Monday, October 17, 2011

where I've been

Musing on identity today.

There are so many things that I think myself to be, things that I established as my personality back in 10th grade or 6th grade or even 2nd, but I'm not sure if they're true anymore. Or if they are, they're not on the outside and none of the people in my life now know that they're there.

A good friend of mine here in Yakima asked me last week, "Do you like to read?" I looked at her almost stupefied - this is me we're talking about here - before realizing that she would have no idea from our day-to-day interactions. Of course I like to read! I love to read, I read all the time, I read before I go to bed every night ... but still, her question brings up one that I've asked myself a lot over the past 4 years or so. I read more when I was in middle school and high school than I have since college. In middle school I was pushing through meaty stuff like Fahrenheit 451 and Jane Eyre, books with good words and a message. in high school I was fortunate enough to take good English classes and read more classics. But since college, I haven't really pushed myself to read. I read things that are comfortable and easy to get into before going to bed; I bring Nancy Drews back from home for the nostalgia and read Peace Like a River and Water for Elephants over and over because I know I love them. But I'm not challenging myself or learning more. Can I still call myself a reader?

A bigger thing I feel people don't know about me - but need to - is that I'm mean. I really am, guys. I think back to all the horrible things I did to my brother and my parents growing up, and I feel like a fake when people tell me I'm nice. I'm still judgmental and hypocritical and vindictive and prideful and I love to get my little jabs in - even if it's just in my head. Mark and I don't have knock-down-drag-out fights anymore (I wisely ended that about the time he started training with the Marines in high school; these days I can run and jump on him and wind up flat on my back in about 2 seconds) but I still carry those with me. All the nasty childish things I did to people around me are still a part of me, and I can't tell if I think I'm still that person because it's true, or because it's historically true.

Is the proof of these things in your heart or in your actions? I watched the Batman movies this week; you know his cheesy line, when he gives his identity away to Rachel - "It's not who I am on the inside, but what I do that defines me." Actions speak louder than words, yada yada. So using this weekend as an example - do I get to call myself a climber when I haven't climbed for months? I mean, yes, there's no gym in Yakima, and I don't own the gear to go sport climbing nearby, and I hurt my foot - but wouldn't a real climber push through all that for love of the sport?

I dunno. There are parts of me I'd like to lose, other parts I'd like to hold onto. Not sure what's normal. Guess this is part of growing up?

In other news: Mark called my dad yesterday; he's doing fine. It's still surreal to me. There's a line in Peace Like a River that rings true -- "[I managed to stay anxious about this for 2 days] before worry died, as usual, at the hands of routine." Some days I'm so scared for him I have to get up from my desk and walk outside so I won't cry at work; some days, like this weekend, I'm so excited about what I'm doing that it's just a flicker in the back of my mind. He's still there, and I still want to talk about him to other people, talk about how brave he is and how proud I am, but it seems much less urgent.

Reading about the young guy who had shrapnel tear through his brain and leave him with a traumatic brain injury at 22 -- that's urgent, and it's sobering. I am so incapable of even picturing that -- Mark without his sense of humor, Mark without his quick responses to everything, Mark without his stories, Mark without the temper and sass, Mark without the ability to even speak -- that I convince myself it can't happen to him. I can't see it; it's not possible. But writing about that guy and what his family has been through ... it feels awful, but I'd almost rather lose Mark entirely than have him come back and not be Mark at all. That would feel like a loss that never goes away, a wound that never gets to heal. He'd be gone and he'd be there to remind me of it. How selfish of me is that? jeez.

Anyway. Just the thoughts kickin' around in this jumbled old brain.

Love always,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

one day this will all change

When we were little, Mark was going to marry Jenni Bolton. He loved Simba from the Lion King, and gogurt, and macaroni and cheese. He played with his Legos, and Playmobil guys before that; he had a rocket-ship comforter on his bed, and his closet (then and now) overflowed with toys and clothes. The drawers on his dresser are broken and off-track after years of slamming them or overloading them with old clothes, which is ironic, because he hates shopping and logically shouldn't have that many clothes.

In elementary school, he used to put rocks in his backpack to make it heavier, so it felt more like a big-kid's backpack with books inside. He used to give away his money to his friends. A few years ago, he loved pennies and collected a big jar of them.

We did the plays at church together. In 4th or 5th grade, we did "Good Kings Come in Small Packages," or something like that, about Josiah, and Mark was Josiah, and I was the narrator/cook. He was good; as good as elementary school kids can be after practicing for a week during the summer. I can still picture him, a little boy on a big stage throne.

Either his door or mine had to be replaced when, during one of our knock-down-drag-out fights, he rammed the prow of his big action figure Peter Pan pirate ship into it. The door on the bathroom got replaced, too, after one of us tried to beat it down to get to the one hiding inside. We cussed at each other, using the few cuss words we knew.

We used to push the couches together in the family room to watch movies, so they made a couch-boat, and we would pile pillows and comforters in until it was as comfortable and soft as possible. He hated watching Disney princess movies. When we first got cable, when I was in 7th or 8th grade, we spent the summer watching Sonic the Hedgehog, Men in Black the cartoon, and something about Egyptian gods on the WB. All I remember is them saying "By the power of Ra!" and turning into something more indestructible.

Mark has a skateboard (or two) and a trick bike stored away in our garage (or did we sell them at a yard sale?) For most of growing up, he didn't find anything he wanted to stick with. He took piano for a week; played baseball up until 5th or 6th grade, soccer for maybe 3 years; he took trumpet lessons in middle school, then a few guitar lessons in high school.

He hated school, and I hated the way he acted when it came time to do homework. My parents bought him a PlayStation 2, and I told them to their faces that it was the worst decision they'd ever make in parenting. I believe I was right; without video games, he would have spent a lot more time with his friends and family and in the outdoors, and without the string of more advanced game consoles that came after the PS2, he would never have been able to play Call of Duty for hours at a time.

