Things Change (again?)

At what point do you realize that you don’t enjoy the things you used to enjoy? And why is it that you stop enjoying them?

Not enjoying the things that you used to enjoy is a symptom of depression and burnout. Or maybe it’s a symptom of growing up and realizing that there are more important things than knitting, reading, or playing video games.

Photo cred; iliketowastemytime.com

People change. Times change. Situations change. One sees many a romance novel/book with the main protagonist crying “but why do things have to change?” or “we could have it just the way it was before.”

Why do things change. Why do some things become more important than others? Sure, hobbies come and go, but you’ve got a problem when you realize that you can’t enjoy anything anymore.

Burnout

School is hard.

Don’t get me wrong – education is supposed to be challenging. But more frequently I’ve heard people say “Is he okay?” Following comes the response, “Yeah but he’s all burnt out.”

Burnout is real. It’s a state of chronic stress that can cause lethargy, depression, and general numbness and not a care in the world. (I suggest you read the link given below.)

Burnout happens when you’ve been experiencing chronic stress for so long that your body and your emotional system have begun to shut down and are operating in survival mode,” says Dr. Sara Denning, a clinical psychologist based in Manhattan who specializes in dealing with stress and anxiety. “You numb out because you can’t think. You can’t even make decisions anymore.”

Further delving into the article reveals that burnout symptoms were arriving in younger and younger people, as early as college freshman. Which is where I will be next year. And it’s also where I feel like I’m heading next year.

There’s something called Senioritis, and it’s, as described as me, “a high school senior lacking in motivation because WE’RE GRADUATING OMYGOSH.” The symptoms are similar to a burnout, lacking motivation, lethargy, etc. The difference is that Senioritis isn’t usually stress or depression caused. It’s just that knowing how I won’t be here next year to deal with consequences makes me want to… Slack off.

I’ve gotten off topic.

Burnout.

If a college freshman is already feeling the symptoms of burnout, then what does that say about the education system? Are we supposed to be holding these children over a fire with a stick? Maybe. But are we then supposed to let them slow roast until a perfect, golden brown –

Photo cred; Cook In / Dine Out
– or let them catch on fire and watch them try and quench themselves?

Photo cred; Dreier.com

Graphic image aside… There goes my two cents. And I don’t care enough to get them back either.

It’s a Small World

When I was in first grade, I went to school in Hangzhou International School. The classes ranged from preschool to twelfth grade, totaling to about 312 students. At least, that’s the only number I remember.

HIS is a small private school with students from Japan, Korea, Germany, Australia, you name it. It was a day school, ending at 3, and uniforms were required. Nobody got dress-coded, and each class became very, very tight.

One of my most vivid memories is walking down a long, white hallway decorated with life-sized paintings of dinosaurs. It was an empty hallway with big windows and no doors, so we could be as loud as we wanted. And with 25+ students in my grade, we were definitely loud. We travelled from class to class as a pack, because in lower and middle school, that’s how classes worked.

Photo cred: Byrne Robotics

I was at HIS for 8 years. Leaving China to go to Ojai Valley School was probably the biggest change in my life.

There’s only 114 students at OVS. At least, that’s the only number I remember. We have a dress code and students that ran around campus in all different directions to different classes.

It’s wide, crazy, open, and very, very, very small. You’re basically forced to  get to know the people here because we’re kinda-sorta stuck on top of a hill together.

The two college dorms I applied to, Skarland and Moore, with 100 and 322 students living in them. Which are the sizes of the only schools I have ever been to. I guess you can consider me a small-town girl.

It was a small world for me. This school, with about 9,000 students, is going to be an entirely new galaxy for me.

Things Change

I remember when I was a kid, I wanted to be a surgeon. Thinking back now, I cannot remember why, but something about my Asian ancestry made me want to be something big, important, and that rakes in cash.

My parents convinced me to change my career path.” They said that being a surgeon was too strenuous, that I would have no time to do anything else. Being a dentist was better, they said. Lots of cash, free time, and still in the medical field.

When I discovered my love for animals, I did what was natural for every animal-loving child of 12. I told everyone that I wanted to be a vet. And for the longest time I dreamed of traveling the world as an exotic vet, taking care of any and all wild animals that needed help at the moment. It was a big dream for a little girl.

Though that dream still lies, I soon realized that I don’t have the intelligence or… Mental grit to be anything in the medical field. I had no problem dealing with blood or dissections, but the thought of being in school for 7-9 more years made me feel queasy.

