Moving to Hell, and Other Things

My googling frequency of weird ish has shot through the roof since my move, and I’m erring on the conclusion that I have voluntarily moved to some form of hell. The grasshoppers fly, the cacti jump, and under your feet are really layers of rats, snakes, spiders, and lizards. Without further ado, here are 11+ encounters that have guided me to this decision:

  1. It’s Hot (as hell)

hot-weather-memes-to-help-cool-you-down-31-photos-25

Okay, before you start emphatically saying “if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen,” I know it’s the Arizona desert (and I love “food,” so leaving is not an option).I knew what I was getting myself into. I even tried to mentally and physically prepare myself for it. And, although I’m exaggerating some (or a lot), I’m an Idaho girl by blood (bleed blue!). Nothing could prepare me, a person who sweats enough to change an entire shirt’s color and look like I came fresh from the shower, for 100º F in October. The sun is blazing hot and I’m drizzling by 8:30 am. Let’s not even get started on my pupper who genetically overheats easily.

IMG_0839

And, get this: on a day that was in the 90s, a student’s mom did not send the child with a swimsuit for the pool that day because it was too cold. Mind. Blown.

To top it all off, I walked around the desert for over 4 hours during midday sun, but still didn’t have the slightest tan to show for my suffering. What the heck.

 

  1. I Wish Dry had an Equally Disgusting Word like Moistimages

There is a reason why even just watching old western films makes your lips feel chapped. “Arid” doesn’t even begin to describe my terrain – although shout out to Kblack for the lovely Snap description. Everywhere is dust and prickly plants, half of my dog’s water evaporates during the day, and today I found a sham that literally crumbled to fine powder when touched because all moisture had been sucked out. Lifeless.

I saw my first cloud on October 17th, 2017, nearly 3 weeks after arriving. I almost cried at its beauty. I am beyond grateful for the warm sun that lifts my mood and brightens my day (literally), but that also means so is my evil villain eczema. Thank goodness for Cerave, cocoa butter, and coconut oil. I swear by this regimen, ask my dog who’s paws and nose are victims of their magical moisturizing powers.

One positive note about the dry climate is that my steadily sweating pores are deceivingly masked by our friend, Evaporation. Here, sweat actually does its job. The water leaving your body is evaporated from your skin, cooling you down (at least on the surface). The rate of evaporation here makes me appreciative that I am away from Philly’s humid summers where my sweat was impossible to hide. However, the downside is you actually lose much more water than you think during your time here, so dehydration can be constantly looming. Drink up, buttercups!

 

  1. Lack of Lush2dd40ed446ce97c36d88f76b49e24dd8.jpg

There is something about being surrounded by vibrant green that really lifts one’s spirits. Maybe it is all the freshly emitted oxygen I inhale or the memories of laying in green fields, looking at cloud shapes. Either way, I’m sure native Arizonans don’t know what oxygen, grass, or clouds even are. Most soil isn’t viable plotting and to “dig” in this ground, you have to use some form of an ice pick. Metaphorical silver lining to my physically nonexistent cloud? The points of my high heels don’t sink into the earth!

Fortunately for Ellie, there is one area where I live where grass can be found. Unfortunately for both of us, this is where the Javelinas like to hang out. More on this later…

  1. Inanimate Objects Can Attack59grG

I will concede that some form of “vegetation” does exist. But these are jagged trees, rough grass, and spiking things just waiting to impale you. Dramatic? Well come back tome after you’ve gained some first-hand knowledge about the Teddybear Cholla Cactus, also known as the Jumping Cactus. My first day in Tucson I was led on a tour of my new area. Three minutes in I was told to avoid the fuzzy, cuddly looking plants – you get too close, and the spindles of the cactus detect your body as a perfect place to attach to, leaping from the plant. Cacti teach their children well – way to branch out guys!

 

Easy to avoid this villain of nature, but don’t get too comfortable. I have experienced hard grass clinging to me and even strong javelin-like prongs stabbing through my tennis shoe, refusing to be removed.