When I got to do something, Mark had to do it. Didn't matter that I was older. If I got to stay up and watch Friends, Mark had to, too. If I got to stay home sick from school, Mark wanted to, too. And the reverse - I still haven't forgotten this; in Disneyworld in 5th grade, we wanted to rent a 4-person bike/carriage thing. But Mark was too little to help pedal, so we didn't get to do it. Then when I was in early high school, Mark got horseback riding lessons and I didn't, even though I'd wanted them forever. My parents said he didn't have all the things I got to do - piano and soccer and drama. I said he didn't stick with any of them, and it wasn't my fault. I was angry at that practice for so long.

I was angry at so much for so long. I was angry at how he treated my mom, how he didn't care about his schoolwork or responsibilities at home; angry at how he refused to do his own dishes or clean his own room or put away his own damn video games. I was angry that he dropped everything to hang out with his high school girlfriend but couldn't be bothered to come to church with us.

How many years did I waste being angry at my brother, instead of trying to be compassionate, to be understanding, to help him succeed when he was struggling? How many years did I spend hating him for being the opposite of me, for having different priorities?

I want to go back and change it -- yell less; include him more. Fight less; laugh more. Belittle him less; tell him I loved him more.

He's a good kid, he really is, even though he still gripes about having to do his dishes and has to be reminded 7 times to even bring them over to the sink. He's funny and caring and fiercely loyal and generous to a fault. He's a freakin badass and could kill you with his thumb, and it's a good thing our knock-down-drag-out fights ended when they did, because if I'd tried to fight him after he started working out with the Marines in high school, I would've ended up with broken bones. He knows military history, knew everything you don't want to know about guns even before he joined. He's smart; didn't like school, but now he wants to be a history teacher, maybe.

I want to be able to call him about my current Sons of Anarchy episode. I want to be able to text him about the silly/embarrassing things our parents are doing. I want to drag him up onto the couch next to me to take dumb photos on my PhotoBooth. I want to practice jiujitsu moves on commercial breaks. I want to buy more Mike's Hard for him, and sit downstairs feeling like rebels when Mom&Dad are upstairs asleep.

Oh, how I'm going to miss my brother for the next 7 months (no more than 7 months; no, not a day longer, because he'll come home; he has to come home). Why do we have war? Why? It's not his war; it's not any of these kids' war. Mark still looks like a 16-year-old kid; he has no business carrying a gun and going into battle.

All my life I been waitin' for
I been prayin' for, for the people to say
That we don't want to fight no more

One day this all will change
Treat people the same
Stop with the violence down with the hate
One day we'll all be free and proud
To be under the same sun
Singing songs of freedom like

One day, one day, one day
One day, one day, one day

One day, God. Make it soon.

Love always,

Sunday, August 7, 2011

a very present help

Today was the deadliest day yet in Afghanistan for US troops.

Mark is set to deploy there next month. My almost-20-year-old little brother who still doesn't wash his own dishes.

Psalms 3:3 But you, Yahweh, are a shield around Mark,
Mark's glory, and the one who lifts up Mark's head.
3:4 I cry to Yahweh with my voice,
and he answers me out of his holy hill.

Oh Lord, protect him. Protect us all.

Love always,

Monday, July 25, 2011

imagine all the people

When I was little, I envied my brother furiously for his imagination.

Well into middle school — maybe even high school? — I could hear him in his room, his voice pitched in battle as his Legos or action figures fought for dominion. He built elaborate scenes with the Legos, worked out why this group was warring with another; everything down to the last detail.

I watched this, scoffing outwardly even as I despaired inside. Why couldn't I get myself into that dream world? I remember literally forcing myself to play with some plastic figures — Disney characters, my favorites, even if I didn't play with them often — and making myself do their voices and trying to make them interact. I believe I threw them down in frustration when I realized that I couldn't get past the fact that it wasn't real. I had Barbie, too, but while I enjoyed all her outfits and accessories, she wasn't really talking to Ken and never would be.

As I grew up, I had to admit that I had some imagination; I could write, couldn't I, and that took something. Poems and beginnings of short stories (though never ends) came fairly easily as I moved through late-high school and college.

And now I find where all my imagination was hiding, what it was waiting for, and I'm wishing I could've swapped with Mark and played with those stupid Legos instead.

I've covered cops&courts a handful of times now for the paper here in Yakivegas, and I do not like it. I can't see it, as my coworker told me he does, as "words on a page." These are people; that was a real little girl who had her pants pulled down by an uncle who molested her; that was a real man who drowned in his backyard pool when going out for his evening swim; and that was a real 17-year-old boy today who shot himself with a shotgun after his older brother died last week.

Maybe all those years of watching every crime TV show on USA Network are finally catching up with me. But although it's getting easier — death, it seems, bothers me less than violation — I still can't turn these crimes into words on a page.

Today, for instance. I got to work and got passed a story on an apparent homicide that happened outside a school. A teenage boy, shot in the head; close-range so they couldn't identify his face. Then in the afternoon, the coroner says it hasn't been ruled a homicide or a suicide. Then we look up his name, see if he's in our archives, and we find his 25-year-old brother died last week, apparently of non-suspicious causes.

My unstoppable imagination supplies the details: I picture the 17-year-old brother, sobbing around his house while his family tries to console him, tell him that his brother's in a better place now. Or maybe he was silent, sitting in his room and not saying a word, just utterly convinced that the world had ended. I picture his siblings' fruitless attempts to reach out, to reach him, to let him know that he was not alone and that things will get better one day.

This was the first time it's really hit me how selfish suicide is. I picture his parents — robbed of two sons in less than a week. I picture the weight of grief on them as they try to hold up the remaining four siblings. I picture the numbness. I picture what my parents would do if something like that happened — and try to force it from my mind.

And the fact that my work, the very reason I'm forced to learn the details of these cases inside and out, may be worsening the problem makes it feel even less worth it. We didn't name the suicide victim, but the slimy TV news reporter did, and now that family has to put up with shame and questions on top of grief. People will be shaking their heads and saying, "That poor boy, if only the family had been there for him," when really the family must have done all it could.

Do I make it better, when I tell these people's stories? Do I make it worse? Most of the stories I do, especially now in education, are positive; people respond wanting to help, wanting to make a difference, or they respond with nothing and at least don't tip the scales one way or the other. But when I bare someone's personal life for all to see — even my criminals, when I post details of their police reports that will now follow them anytime anyone does a Google search — what good does it do?