By some luck or miracle, a friend said two words with full confidence that may have saved me money, time, and sanity. “Forest Ranger.” I could be with animals. I could be surrounded by nature, isolated in a cabin or helping people understand the wonders that befuddle them.

Photo cred: Tom Philo Photography

 

Crazy to think how my aspirations have… Seemingly degraded. From high-ranking surgeon to a live-in-the-dirt forest ranger. But I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Things change.

Double-Edged

Does the coming of a break bring the mindset of exhaustion, or does exhaustion signal the need for a break?

Two weeks before break, I feel my body shutting down and the traditional sick feeling beginning in the lower ridges of my throat. An ache in my head begins and my body feels heavier each morning, as if stones line my blankets.

Do schools, through years and years of grueling torture and experimentation, know the limits of the teenage body and place school breaks appropriately? Or, do our bodies and minds know that a break is coming and anticipate it by prepping us for hibernation?

The strong hold it out until break and return rested and energized. The weak hold it out until break then proceed to get sick for 10 days. And return not so rested but strong enough for the next break.

My questions are; which of the theories is correct? Is this the right way to hold school? Is there even a right way?

The Spiders Rise pt. 2

Parts of the following blog are fictional accounts.

Tuesday
I’m always the first one back from breakfast, so the dorms are quiet and still. Halfway down the hallway, a drawing of a cartoon spider flutters to my feet from it’s position on the wall. It was an omen, I swear it was. There was a spider in the dorm’s cutlery drawer when I was looking for spoon to make hot chocolate with.

The girls went to bed that night feeling weary but quite hopeless. We all knew that the relentless torture would not ease up yet. “Third time’s the charm,” they say.

3am and the all-too familiar sound fills the dorm. I laid awake in bed for 20 seconds or so, contemplating just staying in my room and facing the consequences.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with that thought, as I was the first person out of the dorm. The other humans took their time coming out because they knew that there was no fire and no danger.

We’re all tired. We’re all bickering.

Wednesday

No sign of our 8-legged friends anywhere, so I felt internally relieved. The other girls felt hopelessly exhausted and didn’t have as much knowledge as I do.

All was quiet that night. Not a peep, not a ring, not a twitch.

Thursday
6:40am and I’m brushing my teeth, eyes still closed and dozing off in the silence. A friend screams and points to the wall – a large brown recluse, crouching and staring at me from the mirror. I bring him outside and try to calm my beating heart, now definitely awake.

There’s the cartoon spider at my feet again. I had stuck it back onto the wall on Tuesday, and today… Well, there it is.

9pm Thursday. I’m prepared for their final attack.

Friday
5am and I was woken by the smell of smoke. It was faint enough that the fire alarms didn’t go off.

There were about (aw heck no) a dozen spiders on my floor.

They all ran under the crack of my door and I followed them out into the hallway and out of the dorm. It was hot outside. Like, fiery hot. Actually, there was a huuuge fire outside the dorm that singed the edges of my tie-dye shirt and curled the ends of my braided hair.

The fire alarm finally went off but the dorm didn’t jump like it usually did.

Everyone was sick of the fire alarm. Every single one of them stayed in their beds and covered their ears and groaned. Nobody was awake enough to smell the smoke or to even bother to check the hallways, where smoke was coating the ceilings.

The dorm dogs ran outside silently, followed by a cat and several hundred more insects of all shapes and sizes.

I thought I was dreaming, which is why I only laughed and waved at the dorm.

Bye.

Photo credit ifiberone.com

Goodbye.

The Spiders Rise pt. 1

Sunday
11pm (on Saturday) and I’m piling wet clothes into the drying machine. A few socks fall to the ground and I feel an ominous tingle touch my spine while reaching for them. In the gap between two machines is one of the largest spiders I’ve ever seen in my life, about an inch long with legs. Now, I’m not afraid of spiders, but I could’ve sworn that this one was looking right at me.

Photo cred – Spiders.us

That night (or morning), all was well until 3am. Alarms blared and the whole dorm seemed to shake as 40 girls fell out of bed. The fire alarm had been triggered, and the standard protocol was to all file outside into our circular driveway.

I was in such a rush that I forgot my shoes and glasses, which normally wouldn’t be a problem. It was dark out and the little moonlight we had were shadowed by the bodies of stumbling girls. Twice I nearly fell down the stairs.

The real kicker? There was no fire. And we all knew it.

