face stuffy.

I was off this past week from school, and I spent most of that time working on the distro. I’ve also had bursts of creative energy, but I’ve been too tired from the time change to channel that energy into any writing projects. I really want to make a fifth issue of my zine Driving Blind – I just need to find the strength. Writing takes a lot out of me, mentally. Words don’t flow like they used to, and that is partially why I have this blog. They say the more you write, the more you want to write and the easier it is. I think that’s true, and it has helped me, ever so slightly. Also, I’ve had to write a lot for school, so that’s good.

I want to go back for my Masters in English, but I fear that my anxiety will get the best of me. I am so completely introverted, and I’ve noticed how it’s gotten worse over the years. This isn’t to say that being introverted is a bad thing – millions of people are – but coupled with anxiety, it’s not a fun thing. I know that I am very nervous around large groups of people, I don’t like talking in front of people, I am nervous about not being able to write well enough, I am nervous about not getting good enough grades…the list goes on and on. And I know how difficult it can be for me to write, so being forced to write all.the.time, long papers – I don’t know if I can. But I always believe it’s important for me to try and push through my anxiety. I can’t let that be an extra barrier.

I’ve actually just started being more open with myself about my anxiety. I know I get panic attacks sometimes, especially in the middle of the night. I’ve learned to deal with them myself, so they are definitely not as bad as they used to be. But I worry to much about things. I have a perfectionist’s mind, and if it isn’t just right, I obsess over it until it is. And then I worry it isn’t good enough, and I never think it is. I don’t really want to get too deep into my anxiety here, but I think being honest with myself about it helps too.

Well, that was certainly a random post.

Guest Blogger Post: Talking to Myself 13 Years Ago

by Bree Chumley

Erin’s note: Bree is my best friend, and someone who I truly admire. I asked her to write a guest post, and she happily obliged. I believe what she wrote below is a true testament to the power of words (especially through zines), and the importance of forming bonds with people.

A close family friend contacted me earlier this week about a client she was working with through the social work center she’s a part of. This client is in the 8th grade and is just about to turn fourteen years old. She’s recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, social anxiety and is showing symptoms of being suicidal. That sounds pretty awful, right? Yeah, it does to me, too. More for a specific reason: those exact same things happened to me at that exact same age. This young girl and I have another thing in common: we wanted to get into zines to deal with our emotional disorders. My family friend sounded distressed for a multitude of reasons, but the main one being that this client reminded her so much of me at that age and even now at twice that age.

So now I’m in this position of being able to talk to myself 13 years ago. To write letters of support and encouragement and send zines that show how I’ve worked through these issues since I was diagnosed as a teenager. It sounded like a dream opportunity at first when my friend called me for advice and a favor of writing this young girl. But it’s now 4 days later and I’m realizing what a huge daunting task this is. I’m literally overcoming the issues I sustained as a young teenager NOW in therapy, as in, the past few months. But now I’m thrown right back into this position of reexamining and rehashing my muddy past all over again. It’s extremely hard to not get wrapped up in self pity and loathing for how I spent a large portion of my life thus far.

And another problem that I’m trying to strategize a solution to… because my emotional and mental disorders were inconsistently treated, I feel that it led to me being extremely vulnerable to heavy drugs, drinking at a young age, and promiscuous unsafe sex. How do I approach a teenager about how ugly it can actually get for you? That there’s a good chance you’ll fall into these patterns too? That they’ll basically wreck your life? Should I use this as a jumping-off point to encourage her to always take care of herself and keep her best interest in mind? I mean really, will reading about this inspire her to listen to what her instincts tell her? Or will she feel it is “okay” to do these things, too? How do I try to inspire her to write it all out and don’t give into the easy fixes? God, I really don’t know.

If there was ever a tangible reward for writing about this shit going on in your life and sharing it with complete strangers… this has got to be it.

Designing and Creating

I’m a student at the International Academy of Design and Technology, going after my Associate’s in Web Design and Development. It’s kind of backward, seeing as I already have a Bachelor’s in English, but obviously, those are two completely different areas of study. An Associate’s is all I can afford at this time, but I think what I am learning now is enough to really advance myself in the field.  I’m definitely a better coder than a designer, but I think (hope!) that my design skills are good enough to get me somewhere.

I recently finished designing the new layout for my zine distro, Things You Say.  I was happy with the way it turned out, and I was even happier that this was the first website I completely coded myself – and I think it looks better than anything I’ve done in a while. One thing I need to work on is my graphic design skills – actually, more like my overall design skills.  I think what I do is really great, until I look at other websites and I see I’m not as good as those. But I know learning these things takes time, and I’m not going to be a design/coding genius overnight. I need to get my feet wet a bit more before I feel comfortable and confident enough in my work to go out and seek freelance jobs.

There’s something about when you finish a website  and then upload it to the web and you can see that it works that really makes me excited about life. That is probably the dorkiest statement you have ever read ( when my friends need some code who do they call, I do HTML for them all, yo!), but it’s true. I get that same feeling when I finish creating my zine and hold the first stapled copy in my hand. I love making things, and I love sharing those things – that’s why I gravitate toward zines and writing and web design.