Never fear; there's no danger I'll give up the reporter thing. I still love it, aside from a few brutally graphic police reports, and I'm not apt to give up anytime soon.

I just hope it's making a positive difference in the world. That's all we really have, isn't it? To leave the world better than when we entered and hope we're remembered kindly, if at all.

Love always,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

team harry

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 hits screens in two hours. Today I interviewed a 16-year-old girl who arrived at the movie theater at 5:30 p.m. yesterday - that's about 31 hours early. She and her friends have been staging Horcrux scavenger hunts, wizarding duels, a Triwizard Tournament....5 years younger than me; they were in 1st grade when the books started, and Harry Potter is still a big enough part of their lives that they'll wait all day on concrete.

This is so silly - I'm admitting that; I admit that this melodramatic, wistful blog post about fictional characters is dumb and sappy and unoriginal - but I so wanted to ditch out on work and just join them there. Watch the first Harry Potter movie, when they were all such babies, and talk about our favorite parts of the books and exclaim over spectacular plot points.

Because it's not just some dumb kid series - these books really did shape our childhood. I came on board a year or two late; I remember reading the first 3 in 5th grade, lent me by a classmate to whom I am forever indebted for getting me into the series in the first place. I loved the 2nd book, mostly because I'd wanted a pet snake for ages and imagined how cool it would be if I were a Parseltongue. I wrote out the warning posted at the entrance to Gringotts and put it on my bedroom door, hoping to ward off any intruding little brother.

Then that first agonizing wait for the 4th book to come out, and then actually reading the Goblet of Fire - it really was a turning point in my growing up. I remember the point when Cedric dies - so casually, so lacking in fanfare or acknowledgement; just "Kill the spare," and he's lying spread-eagle on his back a few yards away. I slammed my book shut and threw it across the floor - I remember curling up on the couch in my family room, sobbing as if my heart would break, because people were not supposed to die like that. It just didn't happen in the kids books I was used to reading. That grew me up, at least in my story sense.

Then I remember putting off reading the Order of the Phoenix because my next-door neighbor & best friend said it was depressing (Sirius is his favorite character) and I couldn't handle any more depressing. And I remember finally reading it and kicking things as I growled inwardly at Umbridge. To this day, I don't think I've ever hated anyone more than her.

I remember reading the Half-Blood Prince while we were in Scotland for the drama festival - it had come out a month earlier but I had put it off for some reason. I borrowed it from Dylan and raced through it as we stood in line for plays all over Edinburgh. I remember the cobblestoned street beside the sidewalk I sat down on when Dumbledore died and I wanted to cry but didn't want to do it in public. Dumbledore died! That wasn't supposed to happen, either.

And I remember the last book - my favorite book - came out on the last night we were at Seaside in Oregon after I graduated from high school. My education is stacked with Harry Potter milestones. (Haven't forgotten, either, the magazine page that got passed around my AP Lit class of Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. He's too pale, and the whole thing kind of creeped me out, but still intriguing.) We drove through Portland on our way home, and stopped at Powells - it had been 2 years then since I'd read the 6th, and I was hazy on Horcrux details, so in an aisle filled to bursting with Harry Potter books, I asked two strangers to remind me what happened. I love fellow book nerds.

I was not to be pulled away from that book for anything that day. I read it the whole car ride home, then wrenched myself away from it to go to a winery that evening with Mrs. Maldonado, where she'd brought me to listen to some poet (I'm afraid I was even less gracious to that poet than I would have been under normal circumstances; still, even under normal circumstances, I'm pretty sure she sucked). I couldn't stand it for long, so she actually let me drive her car back home, where I raced through another 100 pages before going back to pick her up. And I finished by midnight that night, because I never would have been able to go to sleep anyway.

I remember running into Mary Crow the next morning in the parking lot of my church, exclaiming over the Narnia-like scene when McGonnagall calls the statues to life and they go tromping off to protect the school. Mary stayed up finishing it, too; I remember she said she was about to give in and sleep when she turned to "The Prince's Tale" and couldn't stop. "I KNEW Snape loved Lily! I KNEW it!" she cried.

And there's just something magical about the series, nothing to do with the spells and enchantments. There's something magical in growing up with the characters, in maturing as they mature, in facing greater challenges in real life even as the fictional villains turn darker and harder to vanquish.

And we have to say goodbye to the series again. I was never attached to the movies; I'm a purist, and I hated the way things got left out, even small details, so I stopped watching after the 2nd. But I went to part 1 of the 7th movie this fall - at 3 in the morning the night it came out, sitting next to boys who thought Hermione was hot and kept making comments to that effect. It was so well done - they used all that lag time in the Horcrux search to just take the characters to beautiful parts of the world with sweeping vistas and lonely horizons. That movie pulled me in, attached me again.

But this is the end. All those posters - "It all ends July 15" - really, it does. No other series has spanned so much of my lifetime, or captured so much of my imagination, save Narnia, and that's in a different category for me.

No, Harry Potter is in a category all its own. And this end of it all - I tear up reading reviews, for goodness' sake; I'm going to bawl at the actual movie this weekend - but it's fitting that after all those Harry Potter milestones throughout my childhood, the series is over and the characters must move on just as I'm leaving behind my safety-netted existence and pushing off into the world of independent adulthood.

I find myself resenting the idea that in a few years, the new generation is going to have a different series that they're devoted to - that they'll claim is better than any other. We all know they'll be wrong.

Oh, how I wish I could just go back and be a kid again, reading these books for the first time. I miss that wide-eyed wonder.

Love always,

Sunday, June 26, 2011


God is good.

I started keeping this blog when I left for Spain, and it seems that it's mostly been a journal of transition since then. Of moving to new places and finding new niches and making -- and leaving -- new friends.

Throughout it all, God has shown his faithfulness in the people he puts in my life.

I was going to write earlier about this being the easiest first week I've had anywhere, mostly from the job perspective. When my editor first told me he was going to acquiesce my request for a higher salary (look, I negotiated like a grown-up and got my demands met!), he said it was because he'd talked to my references and felt confident that I would be able to learn fast and "hit the ground running." As soon as he told me that, anxiety kicked in -- what if I DON'T hit the ground running? What if I take weeks to get used to the pace and the community and the newsroom? High expectations mean for certain disappointment!! and so on, as I am wont to do in these situations.

