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Where am I going, where have I been?

Hello again friends, I apologize for my absence! I am still here and active as evidenced by the weekly book reviews, but I know I haven’t written any personal posts in a while. I’ve had a lot going on between school and my personal life, and if I am to be completely honest, I’ve been really depressed. I recognize that I have drifted away recently from a lot of my friends and the groups I was a part of, and besides the blog, almost all of my projects were put on hold.

So what happened? A lot, really.

Marriage & mental health

My husband and I’s first year marriage anniversary was earlier this year in April, and up to that point I was doing pretty good, all things considered. I felt more and more in love every day, my family adores my husband, he’s a wonderful father to my daughters, and we had become stable financially and were even considering buying a house. Things seemed to change for a few weeks in March, and he hadn’t been acting like himself, but I figured it was just me.

I still don’t feel comfortable going into it, and talking about it will only dig up more pain. But in short, I was cheated on, and I had my heart broken on our one-year anniversary, and that hurtled me into the deepest suicidal depression I had ever experienced. For a while, all I wanted to do was die.

It’s been several months now, and we’ve been rebuilding our marriage ever since, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t eat at me still and I’ve been very easily triggered. Whenever I feel happy like things are back to normal with my husband and with my family, I can’t help but feel sad again. Like this happiness is temporary, it all feels doomed that this had happened so early in our marriage. If I hadn’t confronted the situation, nothing would have changed. I know that I’m still not fully okay, but my husband has been supporting me and trying to show me that he messed up and that it’s all done for good.

I’ve been in a weird place, and my self-confidence has been in all but destroyed. But things are getting better, I think.

Career Advancements

I received a promotion to academic advising at my university earlier this year, and I’m so glad that I could finally move my career forward. While my old position in admissions was okay, I was highly praised and had been in a sub-leadership role and had been doing training, it was unsatisfying and I felt stagnated. Around the end of last year, I also began to experience some interpersonal issues with the leadership in that department. I found myself feeling targeted at meetings by a director who began to make passive-aggressive jabs at me and at one time accused me of faking illness on a day I was actually very sick and on the verge of passing out. I recognize that I had a poor attendance for a time last year, mostly due to sickness and a lot of stress from my position. Even so, I had continued to perform well and had consistently for two years maintained high numbers and had an exceptional end of the year employee evaluation, it began to feel like no matter hard I tried, it was never enough.

Office politics aside, I got on the good side of a senior director who gave me a lot of confidence and pushed me to transition to a new department, and I’m very thankful for this. It was the push that I needed to get to a place where I can somewhat enjoy my work. The only stress now comes from the occasional aggravated students, usually regarding financial aid or failing grades, but all-in-all it’s not as high pressure and I’ve had a lot of support from my colleagues.

Also with COVID-19, I have been working remotely from home since March. As scary as this pandemic is, in a way I’ve been thankful that I’ve been able to be home the last couple of months. I don’t think I would have survived the blow that I did if I still had to go to the office every day. The anxiety would have been disastrous, and I was already struggling to keep myself together at home, there’s no way I would’ve been able to do that surrounded by my colleagues.

Graduate Studies

I began the final year of my graduate program this year, and as of the time of this writing, I have just four more weeks until I finish my last two classes. I was able to participate in my university’s commencement ceremony this past Spring since I was only two classes away from graduating, but due to COVID-19 the ceremony was only an online slideshow. Even so, I am relieved to finally be so close to finishing my master’s degree and can close that chapter of my life. The thought of pursuing a doctoral degree has crossed my mind a few times, but I haven’t decided on what field I’d be passionate enough about that I’d want to do research for, and my current career path does not really require a doctorate. Perhaps someday I might like to be a professor, but for the time being, I am satisfied with pursuing my career on the administrative side of higher education.

In addition, my oldest daughter Mackenzie graduated elementary school and will be moving onto middle school next year. I haven’t decided what we will do with schools re-opening in the midst of a pandemic. I know that schools in my area have been making adjustments, but I’m strongly considering home school for a while for both of my daughters. Quinn will not be starting elementary school for another year, so I can feel comfortable about that for now.