  1. Scorpianthe-truth-about-scorpions_o_2180957.jpg

The first day was the fire heat and the jumping cacti, but the second day forced me to think on me feet a little more. I was just getting off the phone with my mom, who used to live in the Tucson area. She had said, “the whole time I lived there, I never saw a scorpion!” No more than 10 minutes later, I enter my back door to my kitchen, opening to the exoskeleton of death. Thanks, mom, for the reassurance.

This is my first experience with them, and I heard they were notoriously hard to kill, so I stood there thinking of my assassination plan. Giant glass burning candle and papertowel was no match for this little guy.

  1. A milli sans Lil Wayne

FDv8afTh.jpg

I had only seen one or two millipedes prior to my time here, and although the ones I have seen here are mostly just carcasses of once living leggy creatures, I still won’t rest easy at night.

  1. CentipedeH7xuoRv.png Millipedes get the bad-guy rep because they look so unnatural, but unlike these cuddly guys, centipedes actually have poison glands with working biters. Luckily, the only one I have seen was in a glass box at a really cool place. But don’t sigh in relief too soon – these “little” guys grow up to 8 inches long.
  1. Rattle snakes

download.jpg

Now, we have these in Idaho, so no biggie… right? Well, all of Arizona is Rattlesnake heaven – nearly every inch of the  cracked ground has been touched by one of these. The only place sans snakes is Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in the state, which I might re-term as Ivy heaven.

Yeah, you can likely avoid an encounter and a bite, but any bite is a medical emergency. The dollar sign on that bill? $5,000 a vile for antivenom. Some may need 20-50 viles. I’m not a math major, but I know what that equals: DAYUM. (Although I assure you that as a nurse I will more than certainly be able to administer your life saving treatment. You’re welcome).

However, I was tremendously comforted by the fact that I learned that they hibernate, and I was arriving before the start of their winter season…. Until I learned they hibernate in groups, sometimes over 1,000 snakes…

8. Javelinas

50bc06a30e1ef8ae4a23bdd1230659a5.jpg

Although a real baby javelina, this is not an accurate depiction of these monsters.

I’ve ranted on facebook about my nightly javelina escapades, but wait, there’s more.

Every night these nocturnal creatures come out from hiding to rummage through food left from students and disturb our sole chunk of grass. Sole chunk of grass means that is Ellie’s favorite potty spot. Which means one night when she was oblivious to the pack of 8+ snorting creatures surrounding us, I turned around to see a large dark figure sneaking around a tree, positioning himself right behind me, glaring with his blood red eyes, ready to charge. Ellie finished just in time and we escaped!

I have been told that these creatures are typically very dense and are similar to me in that they are conflict-avoiders. Experience might tell me otherwise. My second encounter happened as I approached another large pack, this time passing them on my side, blind sighted by the darkness that their stinky bodies blend with. Dog leash in hand I look up and notice that rather than a mild semi-circle arrangement of angry creatures in front of me, I was almost completely enclosed by grunting, stunned, giant slabs of desert ham. I respectfully backed away, giving them their  space to graze. As I walked to another area, I hear some clonking on the concrete behind me. I swivel my body and I stare into three large javelinas, following me. Thinking that they may just want to get by to more grass, I step down and away from their line of journey. Turns out, they also can climb down stairs, unlike cows, and were triangle-formation marching towards me. Nearly trapped between building walls, I find my sole escape. I quickly lock myself into the outdoor pool area, keeping me and Ellie Bug javelina free. This experience was only heightened by the google image I saw in the hours following:

download (2)

1 1/2 inch long chompers and broad bodies for charging. Perfect.

As traumatic as they may be, I can’t help but giggle as they waddle-run away after a loud noise and stomping.

 

9. Gila Monsters

images (1)

I haven’t been blessed with an uncontrolled encounter with this gorgeous beaded lizard, but I think I’ll try to steer clear. I learned that these mofos can latch onto you with their strong jaws (swole msucles pictured above – he probably never heard of leg day) and won’t budge for like 20 minutes, no matter any amount of painful flailing you do while they inject their toxins into your bloodstream. On top of that, they can survive only eating 3-5 times a year and barely need water to survive. This isn’t real life.