But this week, I started to think that maybe I finally have a handle on this journalism thing. I stayed until 7:30 on my first day, chasing down the numbers to accompany my story, which appeared on the front of their B section on Tuesday. On Tuesday, I wrote two stories -- both of which were A1 above the fold on Wednesday. My story on Wednesday, with the photo, took up most of A1 on Thursday. And my fourth story for the week came out on the B front today. Minimal edits, and I felt satisfied with the work I'd done.

So yes -- best first week of a job ever. While I had some downtime, I wasn't bored and didn't feel useless; at the same time, I wasn't overwhelmed by the information I was expected to take in. Could it be that I'm becoming a real-live reporter?! wowza.

While work was great, though, there was still a twinge of loneliness. Nothing too severe (read: no crying); I talked on the phone with lots of friends, cooked my own meals, watched my favorite movies, read Nancy Drew and lay by my pool. But there was no human interaction outside work, and the people there didn't really go out of their way to talk to or befriend me. So I was really banking on First Pres to be a friend-locator.

As far as friend-locators go, this one's pretty magical.

Went to church at 9:30 this morning; it was VBS Sunday, so quite different from normal service, but I was still able to track down Tyler, the college/career director for the church and a former Ghormley staffer whom I remembered from my middle-school camp days. He invited me to the college/career age dinner & Bible study shindig at his house this evening, and I went -- not without first driving past his house twice, wondering if I really had the guts to go barge in on a group of strangers, but barge I did.

It was amazing. Sure, there was initial shyness, but I soon got over it and into good conversations. People think the reporter thing is cool (though they automatically assume they have a PR "in", sigh) and I told my story about seven times, but that was OK. Met people I recognized as campers from my Ghormley days; met people who speak Spanish and rock climb and hike and listen to Eddie Izzard and make inappropriate jokes at the wrong times; met people who felt familiar after knowing them for five minutes.

God shows his faithfulness by putting me in the midst of people I need to meet. Seattle, Spain, Port Townsend, Santiago, Olympia and now Yakima. Can't get away from 'em.

This is going to be a hard home to leave.

Love always,

Monday, June 13, 2011

just ahead

Well, that last post was a bit melodramatic and depressing.

I mean, yes, graduation is still anticlimactic and brews a good deal of uncertainty, but I'm not as disparaging as that post feels. The future is exciting -- it always is. I hate change, but as a good friend has often told me, it makes the world go round.

And besides, moving to Yakima isn't that big a deal. It's close to home, and not too far from Seattle. Loved ones reside in both cities, and history is bound to repeat itself in finding me solid relationships in Yakima. I've been very blessed in that so far. God followed me to Chile, and I'm sure he can find Yakima, too (even if it is kind of the middle of nowhere). And he's shown his faithfulness in the good people he's put in my life, to come alongside me and feed my extroverted spirit. There's always loneliness, but it's never been forever.

I've been thinking recently about all the parents I have in the world. So many people have stayed with me and supported me and encouraged me and offered wisdom and guidance throughout the years -- I wish all young people could be as fortunate as I am. My host mom in Chile Facebook-congratulated me on graduating, and when I visited my landlord-turned-hostdad in Olympia last week, he gave me a big hug and reminded me that he adores me and that I'm always welcome in their home. How do I find these people? How do they find me? Very, very blessed.

Then there's the teachers whom I still visit when I go home, who shaped me and put me on the path to becoming the writer and thinker I am today. I had such great teachers. Maybe someday they'll make a movie about them, like Dead Poets Society-style. They deserve it (just not the ending....yeah.)

Anyway. Just wanted to make sure no one thought I was a whiner all the time. Only sometimes, and I try to remain delightful while doing it.

One step closer to grown-up land...

Love always,

Friday, June 10, 2011

looking ahead, looking behind

It's been four years since I graduated from high school.

Time has flown. College was amazing, full of unique experiences and opportunities, and I feel like I missed out on rejoicing in all those. It went so fast - it's been almost three years since I went to Spain, a year since I was in Chile, six months since I was even a student.

What stands out to me most right now is how much I haven't grown. I've backtracked. Self-esteem and self-respect took a huge dive in Spain and have been beaten back down on a fairly regular basis whenever they start to grow again. I think I was stronger, more secure, when I walked out of the Tri-Cities Convention Center four years ago than I am today.

I wrote a poem back then - silly things, those, and I feel silly saying it, but I still have them all tucked away on my computer - about my Peter Pan birthday party. "breathless, as we were, on the cusp of adulthood," I wrote. Graduation was so exciting in high school; I was breathless then. There was so much leading up to it - senior barbecue, final projects, college acceptance (and rejection) letters, senior sensation, the Willy awards; all working to build anticipation and giddiness. And then the senior party right after it, where we exulted our accomplishment and ran on an adrenaline high until 3 a.m. Everyone was in one place, everyone was celebrating, and most of us knew where we were headed next.

College graduation is anticlimactic to the max. I got done with classes in December, so even being on campus feels uncomfortable and somehow illegal, like someone is going to see me and point and say "Hey, you're done here, what are you trying to pull?" The ceremony itself today - no rehearsal for it, nothing personal; we wrote our names on cards, handed them to the speaker as we walked up on stage, and he read them off as we proceeded past. Not even in alphabetical order. It was as if no one cared whether it went smoothly or happened at all, or whether we even showed up. Saturday's giant ceremony is going to be even worse - they don't even read your name off. That's the only one my parents can make it to, and what's it going to be? I'll be just another silly-looking black hat in a sea of thousands of students. They won't even be able to distinguish my face from up in the bleachers.

I want it to be a bigger deal. I graduated with honors (I think) from the University of Washington - that's still a big deal, right? I mean...I guess it's what most people I know have done or are doing right now, so it's not really a stand-out accomplishment, but I still want people to be excited about it. Mostly, people are dreading standing around waiting for the ceremony to start, or worried about parking and traffic.

I know that I'm lucky to have a direction and a job after this. Yes, it's in Yakima, and everyone makes fun of it, but at least it's a job. And in my chosen field, too. That's more than most journalism grads can say, I think. But I want to be excited about it. I was excited when I was working for the AP; I was excited in Chile; I was excited at the Seattle Times, and in Spain. I want that feeling again. My friend took a picture of my today after graduation, standing in front of the "Department of Communication" sign in the COM building in my cap and gown. I've got this great, slightly cocky smile on my face, like "Yeah, I pwned that, now let's see where else I can kick butt." I want to feel that feeling. I want to be on the cusp of something, something exciting and worthy of my attention and enthusiasm. Instead, I feel let down, somehow.

Seattle's feeling less and less like home. Olympia's not home anymore, and Richland doesn't feel quite right, either. Where am I going and what am I supposed to be doing now?

Love always,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

out of the dust

In the month since I last blogged, I finished up my job with the AP in Olympia, went home for about a week to visit, kind of went on a couple dates, and moved back to Seattle, at least temporarily.

Also got a job offer for a job that just doesn't feel right.

I'm feeling very directionless right now. It's an almost foreign feeling -- I've known I wanted to be a journalist since at least senior year of high school, when most of my friends waffled around and changed majors or mindsets or goals several times. Within journalism, I've had a very clearcut path: Accepted into the major freshman year, the Port Townsend internship fell into my lap, then the Seattle Times picked me, then Reuters in Chile, then graduation, then the AP. All incredible experiences, and all in a very neat and tidy succession. I never had to choose between one chance and another; the opportunities just presented themselves one at a time in an orderly fashion and were easily identifiable as the place I was meant to go.

But now, I have no idea. And it's terrifying. But not overtly so; it's that same vague dread and uneasiness at the future that I felt right after graduating, but stronger because I feel like I'm supposed to be more grown-up and responsible now. I've already had a real job -- I'm out on my own -- I have to keep ascending and maturing and making grown-up decisions, even when I don't want to.

So what's the grown-up decision now? I have a job offer for a yearlong spot at a paper in eastern Washington. I don't want it. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad I grew up in eastern Washington; I think it's beautiful, and I still love going home to visit. But I don't want to live there. I've spent the last three years trying to get away from that side of the state. Except for Spokane, there really doesn't seem to be anything promising for people my age. I don't want to take a job because it's safe and then never dare to break free from it. I'm only 22! This is the time of my life that I want to be off doing exciting things, while I'm young enough to be flexible and unattached and adaptive and enthusiastic and willing. This is not the time to settle down in the Palm Springs of Washington.

But I'm so anchor-less right now that I don't even have the discipline to sit down and really try to find jobs elsewhere. I don't know what to do with myself -- I haven't been so lacking in structure for probably six years. I've been unemployed for two-and-a-half weeks, with nothing to do but hang out with people and watch TV and climb. I think the last time I had that long a vacation from work and school was probably the summer after freshman year of high school. I've worked every summer since then, with usually two weeks or less in between school and internships. I don't do well when I'm just sitting around. I need structure, someone or something telling me what to do, or I just get lazy.

Oh balls. I just don't know what to do. Is it that I childishly/shallowly don't want to take this EWa job, or that it really doesn't feel right for me? Is the only grown-up option to take the job, even though I foresee nothing but loneliness, depression and lack of excitement in that place?

Moving is always going to be hard. I still want to do the foreign correspondent thing; that dream hasn't changed. But there's a degree of "is it worth it?" that has to be heard. Moving to Olympia was probably the hardest one yet, for a number of reasons, but I could always assure myself that it was worth it. I was working for the AP at 21 years old -- my first job out of college! Moving to a small town in eastern Washington is not something I could get excited or proud about. And no one will visit. People get that incredulous "oh man, that sucks" look on their faces when I tell them about the offer -- and I have that same face on when I talk or think about it.

Where's God in all of this? I wish he'd just tell me what to do in a really obvious way. Gideon got a wet fleece; how about a wet newspaper or something? I want this decision to come ready-made, so I don't have to risk making the wrong choice. I don't want to get stuck somewhere I'll be miserable for a year, but nor do I want to get stuck without a job, or with a non-journalism job. And this paper would be a good training ground; a good first job.

The talk at my church tonight was good. This series is about "where do I go from here?" so it was a good message for me to hear, but didn't have quite the explicit instructions that I was hoping for.

The music was good too. We sang this song, which I already loved, but it gave me new ideas tonight.

You make beautiful things,
you make beautiful things out of the dust

Made me wonder what God could make out of eastern Washington.

I guess we'll find out soon.

Love always,

Monday, April 11, 2011

a question of weight

I want to change the way I think.

I can have a week of kickassery -- filing two or three stories a day, getting news tips from representatives who know me and respect me enough to seek me out directly, and most notably, an in-depth weekender that got play on front pages across the state -- and still be knocked down by a few moments of self-doubt.

Why does the negative weigh so much more than the positive? I felt like an awesome possum today -- many thanks to the people who encourage me in my success; I store those comments up and reread them to remind myself that I'm doing a good job.

But then as soon as I got enough downtime to slow down, and didn't have House floor session crap filling every corner of my brain, I floated back down to this funk of not feeling like I'm quite good enough. Again, I think it has to do with a few specific people not caring or not recognizing something that I feel should get more attention.

At least that's a change from my recent mindset; it's no longer, Why am I not doing a good job, but rather, Why can't you recognize that I'm doing a good job? I'm 21 and my first job is working as the No. 2 reporter at a statehouse bureau, and I've filed about 90 items in the past three months -- that's worthy of note.* And for me, admitting that I'm good is a step stronger than where I was a few weeks ago.

But still. I want the good moments to outweigh the bad. I want the giddy feeling I got when people wrote me today to tell me that my story was on the front page of my hometown newspaper to carry me over for the next week. That's how it should work; that's how it would work if I could simply reverse the way things currently are. The way my mind works now, a negative moment can cast a shadow over several days, but positives are fleeting and easily brushed off.

I want a job with the AP. I want one so, so badly that I'm not even thinking about the fact that I'll be unemployed in two weeks. I love the pace of the wire service; I love that I can write as much as I want and not worry about page space, because it'll all get picked up online somewhere; I love that I'm known (at least to the Democrats) exclusively as "APMolly." I love writing fast, pounding out stories, and I love being counted on by the other publications here. "Are you doing something on such-and-such? Great, ok, that means we don't have to."

I don't want to work at a daily newspaper now. I want to work for the AP -- one story a day is too slow for me. Yes, I probably wouldn't be able to sustain this pace for long, and yes, it's been exhausting and effing difficult, but at least for the next few years, while I'm young and enthusiastic and ambitious, I want to keep up this pace. I don't want to lose momentum now; I just found my stride!

Damn it, US jobs market, please just let a miracle happen and open up a job at the Seattle bureau.

Love always,

*I'm not trying to be cocky...honestly just trying to convince myself that I'm good at what I do, and that it's ok to acknowledge that in myself. It's a work in progress; forcing myself to say it and write it is helping me to believe it.

Monday, March 28, 2011


My life right now is filled with two things: journalism and climbing.

I'm just interested in examining how I settled on these two pursuits. A friend recently pointed out to me the oddity of choosing journalism for my career -- for someone who is so dependent on receiving praise or at least affirmation and encouragement in what I do, I sure picked a hell of a job.

Journalism -- writing in general, for that matter -- is something where you can never reach perfection. It's so varied, and so subjective; your style and goals change whenever you change editors or audiences. Don't break up your sentence structure in APNewsNows. Write with confidence for weekenders. Don't use "says" in the writethru, but do in the newsnow. And on and on.

And with companies like the AP or Reuters, you may have half a dozen editors reading and rewriting your work. By the end, it might not even be recognizable as your story. And you have to be OK with that.

How'd I wind up here? How did I, seeking to be right as often as I can, end up in a job where there is no one right answer, no one right way of doing things? I have set myself up for a life of constant anxiety and endless, undefinable pursuit of something "better."

Perhaps I'm a masochist.

The other main pastime, then, is almost an about-face. Climbing is full of clear-cut victories, and the climbing community is, I would venture to say, one of the most encouraging groups of people you could imagine. Here I have found an activity where I am congratulated -- and can congratulate myself -- for simply reaching one rock higher on the wall. I enjoy it for what I accomplish; it is a solo effort, but not a solitary sport. For once in my life, I am (almost) able to stop comparing myself to the people around me and recognize that I can be happy with where I am.

It's also an activity that shows progress -- something else that's hard to track in journalism. With my job, I can see over a wide span of time that things have changed; at the end of my Reuters internship, I knew why the stock market fluctuated and what the consumer price index was and that the currency devaluation in China affected Chile because China was the world's No. 1 importer of Chile's No. 1 export copper. Whew.

And now, during the Legislature, two and a half months in I can identify legislators by face, if not by voice; I know a bit about what can be targeted in budget cuts and what's off the table; I know the day-to-day procedure of the session.

But there's not a lot of measurable progress in the actual writing. I still make the same mistakes I was making in my first week. I still obsess over understanding a topic before calling a legislator because I don't want to ask stupid questions. My stories are changed less substantially than they used to be, but editors still call with questions and alterations.

Climbing shows progress rapidly, almost immediately. You see the fruits of your labor: you climb more often, push yourself harder, focus on technique, and you improve. I like being reassured that I'm getting better; effort without reward is often deemed pointless.

Anyway. I have no conclusion yet. Just self-analyzing in the most public medium there is. Like y'do.

Love always,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

well, I like my sunshine-and-rainbows approach

For all my complaining and lack of confidence, I really do love my job.

It's something I need to remember frequently and loudly, because journalists as a rule seem bound and determined to be cynical. I love Overheard in the Newsroom, but it gets a bit repetitive and grating if I read too much at once.

This is a job where you see a lot of stupidity; not denying that. And seasoned reporters don't hold anything sacred -- any tragedy is just timely fodder for comedy. You cover corruption and inefficiency and selfishness so often that it's sometimes hard to find a good story to hold onto. That's one of the reasons I so enjoyed covering the miners saga this past summer in Chile -- not only was it a thrilling, around-the-clock breaking news story, but it was a good story, coming at a time when Chile and the world needed a good story. Thirty-three men presumed to have died awful, despairing deaths half a mile underground survived -- that's fun to write about.

But it's not just those epic adventures that make me love my job. I love it because I'm always learning, and learning the most random things. I'm working on an update for my cougar-hunting-with-hounds story, so yesterday, a representative gave me some articles from WSU to read. I learned that there are a few scientists out there who believe killing off the old male cougars in a population makes the younger hooligans act out more, thus increasing the danger to humans and livestock. These scientists talk about cougars -- and elephants, and condors -- as if they were people, with a complex social dynamic in which the mature animals teach the younger ones what's appropriate. Random, but fascinating.

I'm still lacking the institutional knowledge I really want, but I'm trying to accept that that only comes with time. For now, I'm taking it in as fast as they give it to me -- transportation budget proposals, liquor privatization possibilities, which-lawmaker-is-under-which-state-agency's-thumb -- everything.

I'd still very much like to do environmental reporting. That's what piques my interest most these days, and it would let me learn more science. ("Science" sounds so vague, and immediately gives away my humanities-major tendencies...oh well.) More learning, every day learning, meeting new smart people who are less bound up in politics than my current sources are.

It's nice to be reminded sometimes that I have a cool job. One of my friends from the UW, who is going to change the world and is currently working on a triple major or something equally absurd, gets all excited whenever I talk to him about what I'm doing or post a new story on Facebook. It's encouraging, especially in a time when most people consider journalists to be gossip-mongers and exploitative and loose with their reporting integrity.

Today I'm reminding myself that I'm good at what I do. (Well, not right at this moment, since I'm blogging instead of researching cougar hunting.) The Senate transportation budget came out today; I started writing at about 2, and with numerous Facebook breaks, had an 800-word story by 3:30. A budget story, too -- lots of numbers to check and compare to the House's proposal; lots of information that needed to be boiled down into some readable format. The only edit it received was the addition of a graf comparing it to the governor's budget proposal.

So I'm good at this. And I like what I do, on the whole. And I only have a month left of employment, so I'd better enjoy it while it lasts.

Love always,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

blinded to the positive

In the past few years, I've often resolved to "learn to accept compliments." But I still struggle, and I know most people - especially women, I find - have a hard time, as well.

For instance - I have pretty eyes. I think so myself; I deliberately wear green so they look brighter, and I choose Facebook profile pictures that feature them particularly well. Most of the random compliments I get from people focus on my eyes. Just look:

Yet I'm sitting here writing this and just cringing at the absolute self-puffery that my words reflect. I want to erase what I've just written, because for me, pointing out something that I like about myself is vain, arrogant, self-centered and stupid.

On some level, I believe and enjoy the good things people tell me. Like I'm a good writer (I see that one and want to yell "LIAR!" a la Valerie in the Princess Bride, because what I am is lucky) and a good friend (though all I do is whine to the people around me) and my hair curls in natural ringlets when I get out of the shower (but is usually too frizzy to appreciate that fact) and I'm good at Spanish (though I'll never sound like a native) and my friends like me (but I'm still not the "Oh, where's so-and-so??" must-have kind of person at parties).

Why do I do that? Why is there a compulsive need to refute positive comments? I know I'm not the only one who does that, either. I have a friend - one of the loveliest people I know, the one with whom I laugh harder than anyone - who once told me that yes, she knew that everyone had insecurities like hers, but hers were actually true, and everyone else just couldn't see the reality of their awesomeness.

Almost everyone I know - I can compliment them, and the response will be some reason that my compliment is invalid.

We do this; there's almost a cultural expectation that we'll receive a self-deprecating response, and yet I don't enjoy hearing my friends knock themselves down. I want to convince them of the truth that I see - that they are beautiful, and funny, and total ballers. So I can only assume that they want me to accept the same truths about myself.

So again: I'm a good writer, and a good friend, and my hair curls in natural ringlets, and I'm good at Spanish, and my friends like me.

And I have beautiful eyes.

(I might not even delete this post for a whole 24 hours!)

Love always,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

come on, bartender, just a little more tender

It has been brought to my attention that I have a tendency to be rather hard on myself.

The person who most acutely pointed it out actually called what I do "flogging," which of course made me giggle, because of the band, you know. Flogging Molly. Hah. Yes. Moving on.

I'm going to try to be a little nicer to myself. Starting here. I'm awesome! Look at that, fakin' it til you make it, in action. Awesomeawesomeawesome!

So, yes. Cutting myself some slack, allowing for mistakes, for humanity...all very good goals.

We shall see how this project goes.

Love always,

Saturday, March 5, 2011

let me be done

It's been a rough week.

Excluding the emotional stress of outside events, work has me at a breaking point right now. It's not the job itself; I still love writing, still get excited when my byline appears; still get a kick out of meeting the legislators and striking up a rapport with them. My 60-hour week has at least ensured that I feel more comfortable in this setting, and lets me address (most) representatives with ease.

But it's been an awful few days. I don't do well when I'm sleep-deprived; I do even worse when I'm praise-deprived. I don't know where this comes from -- maybe having such wonderful, encouraging parents has set an impossible standard for the rest of the world and I require that affirmation everywhere I go -- but if I'm not being told that I'm good enough, then I'm not good enough.

This job is so much what I've been hoping for -- an in with the AP, the company I most want to work for, the broadest-reaching and arguably most recognized news organization in the world. My first job out of college -- that has to count for something, right?

And yet I sit here and know that I'm inadequate. It's such a contradictory feeling; I'm frustrated and angry with my parents and friends when they don't believe me when I tell them that I'm not good at this. They don't understand -- my mom cites all my bylines as evidence that I'm doing well, and doesn't listen when I tell her that those stories are shit, that they're easy, they're all spot news, they're not what I'm supposed to be doing. No one listens when I tell them that I got here because I'm lucky, because people like me and opened doors for me that I didn't deserve to walk through, because I've happened to be in the right place at the right time and had things fall into my lap.

I'm frustrated when non-work people don't believe me when I tell them that...and yet I would crumble if someone at my actual work agreed with me. From them, I need affirmation. I'm telling myself that I'm not good enough but I want them to tell me the opposite. I want to be told that it's ok, that I'm new, that I'm still learning, that I'm doing a good job.

But that's the problem. I'm right, and my parents/friends/encouragers are wrong, and I'm not doing a good job. I don't have the killer instinct; I don't understand the subtleties underneath their decisions; I don't see the deeper motives or understand the background story. I'm cut out for surface and surface only, which is what I've been doing all week...and even then, I screw things up.

I hate that all I do on this blog is whine; I would call and whine to individual people, instead, but I don't think I could keep my voice steady.

I'm exhausted by long nights and uncomfortable chairs and staring at a computer screen and one meal a day and no glimpse of daylight and the feeling that I'm letting everyone down. I was here from 9 a.m. to after midnight yesterday, stressed myself out of sleep for a couple hours then came in again at 10 today. And now we'll be here until at least 11 tonight.

The worst part is that there's nothing to look forward to. After we hit cut-off on Monday night, I have to get back to my real story -- my "Where Things Stand" story that looks at the status of the big issues at this halfway point in the session. Again, I'm good for surface only -- I know which bills are alive or dead, but fail miserably at understanding the current state of budget agreements, workers' comp, and Capitol dynamics.

I want a break; I want friends; I want to rewind about 6 months and go back to life as a student when everything was simple. I'm just not good enough to do this in the real world. I'm not tough and independent and fearless. I don't know what I am.

Love always,

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm scared of what's behind, and what's before

Mumford & Sons are keeping me going right now.

If you haven’t heard their song After the Storm, listen to it now. It’s a beautiful end to a beautiful album. Mostly these lines:

But there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears

I’m just tired of caring so much. I’ve said it before, and it hasn’t changed -- I’m just not a lukewarm person. I am incapable of going into something and holding back -- if I do it, I do it wholeheartedly.

One of my mom’s friends told her that you should never give your whole heart away. It’s not safe; it’s not wise. My mom’s like me, though. How can you hold back a piece of yourself?

But it’s not safe, and it’s not wise.

Have you seen the video for Ingrid Michaelson’s “Breakable”? She has her heart removed, and she leaves it in a street musician’s open guitar case, but then spends the rest of the video trying to recover it. Such an odd notion, giving your heart away; and it’s only easy in one direction. The recovery is nearly impossible.