Video Games

Lately, I have not been playing that many video games, primarily because of school. I have a hard time engaging with my usual hobbies when I’m in school because I can’t help but feel guilty for doing anything other than studying. I have been avoiding online multiplayer games specifically for this reason, I don’t want to become too engaged and start neglecting my studies when I’m so close to the finish line. I did pick up a few brand new games from the recent Steam summer sale, however, notably Lorelai, Coffee Talk, and A Plague Tale: Innocence which I look forward to playing soon.

Earlier this year I also picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons which has been just the game I needed! The game and it has done a lot for my mental health, and it’s low commitment enough that I do not have to feel guilty about enjoying for a short time and then putting it down when I need to focus. I have also very much enjoyed watching the love for this game grow online and regularly watch island tour videos. I grew up playing Animal Crossing on the GameCube with my brothers and I was so happy when this was announced on the Switch.

Where am I going?

My thirty-third birthday is coming up this Thursday, and I think I might spoil myself a little. I feel like I’m finally getting to a point of peace now that I am wrapping up my degree, and I’ve been working on rebuilding my marriage. I still plan to continue working on this blog and writing more content besides book reviews, though they are still my favorite type of post to write. I’d also very much like to get back into TCGs at some point and have been working a bit here and there on two games that I would like to open, but for the time being those are on the back burner until I finish school. I mostly plan on spending most of the rest of my time catching up on books, anime, manga, and video games that I’ve been dying to get around to and continuing to work on my mental health. I finally feel like I’m beginning to come out of a dark place in my life, and I hope that my next entry will be a far happier one.

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Star Ratings – the trouble with using them

I have been going back and forth about whether or not to use star ratings for a while. I used them heavily in the past, removed them for a while, and added them back. I still use them on my Goodreads but honestly, I have been on the fence about removing those for fear of backlash. I feel bad about giving a low star rating to a book.

The reason I take issue is that I found them kind of arbitrary and entirely subjective. One person’s five-star read could be an abysmal one-star for others. On top of that, there is no good scale for rating a book with stars. Do I give a book or video game lots of stars because I enjoyed reading it, even though subjectively it’s not that good? Or do I give it lots of stars because it is well made, even though I personally didn’t enjoy it?

There were many instances where I couldn’t decide what to rate a book and did half stars. Or times when I rated a book low but found myself thinking about it and coming to appreciate it later because it is a beautiful piece of work that I couldn’t forget. This was especially the case for Fuan no Tane, a horror manga I found so underwhelming while reading it but had nightmares about for days after. Conversely, I found that I went from a dazzling four-star rating for The Road when I first read the book but lowered it over time. The more that I thought about the book, the more I disliked it; the author’s lack of punctuation drove me insane, and the dedicated fan base made me start to hate the book after seeing so much criticism of those that had the audacity to give the book a low rating. When I review anime and manga on MyAnimeList I find myself struggling every single time. Don’t even get me started on the times I gave a book a low rating, and an author messaged me to ask why. Opinions change over time, and I found myself regretting or not really feeling that the rating that I gave a book or anime matched what I ended up writing about it.

Let’s Discuss!

  • Do you use star ratings on your reviews?
  • Am I just full of it or do you feel the same?
  • Do you honestly put any weight to other blogger’s star ratings?
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I Miss the Early Days of the Internet

When I was a young girl, my parents taught me how to use the internet. It was the 1990’s, and we had a home computer and AOL, and on there I made my first email “pen pals” and I learned how to type and do so well. I still did regular kid things, like play outside or played video games on our Super Nintendo and later Playstation. As I hit my tweens, the internet still had dial up connection, but there was a plethora of more niche websites to explore.

Throughout my teenage years I got really into message boards and cute game or avatar websites like NeoPets and Gaia Online. I can’t remember the first website builder I ever used at around 12, but it wasn’t long before I switched to Geocities and then eventually Angelfire. I mainly hung out on anime or vampire themed websites before I found my home with online trading card games, or TCGs. I got into blogging via LiveJournal in high school, and though I have stopped writing in it, the journal is still there for me to look back on occasionally. Through message boards and TCGs I had made some lifelong friends that I still talk to in the present day. My fascination with my online niche communities became something I was known for even among my circles of real life friends.