Monday
While making tea that morning, a (rather normal sized) spider scuttled across my feet and made its way out the door. Spiders are very normal occurrences around the girl’s dorm, but most of them actively avoid humans. So this was a very, very odd thing to experience early in the morning.

Everybody went to bed that night as usual, not suspecting a repeat of the night before.

5am came around and the same shrill sirens went off, startling the dorm and ejecting the girls into the cold. I remembered my shoes this time, but it was still cold, dark, and disorienting. 5am was an odd time for us to wake up, as most girls wake at 6:30 anyways. I considered staying up, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to decide.

I knew that this was just the beginning.

“Like”

Where on earth did this term come from? I’m not talking about Facebook likes or Instagram likes.

I’m talking about how one will be talking to a new person, a potential new friend, and everything is going great until they say it. Or rather, they say it half a dozen times in one sentence. And all of a sudden you feel like stabbing someone, but not the person because you want to be friends with them.

Img cred; sodahead.com

I’m pretty darn guilty of this myself, but I’m definitely noticing it and am trying to fix this habit. But when I try, I find it difficult to find words to replace “like.” Sometimes I feel like if I use any other word or phrase other than “like,” I’ll sound too formal and/or weird.

I wonder if any “likers” don’t notice this habit of theirs. I also wonder how many are aware and just don’t care. And I also wonder how many other people feel the irresistible urge to lash out in fury after the sixth “like.”

The Split Mind

As the day goes on, exhaustion starts to grow. Not that I’ve done anything besides sit around all day, but nonetheless, I feel exhausted.

It all happens unconsciously. I sit down next to two friends and then immediately memorize who’s sitting in the room with us. One, two, three, four, and then five adults. The boys take over the couches, and the girls weave around the snack tables.

The big game is showing on the TV, and I repeatedly flicker my eyes to the screen, keeping track of the score and any big plays that might have happened. There are also people outside playing ping-pong, and I try to mentally mark the people who are outside.

And while I’m so absorbed in the room, I’m also talking to the person to my left. The one that is so demanding of my attention, and I’m thinking about my inability to give it to him.

Photo cred; healthyplace.com

Because my mind and my senses are completely split, there is no way in bloody heck that I can ever pay attention to one thing and one thing only. My ears strain to hear the conversations on the couches and my eyes try to watch and make sure everyone is alright and okay. God knows why my mind just can’t settle down.

So now it’s the end of the day, but I don’t feel like I’m allowed to say “I’m exhausted” because I have literally done nothing but sit around all day.

Orcas vs. Horses?

Orcas, or killer whales, have been kept in captivity since 1961, and there have been books and movies made about them and how cruel it is to use them for our entertainment. As I read Death at SeaWorld (and watched Blackfish), I started to think about the similarities between horses and orcas in “captivity.”

Both are large, potentially dangerous, and used for entertainment and sport. Both have caused injury, both have caused death, and both are highly intelligent and (seem to) experience emotions and moods.

The only difference I see is that horses have been domesticated for 5500 years, which is far more than the 50 or so years that orcas have been kept captive. Somehow, I feel like the domestication, and perhaps usefulness, is what’s saving horses from being “liberated.”

Our horses, like the orcas, are kept cooped up in small stalls, while feral horses can travel 65-80 km daily for food, water, and shelter. To rid their energy before riding, we make our horses run in circles around us in a little pen.

Horses can get “moody” and “off.” Sometimes they’ll refuse jumps, buck for no reason, or refuse to slow down while trotting or cantering. So we blame the rider, trainer, or the weather. Orcas can be like that too, refusing trainer orders or protesting in their guttural language.

After I was flung off my pony and broke my clavicle rather terribly, I couldn’t do much of anything but sit in my room all day. I still can’t ride, but I can lunge and groom as long as I’m careful. The pony that bucked me off didn’t seem crazy, guilty, or dangerous whatsoever, and I felt no fear or trauma while looking at him. I was injured so severely that my bone was in danger of impaling through my shoulder and I required a two-hour surgery, and something like that sticks in your mind.

Huge controversies came up and multiple rules were put into place when the first orca injured its trainer, yet when I was injured by my pony my friend was instructed to keep riding him because he “shouldn’t be allowed off that easy.”

I don’t think my pony’s intentions were to hurt me, just like I think that killer whales don’t really want to kill us. But if I were stuck in a cubicle, working for hours with little to no rewards, I would probably go a little nutty and stir-crazy.

Just sayin’.