We do have one thing in common though: they can eat up to 1/3 of their body weight!

10. Meet my pet tarantula!

Day three I walked out of my house and almost stepped on this spider almost as big as my hand… in flats. Knowing they aren’t typically aggressive, I left him there. Later upon my googling rampage fear was rejuvenated. Tarantulas are unable to eat solid foods, so they bite their prey, inject toxins, which liquify the prey so they can slurp up their meals. Why, Earth? Why?

However, they are calm fuzzy creatures who aren’t poisonous to humans – but their bites do hurt and their fuzzy hairs can cause severe skin irritations when used defensively.

I also learned that he is probably a she. I haven’t named her yet, suggestions?

11.  Sounds bad? Well, wait for what was googled next…

NWCGL1N

I don’t know how to say this nicely… What the hell?

This is a species of a “spider wasp” with long legs with hooks on the end to grab their unsuspecting prey. Their sting, which is one of the most painful insect stings in the world, is delivered by a stinger that is 1/4 of an inch, which subsequently paralyzes our fuzzy friends from above. Sounds bad? Well, what comes next is even more vividly terrifying.

The tarantula is dragged by the giant wasp to a nest of sorts where she proceeds to lay an egg in the spider’s abdomen. WHILE THE SPIDER IS STILL ALIVE the babies burst into the stomach cavity, feeding off of the tarantula. They save the “best for last” as they wait for the vital organ consumption, so the tarantula continues to suffer in some intermediate stage of life. Eventually, it emerges from the spider to start the nightmare cycle all over again.

Side note: New Mexicans are screwed up individuals, since this is their state insect.

 

And the rest…

Among the terrors listed above, I fall asleep to the sound of coyotes howling in the too-close-for-comfort distance. Stink bugs are scattered along the ground, butts up and ready for attack. There are some of the largest flies I have been swatted from my body. Roaches are far from small. And, there are YEAR ROUND MOSQUITOES. Don’t even get me started on the chupacabra.

All this, while I have to walk in the dark (light restrictive zone), with just a flashlight and a dog that will probably get me in more trouble than help. What a beautiful cycle of life!

I suppose I should have warned you at the beginning as some form of a “Trigger Warning” that the content of this post was going to be creepy, crawling, and potentially uncomfortable. Despite how I make my adventure so far seem above, I won’t label myself as scared, uncomfortable, or 2 seconds away from catching the first flight I can to somewhere new. I am truly enjoying my time in Arizona and my new journey.

Nothing can parallel or negate the beautiful sunsets, jagged mountains, full night skies, and new adventures. I wake up to hues of glowing pinks and blushing purples. I breathe in the view of the lime trees, guava trees, jujube fruit, and almond trees. The scent of growing cantaloupe, basil, and prickly pear manage to overcome the dust particles infesting the air. I walk through my day with the opportunity to feel sun-kissed skin, watch elegant butterflies, smile at bunnies romping away, and even to save tiny cute lizards. I end my day gazing at the vibrant oranges and blazing reds that glow in the sky. I’m learning so much about my environment, myself, and my dreams. And, best of all, there are no earwigs!

080_arizona_sunset_083104_10

Nothing New, Except for Everything

Oops…

Personal deadlines sometimes go to the wayside in our tumultuous work-obsessed society. So, I hope you read “Sunday” as “someday,” and don’t berate me for my first (maybe of many – but that’s a habit I am aiming to break) late post. However, if you couldn’t tell from my previous post, the pressure without self-grace is overrated. Now, I can just pass it off as a tribute to one of my favorite blogs, Wait but Why, where the tagline says “new posts every sometimes.”

“new posts every sometimes.” -WaitbutWhy.com

Call it an excuse – I call it honesty. Why the delay? Too busy being exhausted.

Nothing new… except for almost everything.  In my last post I alluded to my surprise break from school. I feel this needs some clarification. It is exactly that – a break, a year off, some down low time, a breather. After a year away, I will be returning to Philadelphia to kick the last bit of Penn in the ass, just like it did to me (although a drop is not infinite, thankfully). With all my newfound time, post-drop notice, I was stuck like the syrup lid after repeated use by four-year-olds. Maybe this dysfunctional freeze had been impending on me for what felt like eons prior, but this time it was different. I had felt like I had demolished any and all expectations, like I let the pressure crush me while simultaneously building pressure around me to compensate for my perceived “failures.” However, despite this pile of exponential dread, my stickiness was less like stage-fright. Instead, I found myself facing an empty year ahead of me – no job, no school, no organizations – for once in my life. I should have been scared. I was stuck. But I was free.

The job search turned into a life-search. What did I want to do? Where did I want to go?Who did I want to be?  And most important of all: Why? As my Chrome tabs began multiplying like the fruit-fly thoughts swarming my brain, I was astounded. I was stuck not for the lack of choice and action I had felt for years, but because an entire world was unlocked and at my finger tips. Sure, I could have clicked the “submit application” buttons long before this forced epiphany, but there was a concrete wall blocking me. With my life crumbling, the wall was shattered, too. I was at the rockiest bottom in my life thus far. But to be honest, there was no where better I could have been.

RoCk Bottom.jpg

Hey, I’m no J.K. Rowling, but at this lowest life point the whole “I have nothing to lose” mentality sparked inspiration. Reminiscent of Dr. Suess, opportunities reeled through my mind. Would I move to Africa to work in a wildlife refuge? Would I finally get to pet a kangaroo and hit that bucket list? What about a flight attendant? Settle in D.C. for a political roller coaster experience? Maybe I would return to Idahome and escape into the beautiful terrain, off the map. The possibilities were quite endless. How would I, a life long procrastinator-decision maker make the leap into what was next?

Turns out my personal “leap year” started with more of a whisper than the sonic boom I was anticipating. I regularly started waking up before my alarm, kick starting mornings around 6:30 am surprisingly naturally. I started sneaking into my school’s gym, despite them deactivating my student ID. My room was clean. My dog was fed and walked regularly. I reconnected with friends. I took spontaneous trips to new places. I got paid to play some games and smell some stuff (my natural inclination was to say “shit,” but fortunately it wasn’t like that). I kind of, sort of accidentally became a home health nursing assistant. All of these came slowly, smoothly, without the petrifying pressure that had plagued me for years. Before I knew it –  I had job opportunities sliding into my DMs.

I’ll spare you the existential crisis and insomnia-stricken debates that arose as I tried to decide which year-long career path I would take. But if you were wondering – I chose a last minute cross-country move for a job that doesn’t align with either of my degrees. In a blink of an eye, I am up at 4:00 am – flying away from the prestigious school that kicked me out, flying away from the wonderful family who took me in. Flying to semi-middle-of-nowhere Tucson, Arizona.

IMG_0798

A short drive from my place -Saguaro National Park, West.

 

I am exhausted because I am energized. My new position has me learning, growing, and engaging more than I could have ever known. Even more surprisingly, the inertia is coming from within myself. Although I am able to end my work days by 4:00 or 5:00 pm, I stay hours later not only for those I work with, but for myself. I am completely immersed into a new life that a month ago I wouldn’t fathom. But, “if you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”

If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are? ~T.S. Eliot

Arizona may be hot, dry, and draining, but my new life is refreshing, filled with a healthy new current, and flowing with energy. Hence, the busy exhaustion (but I still somehow find time to look at primates roasting marshmallows).But I’m not complaining, this is what I need. So, sorry for the late post, but I am learning to breathe again, in a whole new way.

P.S. Someone please send me a humidifier.

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Someone once told me that writing is good therapy… That person may or may not have been my therapist, but when did I ever listen to them? That is a different story (although not entirely). So here we are, at the start of something new. Thanks for joining me on my inaugural weekly ramble!

How new are we talking here?

Well, to be frank, as new as my favorite pair of jeans that have faded and now bear holes in their tired age. But older. When I was just learning how to write as a child, I would jot down thoughts that I thought other people would enjoy reading… or at least I would enjoy re-reading. When I was in middle school I felt destined to be a dedicated vlogger and potentially become “YouTube Famous.” I was just missing the dedicated part. High school? Welcome Tumblr – insert angsty rants and a cluttering of memes representing hours of procrastination and early existential dread. I even eighth-assed my way through attempts at a fitness and health blog, a “shit I do when nobody is watching” online journal, and other capricious sparks of mindful (less?) infatuation.

Enter college – commence my cross-country move, little fish in a big pond independence, new experiences, and last but definitely not least (yuck, cliché), a newfound psychiatric hell, depression, amongst the stress of a rigorous college and the perceived pressure to have everything figured out. My struggles have been no secret to those close to me and over the years I have been open to sharing my experiences to connect with others in comfort and inspiration. Over this time, isolating myself in my room for hours on end gave me a lot of time to contemplate how I could express my experiences – both the good, the bad, the ugly, and hopefully the funny – in a manner that could be appreciated by many (not to mention, of course, the constant contemplation of the meaning of life). And yes, I did begin therapy; yes, many recommended that I journal my reflections, and no, I did not. Therapy didn’t seem to help (I wonder why?). It was an hour a week that I rambled about random nonsense to someone who occasionally listened and rarely provided me advice or tools to conquer my life-controlling barriers. What I received instead was a lot of procedural validation and the occasional “homework” that I just added to the ever-growing pile of my actual work that was inaccessible through my veil of apathy. Of course, this expanding monster I created and fed myself only made it harder to tackle tasks, the least of which seemed to be writing, just to write. Writing was not therapeutic. It was stress-inducing junk food for my internal enemy to grow unhealthier… and somehow stronger.

So, what stopped me from writing all of these years? Sure, I can’t deny that depression played a huge part in my literary darkness, but I had been trying to engage with this expressive world long before I lost my ability to express myself (don’t worry, that isn’t a euphemism for its death, it was simply misplaced under the mind’s equivalent to a grungy pile of crinkled clothes and old pizza boxes in the house of a workaholic that has finally burnt out and is now taking a hiatus to crash for an undetermined amount of time). And also, it turns out, this was even bigger than my lack of dedication and persistence to this art. I did not have a shortage of ideas – that was for sure. With my education it wasn’t as if I was at a want for vocabulary and sentence structure, either. I had all the platforms available to me – thank God for google! Heck, I even started this blog page years ago, design and all. So why couldn’t I, as some of my academic mentors would (read: did) say, “just fucking write!”?

It came down to one “P” word. No, it wasn’t lazy Procrastination, as many such as myself assumed. And sadly, the word isn’t Penis, which would probably make for a much more entertaining story. It was Perfectionism.

perfectionism

Perfectionism has been my trusty sidekick for as long as I can remember. Spelling? Hated it when I was a kid. I am talking throw-the-thick-book-across-the-room-and-shriek-bloody-murder-when-you-miss-two-words-out-of-twenty type of loathe. Yet, I was often praised for my high level of achievement, attention to detail, and “perfect” progress. Perfectionism helped me focus on massive projects through late hours in the night. She was there for me with every homework assignment, quiz, and exam. She pulled me through exhausting homecoming and prom weeks. Perfectionism probably applauded with pride when I graduated in the top ten of my class, countless scholarships under my belt, and on my way to an Ivy League institution. I definitely smirked right back.

She doesn’t seem like such a bad friend to keep around, right? Well, what was hidden in the shadow of my accomplishments, was the way Perfectionism abused me. I despised anything that I wasn’t immediately good at until eventually I became too anxious to try new things. I never wanted to appear weak, even at the gym where the whole point is for you to grow and become stronger. You could ask my mom about my frequency of yelling tantrums in frustration at something being “not right” – even through high school. I was terrified of being judged for my shortcomings – not noticing that I was almost always the only critic. I’d practically be lying if I said I didn’t abuse her, too. I was consistently cracked-out on my high stress (stress high?). I was chained up, locked in a box with weights stacked atop, in the darkest corner of the basement – reminiscent of when my older siblings would roll me in a blanket burrito, tie jump ropes around me, and leave me to Houdini my way out.

Sometimes I escaped. Sometimes I didn’t. And sometimes Perfectionism led me astray until I was dropped from my university for my lack of products reaching the grading desk. My trusty sidekick became my betraying villain. She and I had become one, but we were failing. We were incompatible. Instead of Perfectionism being the spark to light my nice-smelling candle that provided light, warmth, and comfort, she became the flammable substance that lit the fuse to my own personal unexpected firework show – a bright experience, dangerous, loud, lived fast and out of control, and ultimately leaving me in smoky darkness awaiting the next year’s grand performance – if there would even be one. Eventually, something reached me in this obscure dim place of confusion, and just like when the bad guy removes his mask in front of the shocked heroine in one of those classic cinema moments, I saw Perfectionism for who she truly was. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that distinct – that just sounded cool. The honest side is it was a long murky road to realization. The end decision was still the same, though:

Perfectionism is a bitch.

What to do now? Well, fuck bitches, get money #FBGM. It was time to learn to disregard the minutia-turned-Godzilla parts of Perfectionism and value the things I have learned and achieved because of her. Of course, just like fucking bitches and getting money isn’t always easy, the untangling process of the parts of myself that had been infiltrated by Perfectionism has been and will continue to be a challenging lifelong process. I have been wounded and weak from Perfectionism dropping me on my ass – exactly what I thought she would protect me from. The healing process of this injury has been exhausting. There are days when I don’t want to go to my equivalent of physical therapy, even if I know it is for the better. And you know damn well that I have the occasional short fuse with my “trainers” and beg for a pill that will make all the pain go away. Unfortunately, as we learn in nursing school, that would only be treating the symptoms and not the disease. It wouldn’t fix the problem. It would neglect and potentially exacerbate my hardships in the future. So here I am, slowly converting to some ambiguous form of a type B person. Growth has been so painful. It has been uncomfortable beyond my wildest imagination. But it has been worth it.

Okay, ramble, ramble, I get it… So why are you writing now?

Perfectionism has held me back from my biggest dreams and ambitions. Although ranting once a week on the internet isn’t one of my life goals, it is something that I have never done because of her. Normally, writing goes a little like this:

*type, type, type* *backspace, backspace, backspace* *type type* *backspace* *type, type, type, type, type* *read* *hold backspace* *sigh* *type, type, type* *feel unhappy with product* *never post*

               Repeat as necessary.

Now, I am standing up to her. So what, a blog may not be as important as those papers that remain unwritten that kicked me out of school, but that is exactly the point. Perfectionism would gasp at the vulnerability that will be shown. The raw product that can be tied to my name. Perfectionism would tell me that it has to be all or nothing. She would say that despite even Olympians having to start somewhere, doctors fighting through years of school and residencies, and the numerous failures before a success, I should be able to spring up from my injury and present the best product as if my life depended on it. Perfectionism can be so irrational. Of course you can’t run a marathon after many sleepless nights, with an injury, or without training on the lower mileages. Hell, you don’t even like running at all! Life isn’t a 0 or a 26.2. Sure, you can go zero to a hundred real quick, real fuckin’ quick. But you cannot go 0 to a 100 without 1-99. Sorry, Drake, we can’t all be Trump’s children, although I am sure he probably tried.

quotivee_1280x800_0004_group-2

So, in conclusion (remember whenever you learned this phrase and felt like a genius when you used this in a paper even if everything else was total BS?), welcome to my hot-mess of a blog. If you’re here to observe perfect grammar, read coherent thoughts, and avoid tangents … bye, Felicia. Also, if you’re Type A enough to require posts being at least vaguely in the same topic as one another, sorry not sorry. If you’ve made it this far into my debut ramble, congratulations! I would love to have you along for all my adventures. The only thing you can expect from me are new posts every Sunday. I even give you permission to be my accountability and tell me to “just fucking write!” because, that’s exactly what this is: me just fucking writing (finally).