Life back then was far more simple before the modern era of the internet. Social media simply didn’t exist, and though there was drama occasionally among the communities I frequented, it was mostly self moderated and could easily be separated from my personal life. I could simply log off and not have to worry about anything. While the person that I was online is very much like the person I am in real life, it was a safe space for me where I could truly be myself.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen a lot of those old communities die, and be replaced by the overwhelming noise from social media and viral news. As our world has become more connected, it also makes me feel more disconnected at the same time. When social media was new, I was in love with Facebook and MySpace, sharing pictures and connecting with friends, both my previously anonymous internet friends as well as old friends I knew in person when I was younger.

More recently, I have fallen completely out of love with social media, having become a place bombarded with filters and an obsession with collecting followers or going viral. Social media and dating apps wrecked havoc on my personal life and made me feel less able to connect with anyone. It became a pain point for my husband and I, and though we’ve resolved our issues, it still causes deep anxiety for me.

The internet today has it’s benefits of course, it’s easier than ever to build websites like this one, there are still people out there putting out quality content, and the fast and ready access to content is wonderful. I love being able to chat with friends via voice communication platforms or watching my friends stream games. I don’t have to worry about clicking on a website and having a dozens of loud and obnoxious advertisements popping up on my screen, but then that’s because advertisements have been scattered cleanly throughout every website that I open. Folks are out there fighting for representation for different identities, but then I see those same communities turn in on themselves and attack.

Often I find myself wanting to go back to when the internet was much more simple with our niche communities. I have friends that I can talk to just like I did back then, though the medium has changed, but there is a part of me that wants to go back to a time before the internet has become so much a part of everyone’s personal lives. I feel less free sometimes being me, sharing details of my personal life, sexuality, or religious and political views for fear of backlash from family or employers. I know it’s hopeless to think about, and things weren’t perfect back then, but I can’t help feeling like I just had so much more fun back then.

Let’s Discuss!

  • Were you around on the internet in the 90’s and early 00’s?
  • How do you feel about the way that the internet has evolved over time?
  • Do you ever get nostalgia or want to go back to the way things were?
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Taking a Break from Grad School

As stated in the title, I am taking a semester off from graduate school. I’m over the halfway point for my degree, and though the temptation has been strong to just push through and finish, I have realized over the last semester that I am in serious need of a break. I’m currently a graduate student at the institution that I work at and I am thankful for the opportunity that I have to get my tuition drastically discounted. Currently, I am studying for an M.A. in Human Services Counseling with a concentration in Student Affairs, through my career I have found a genuine love for higher education and assisting adult students with their academic careers.

When I first enrolled in college as an undergraduate freshman, I couldn’t imagine that I’d be where I am today. All I knew back then was that I wanted some form of a degree so that I could have better job prospects to support myself and my daughter, at that point being a newly single mom. By my senior year I had realized that all of the careers that I wanted to do required a graduate degree minimum, and so I had decided that I needed to pursue one. Now that I’m here, I question sometimes why I’m doing it or why I ever wanted to, but I know that it is necessary for my career and would be extremely beneficial, it would allow me some job security if and when I eventually move on from my current institution and move out of state.

When I was an undergraduate I was exhilarated, I loved studying and reading all of the material for my classes. I kept pushing for the highest grades that I could and just reveled on my on campus program. Now that I have switched to a graduate program however, one that is entirely online, I find myself at a disconnect. An online program is the only feasible program for me presently, now that I work full-time, am married, and have two children. It is just so much more practical, but now that it has been a few years I find it difficult to find the same exhilaration that I had felt as an undergrad.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m studying things that directly impact my career, and I feel that I am pursuing it at the right time now that I have had a few years off to read and improve my writing and analytical skills. I’m actually doing relatively well in my classes, maintaining a 3.7 or higher GPA. Suddenly this past Spring though, that fire burned out and it has been a genuine struggle. So I decided for my mental health that I needed to just step away for a semester, enjoy the things that I did without any guilt, and breathe easy.

I’ll be picking back up in January to complete my last three classes, and I have a capstone field experience semester that I haven’t decided when I want to complete. Maybe over the fall, but I’m tempted to wait until next year since it would simply be easier for me financially to save over the fall semester as well. I found also that being so burned out from classes has also negatively impacted other aspects of my life – I’ve been more tired at work and at home, so I want to take some time to read and replenish my spirit.

Let’s Discuss!

  • Are you currently in college, what are you studying?
  • Do you ever get burnout and how do you cope with it?
  • Would you like to pursue higher degrees, why or why not?