I’m trying to believe in other songs; there’s Try to Remember from the Fantasticks: “Without a hurt the heart is hollow.” I try to convince myself of the truth of that statement. Isn’t it better to care, to feel, to wholly commit myself, than to go around empty like a robot?

No. It’s not better. I want to be heartless, hollow like the Tin Man; an aloof, nonchalant, “take-em-or-leave-em” kind of girl. I want to stop caring so much. I care hard, about everyone and everything, whenever I’m given the opportunity. And it hurts. And I make a fool out of myself.

Looking for good books as distractions, so any recommendations are welcome. I bought and finished Hunger Games on Saturday; it seems young adult fiction may be my savior.

Love always (but don't),

Saturday, January 29, 2011

the heart of life

Oh, blogging. Wonder when I'll give this up. Probably never, actually; I write to think, when there's no one around to talk to.

So I'm now 3 weeks into my new job. Not internship, but job...still getting my head around that. I'm worried about the work I'm doing, because I do still have that intern mindset - thinking that people are just going to hand me stories and tell me where to go, instead of me having to figure it out on my own. Gotta snap out of it, boy.

The job is good, though. The first week and a half I wrote something almost every day, and they all got picked up by the Seattle Times, which is cool. My landlady (who's more like a host mom than just someone I rent a room from, bless her) and her sweetheart leave newspaper clippings outside my door when they find my stories in the Olympian. "Great job Molly!" they write in Sharpie. It's a good feeling.

And the job is not as scary as I thought it would be. I'm still lacking the institutional knowledge, and I still don't recognize all the senators/representatives on sight, but it's getting easier. Also, senators/representatives are not as imposing or impressive as I thought they would be. They're almost all very nice people, and talking to them isn't intimidating, but it's a little weird to find out that they're just...normal people. And that they don't really know everything they ought to about the bills they sponsor. But hey - they should be allowed to be normal.

Olympia is...okay. The weather is tough. It's rainier and gloomier than Seattle, which is saying something. And I don't like driving in the rain, because my windshield wipers are not that effective and it scares me when I can't see clearly in front of me. But the town is okay; there's a Trader Joe's, and a nice mall, and lots of cute little restaurants downtown - and CHEAP parking downtown, too, which is awesome. And I found the Warehouse Rock Gym and have gone climbing a few times, and the people there are really cool and friendly - as all climbers are. Once I get paid again, I'm hoping to buy the season pass so it's cheaper to go often.

Getting paid is awesome. Immediately watching all that money disappear is not. Rent in Olympia, rent in Seattle, fixing my poor little deathtrap of a car, gas, groceries...whew. I liked it when real grown-ups paid for everything. I think I've been molly-coddled too long (hehe love that word).

It's been fun and fairly easy coming home every weekend. (Seattle as home now? It's weird. But I need it to be; that's why I'm hoping to keep my room in Seattle. Olympia cannot be home; I'm not resigned to that yet. For emotional stability, I'm willing to pay extra.) Last weekend, I drove with Sang up to Bellingham to do the climbing competition at Western. Super super fun. I was kind of freaking out beforehand, because I'm not good enough to be competitive, but it was a gerat experience. And I got 8th out of 21 in the beginner category for women, AND I won a sweet REI backpack in a raffle! And watch some incredible athletes compete. So good day all around.

And the loneliness is wearing off. G-chat helps; Skype helps; calling people helps. I need to borrow/buy more good books, because that would really help. Again, I wish it weren't raining all the time; my house where I'm renting is right by a lake, and I would love to go explore and find out which birds are making all that beautiful racket. It's still hard, mostly when I remind myself of what I'm doing - living away from everyone (yet again) and trying to be a grown-up - but I'm settling in. And weekends fall awfully close together, which makes it easier. Church in Seattle is a good thing, too.

As always, listening to that Brett Dennen song a lot. "'Cause it won't last; your worries'll pass; all your troubles, they don't stand a chance. Sometimes it takes more than a lifetime to know: Darlin', do not fear what you don't really know."

Love always,

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gone, like Elvis and his mom

This month in review

Monday, Dec. 13: Took my last final ever and graduated (unceremoniously) from college. Bachelor of Arts in Journalism earned.
Thursday, Dec. 30: Applied for a temporary reporting position with the Associated Press in Seattle/Olympia.
Monday, Jan. 3: Met with the editor for said temp position, which would cover the legislative session in Olympia for 15 weeks.
Thursday, Jan. 6: Got a call from said editor saying I had gotten said position.
Friday, Jan. 7: Went to the AP office downtown to fill out the paperwork and be officially hired.
Saturday, Jan. 8: Packed up everything in my little room in Seattle into my little red car.
Sunday, Jan. 9: Drove my little red car down to Olympia, looked at two rental places and chose the first. Moved everything from my little red car into my new room, in a house next to Chambers Lake.

And Monday, Jan. 10: Legislative session begins and I start my new job.

It's exciting, right? And I should be proud of myself - got a job (albeit a temporary one) within a month of graduating from a good college, in this era, in this economy. An accomplishment, right?

But as always--seriously, this blog is the most redundant thing I've ever read--I'm terrified. Terrified and lost and lonely and berating myself for feeling that way, because really, I'm only an hour away from Seattle, and I'm going back on the weekends, and it's only 15 weeks, and I should be focusing more on the incredible opportunity.

But 15 weeks is longer than it sounds. That's a quarter and a half, for UW folks. I won't be done until mid-April. And I can't imagine that I'll actually go back every weekend--most weekends, yes, and maybe people will come down here, and I have a couple really good friends who are also doing journalist-y things down here, so it's not too awful--but I'm still not there. I can't meet up at Chipotle for lunch or grab coffee on the Ave some random morning or go to half-tab Sundays at Finns with my housemates....sigh. I'm whining, I know. I understand what an incredible opportunity this is--really, I do. The AP is my dream company. I want to do everything I can to impress them during the coming 15 weeks so that my temporary hire will become permanent.

So I know that the whining is stupid. I have a job, right? A real-live job, with the button-down shirts and dress slacks to prove it. I'm a college graduate and living on my own (sort of) in a new place with new people and new challenges and new adventures to be found. All grown up.

But I still want my mommy.

Love always,