My next design venture is making my dad’s guitar website. Like me, he designs and makes things – for work (he’s an engineer) and for a hobby (making/designing guitars). I guess that’s who I get my artistic passion and technonerdity from, although my mom is pretty crafty herself. My brother is very artistic, too. So I guess we’re just creatin’ fiends at the Hawley house. Hopefully, my niece acquired this trait – her mom is a florist, too, so it’s definitely in her genes. We’re all thinking she’s going to be a musician because she loves listening to Rod Stewart and Phantom of the Opera.

What have you created or designed lately?

I’d Rather Watch Hockey

Me in a Devil's jerseyI’m not really going to talk about the Super Bowl (except to say that Christina Aguilera butchered the National Anthem vocally and lyrically, and the Black Eyed Peas were THE WORST) because I hate football. I really didn’t care who won. I did catch some of Puppy Bowl before my parents switched channels, and that was adorable as ever. I love the hamsters in the blimp.

However, I am going to talk about HOCKEY.  Even though I am a huge fan now, I used to hate it. Well, I can’t say I hated it, but I was definitely sick of it. My brother was on his high school’s varsity hockey team, so I ended up going to every practice after school, and usually every game. The last thing I wanted to do after a long day at school was to go to some damn hockey practice that lasted forever. And I had no choice, because I couldn’t stay home on my own, we had no nurse, and my dad was at work. After his practice, my brother (and sometimes his friends) would pile in our van and stink it up with their smelly B.O. On top of all this, my father also played (and still plays) hockey, so I went to a few of those games as well. He was into roller hockey at the time (he’s moved on to ice, thank Mariah), and the rink where he skated smelled like feet. So…I pretty much had a severe love/hate relationship with the sport. Leaning more towards the hate side.

But when my brother graduated high school and everything settled down, I really got into hockey. I would say I am obsessed, definitely. Being a New Jersey born-and-raised lady, the Devils are my favorite team. Elias and Brodeur are my favorite players on the Devils, and Oduya is my favorite non-Devil player (he used to be a Devil). I want to like Kovalchuk (a Devil who we spent way too much for), but I am still bitter we had to lose Oduya for him. And honestly, Kovy has lost the puck or messed up more than he’s scored goals.

The Devils aren’t the only team I enjoy – I also like the Islanders, Buffalo, Philly, the Penguins, and Atlanta (Oduya’s current team). Of course, I hate hate hate the Rangers – I guess that’s the only team I can say I hate.

Do you watch hockey? Who is your favorite team?

When the Kindle Won My Heart

I finally broke down and purchased a Kindle. I was vehemently against owning one, for the simple fact that they are aiding in the obsolete-ness of actual paper books, but I figured the convenience and cool-factor outweighed that. I even purchased a fancy cover for it, since this reading toy would be my new best friend for a while.

My bedroom is so cluttered and tiny, and most of that clutter is books. Now, unless it’s something special I must own a hard copy of (like Harry Potter), I’ll purchase all my books on the Kindle. Once I read all the books on at least one of my shelves, I’ll box those books up and donate them to a library, women’s shelter, or wherever else takes books. As far as “OMG KINDLE IS RUINING BOOKS!”…I just have to get over my book snobbery, and know that literature will never truly go away. It’s like music – the popular and preferred mode of listening has changed (twice in my lifetime), but there is still music being produced. Cassettes to CDs and then to digital songs. Paper, audio, and then eBooks.

I’ve already downloaded three books. Right now, I’m reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Here’s the description from Amazon.com by Tom Nissley:

From a single, abbreviated life grew a seemingly immortal line of cells that made some of the most crucial innovations in modern science possible. And from that same life, and those cells, Rebecca Skloot has fashioned in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks a fascinating and moving story of medicine and family, of how life is sustained in laboratories and in memory. Henrietta Lacks was a mother of five in Baltimore, a poor African American migrant from the tobacco farms of Virginia, who died from a cruelly aggressive cancer at the age of 30 in 1951. A sample of her cancerous tissue, taken without her knowledge or consent, as was the custom then, turned out to provide one of the holy grails of mid-century biology: human cells that could survive–even thrive–in the lab. Known as HeLa cells, their stunning potency gave scientists a building block for countless breakthroughs, beginning with the cure for polio. Meanwhile, Henrietta’s family continued to live in poverty and frequently poor health, and their discovery decades later of her unknowing contribution–and her cells’ strange survival–left them full of pride, anger, and suspicion. For a decade, Skloot doggedly but compassionately gathered the threads of these stories, slowly gaining the trust of the family while helping them learn the truth about Henrietta, and with their aid she tells a rich and haunting story that asks the questions, Who owns our bodies? And who carries our memories?

Sounds amazing, right? I’m only 9% done (still getting used to percentages instead of page numbers), but I think I like it so far. Except something is bothering me about the author that I can’t quite put my finger on yet. I’m not sure if it’s her overly-clinical voice when talking about the family and this sensitive subject, or if it’s just the whole “white person writing about the intimate lives of people of color” thing which often skeeves me out. I get the same feeling when I read stories about disabled people/lives written by abled people. Although I’m not sure if that’s what’s going on here – I’ll have to read more before I understand.

I also downloaded Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue on the recommendation of my cousin, and The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina Garcia, who is a Cuban author I adore. I’ll write about those when I read them.

What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations?