Category Archives: Thoughts

Through the Autism Glass

16498894786_4b8279777b_bphoto credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/92796360@N05/16498894786″>Looking Up</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Update: I previously published this a couple weeks ago and am re-posting in honor of autism awareness day. In the past weeks I have been learning to accept this revelation while remembering that nothing really has changed. I am still me; the same me I have always been and I still have the power to define myself and not allow some label to do it for me. It has helped me to identify areas in which I need work, and I have some ideas on how to go about creating more structure in my life.

Original post: I came across this article a few weeks ago called “The Invisible Women with Autism.” It struck a chord and I recognized myself instantly. I have known about autism for many years and even identified with some of the traits, but it never really fit. This article did. Apparently most models of autism are based on observations of boys and men. Women on the spectrum don’t fit that profile. The traits are similar, but they appear differently in women and girls because we are socialized differently and may learn to blend into the dominant society better whereas it may go unnoticed or misdiagnosed.

I am not officially diagnosed, nor do I think it is necessary for me. It completely fits; I feel like it explains my entire life. In the past week or so, I’ve bought 10 or more books on the subject, taken online Aspergers tests. It all fits. And I could not have realized it at a better time.

24650425056_bdee52a73a_b.jpgphoto credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/46122506@N05/24650425056″>Time</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

For the past couple months, I have been in danger of becoming completely isolated. For most of my life, I have kept myself insanely busy, so busy that I didn’t have time for, nor need a social life. About 5 months ago, I graduated with my M.A. degree. I had been working two jobs and going to school full time so all I had time for was work, school, homework, sleep. And suddenly, I didn’t have school anymore, I was down to one job which I work 3 nights a week, leaving me with my days essentially free and unstructured. The first couple months I was excited to have free time, started working on two books a memoir about my quest to understand dreams and the nature of reality and a fiction story involving lucid dreams. But then the lack of structure and my odd sleeping schedule merged to the point where I didn’t feel it necessary to get up during the day. At all. My sleep cycle shifted and I became almost entirely nocturnal, sleeping until 5 or 6 pm, going to bed at 10 or 11 in the morning. I had no idea how to stop this. At least before, I would go to bed at 3 or 4 am and wake up at 11 or 12. I was not happy with this at all, but as long as I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to do it with, I had no reason to get out of bed. I was obsessively shopping on eBay, collecting more gadgets that I don’t need, but I didn’t know how to stop. I tried coming up with things to do, but as long as they don’t involve other people, I couldn’t make myself do them. I bought a bike, thinking I would learn how to ride again (pretty sure I have forgotten). It is still sitting in my living room because I don’t know how to put it together and haven’t figured out who can help. (Yes I know I can take it to a bike shop.)

At least for now, I’ve had my research on autism to keep me busy and have managed my sleep to one full day of recovery after work and have been able to be awake during the day otherwise. I also joined a co-working space, autism support group, and am working on adding more structure to my life.

Apparently some of us on the spectrum have what is sometimes known as executive dysfunction. It could be why I cannot seem to function without some sort of structure in my life, or why when I’m absorbed in a book or a project, it doesn’t occur to me to eat and my cat has to remind me, or why I can’t seem to keep my apartment organized unless I live with someone else, etc.

Since I’ve figured this out about myself, it has caused me to review my entire life experiences through this new lens, and it’s such a relief to finally have an explanation for while I’ve often felt like an alien, like I’m on the outside looking in, observing the ways and customs of this world. So many other Aspies feel as if they were born on the wrong planet, it’s nice to finally know I’m not alone in this.

Being on the autism spectrum generally means that our brains process information differently from those who are not; and those differences give us certain benefits or gifts as well as disadvantages due to trying to fit into a world that was not designed for us and is not particularly friendly to those who are different.

25330985390_56fb35e5c9_bphoto credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/30243036@N05/25330985390″>Cableado cerebral</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

What has been the most difficult in coming to terms with this is what people usually think when we hear autism or autistic. Everyone on the autism spectrum is different, we are individuals, we cope with the difficulties of fitting into a society that isn’t designed for us differently. Some of us have delayed speech and language processing, some of us don’t, some are extremely intelligent, some are able to successfully cope with our differences and some struggle more. What we have in common is that we all seem to view the world differently than other people. Differently, but in similar ways. It is thought to be a combination of genetics and behavioral factors.

I’ve also noticed that I find myself now wondering in social situations how much I am missing out on, and whether other people find me completely socially awkward. But then I realize that I am still me. I will always be me, and nothing has changed. The only thing that is different is that I now identify with this label, but I don’t have to let it define me. At the very least, it has given me an explanation for what I have been searching for my entire life, for why I have always felt different, why people always see me as different, and that no, there is nothing wrong with me. I am exactly how I am supposed to be, just not how this society expects me to be.

22439551969_9b294a6ab6_b.jpgphoto credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/84236606@N02/22439551969″>White peacock display</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

I often have difficulty making decisions, especially if it’s in answer to an open-ended question such as “What would you like to do/eat?” For me, there are so many variables to take into consideration that I usually go with what the other person wants, because most likely, they care more than I do anyway. Even supposedly simple questions like “what’s your favorite color?” or “what is your favorite music/song?” These are usually asked as small talk in order to get to know someone, but I usually don’t see what they have to do with actually getting to know me. I’m a person, I can’t be summed up in whatever answer I give to these questions. I wonder what people think they’re learning about me when they ask, and I don’t know how to answer.

Alexythymia is a condition common among autistic people as well. It is characterized by a difficulty in identifying and expressing emotions. I can usually identify basic emotions such as happy and sad, but it is difficult for me to identify and my own emotions in the moment. There are many times when I review a situation and realized I should have been upset about something, but of course by that time, the moment has passed. I think because of this, I am very good at dealing with people who are difficult because I am able to stay calm and not fall prey to their emotional whirlwinds.

I also do not make eye contact naturally. I have learned to do it because it seems to be valued in this society, but it is something I have to force myself and remember to do.

5190608615_fce79f89c4_bphoto credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/51519062@N03/5190608615″>Hobie’s Broken Glass Eye</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

One of the criteria for Aspergers or autism is self-soothing behaviors, sometimes called stimming. (I really don’t like this word). At first I couldn’t think of many, sometimes I tap my fingers, or especially when I’m nervous I fidget or play with my hair or jewelry. But I realized another one…

I may not talk to anyone else, but I talk to myself. A lot. And for as long as I can remember. I still do. It helps me to process social situations. If it went well, I will sometimes replay it, speaking softly to myself (when I think no one is around) or if it didn’t go well, I say to myself what I should have said. I rehearse future conversations, especially telephone calls. I know now that I can’t predict the other person’s responses, but I need to have an idea of what I want out of the call so that I won’t get lost and forget. When I was little, I used to rehearse entire conversations such as “I will say this, and she will say that, and I will say this, etc… Of course it would never go according to plan because people are unpredictable.

I talk to myself when I’m home alone, when I’m driving, sometimes when I’m walking down the street, or in a store. I sometimes laugh or smile if someone catches me, but I know I’m not crazy.

Most of us also have sensory issues…

When I was little I couldn’t deal with loud noises. My parents took me to see E.T. in the movie theater when I was 2, and they didn’t understand why I screamed and cried. It was the noise. Movie theaters very are loud. So as I got older, I would purposely go to sleep whenever we went to see a movie so I wouldn’t have to hear the loud noise of it or disturb everyone by crying.

I identify very strongly with characters in movies or books. To me, they are real, and what happens to them is happening to me. This is why I cannot watch horror movies.

I have issues with touch. I don’t particularly like other people touching me, especially strangers. I can’t imagine paying for someone to give me a massage. My skin is very sensitive and just a light touch tickles. But surprisingly, I do enjoy intimate touch. I have learned to deal with hugs from people I know somewhat, but anything more than that I find uncomfortable.

Certain patterns are visually jarring to me. I remember when I was little there was a mug in our pantry that I couldn’t look at. It had an array of white lines in a particular pattern that seemed to hurt my eyes when I looked at it and I would have to look away. Another is if you have ever seen a group of little tree frogs together…That pattern hurts my eyes as well.

8635963965_e616cc9829_ophoto credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/16391511@N00/8635963965″>On Broken Glass 4</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

I have always been a very picky eater. I have been told that when I was a baby I would only eat ice cream and Jello. My mom was worried there was something wrong with me because I wouldn’t eat. The doctors only said I would eat when I was hungry. They used to try to force me to eat, putting food in my mouth, but it only ended up messing up my teeth because I would just hold it there and not swallow it. I used to take my lunch to school, and I would eat the same things for weeks at a time until I couldn’t eat it anymore whether it was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or tuna sandwiches. To this day I still won’t eat tuna anymore. Some of it has to do with texture, I don’t like pulp or seeds in liquid or things that should be smooth. I don’t like bits and pieces of things in my ice cream, ice cream should be smooth and I shouldn’t have to chew it. I don’t like chunky peanut butter or chunks of tomatoes, although I like smooth tomato sauce and smooth peanut butter. The list goes on… but you see my point. I will still sometimes eat the same things over and over… (currently its banana bagels)

I have been called shy for as long as I can remember. To me, it was a derogatory term. I am an introvert and am naturally quiet, but social issues created some anxiety as well since I didn’t know the rules for social interaction. One memory comes to mind. I was around 5 or 6 and I was at school with my best (and probably only) friend when a boy asked her a question. She answered him and then he asked me the same question. I repeated her response, thinking it was an acceptable answer. I didn’t know I was supposed to answer differently. I thought questions had a right or a wrong answer and since her answer was okay, it must have been the right one.

9025560542_64236b5aa7_b.jpgphoto credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/49225855@N07/9025560542″>Mачка- Waiting for the Sun</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

I have always been an observer. When I was in preschool or kindergarten, my mom would ask me what I did in school and I would describe in detail what everyone else did. And she would ask “But what did you do?”

I watch everyone and everything around me, learning how to copy their behavior in order not to draw attention to myself. It is what I do especially when I am in a new situation. I avoided many social faux pas because I simply didn’t talk to too many people or seek out social interaction. I don’t normally think to share things with others, it usually just doesn’t even occur to me.

They say we sometimes have obsessions, or obscure interests…

I have loved books and words for all of my life. According to my parents, I could read by the time I was 2 years old (hyperlexia), and was reading Jane Austen and all the classics when I was in  1st grade. Books have always been my escape, and I could remember details from every book I read.

For a while I was obsessed with Victorian times, I wished I could have gone back in time and lived there. I thought I had been born in the wrong century. I wore long skirts and dresses until about 5th grade when kids at school began to talk. I started dressing more like them in an attempt to fit in which was (of course) unsuccessful.

Throughout grade school I had at least 1 or 2 friends, mostly other outsiders whom the other kids made fun of. I convinced myself I didn’t care. We would read together at recess or play ESP games (I really wanted to have Extra Sensory Perception). I read all the time, even at lunch. I remember once, one girl I had been good friends with, got upset because I was reading at the lunch table. I didn’t understand why that was a problem. We were not friends for much longer.

24447254613_ebac7b92b7photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/70521654@N00/24447254613″>#8/100 Reading</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

By middle school, I didn’t understand other girls obsession and interest in celebrity boys and I have never been good at faking an interest in something I couldn’t care less about. And so I drifted away from them because I couldn’t relate.

Once I got to high school, it was harder to make friends. I was at a new school and I didn’t really know anyone. The one girl I did know, had been one of the popular ones, and we weren’t exactly friends. I wasn’t socially rejected, more like ignored. I became invisible. I wasn’t interested in the things they were, I felt like there was no connection. It was an arts high school where I studied music, played violin. But it wasn’t my passion. It wasn’t typical because we were all mostly outcasts from normal schools. I didn’t hate it, but I still didn’t feel like I belonged. I don’t really remember much from that time.

I became depressed after all those years of not knowing what was wrong with me, not knowing why I am the way I am. I was in hidden emotional pain. By them time I got to high school, I started to cut myself in order to make the pain I was feeling tangible, physical, more real. It didn’t last long because my mom found out and because I didn’t want to hurt her, I stopped. I remember crying, not really wanting to die, but not knowing how to live. I still battle with depression constantly. I don’t always notice whether or not I’m sad, but after a while I will notice that I am not eating or am sleeping more than I should.

I was always the good girl, the innocent one, the one who never got in trouble, the one who never participated in class. I recently came across notes from my teachers when I was in grade school. I was in the special reading class briefly, even though I could read better than all of my classmates, they were concerned because I wouldn’t talk, at least not to them. They wanted to hold me back a year, they thought I should see a psychologist because I wouldn’t talk or participate. My parents refused. And at the time, I was glad they didn’t. It wouldn’t have done any good; I told myself if they made me go I just wouldn’t talk to them.

They called me difficult, stubborn, hard-headed, picky, as well as extremely patient, creative, intelligent.

I have never known exactly how friendships and relationships are supposed to work. I watched the other kids date and “go together” and it seemed like a complete mystery to me how they got together. I still don’t understand subtle signs, the nonverbal ones, and flirting. I will often have no idea if someone is trying to flirt with me, or if they even like me at all unless they say it outright.

24641937989_c73c60a623_b.jpgphoto credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/57527070@N06/24641937989″>Aurora Borealis</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

Other people have always been a problem for me. I never know what they are thinking, and because I know that since I can think of anything I want, so can they. So in certain social situations, especially in large groups, there’s a million things going through my mind as to what they could possibly be thinking, and since most non-verbal clues are meaningless to me, it is a complete mystery. So I become anxious, terrified if called upon to speak. Who know’s what all these people are thinking of me. They may laugh at me, or think what I say is stupid, or a million other things. Or I may make some social faux pas, and they will think “What is wrong with her?”, etc. And so I may freeze, becoming selectively mute, and I may or may not recover in a timely fashion. Recently I have learned to say that I pass, or some other phrase to release me from my terror.

The first time I remember this happening was when I had to interview to get into a particular college prep high school. I was 13 and they asked me a lot of questions that I wasn’t prepared for; it being my first interview and all. I am not good at speaking under pressure, especially when I am not prepared. I tend to stumble over words, unable to choose the correct ones. It is as if there is a disconnect between what I am thinking and my ability to translate my thoughts into speech. They asked why I wanted to go there, I answered “Because my friends are going here.” I didn’t have an appropriate answer prepared. I’m not sure what else they asked me, but what I do remember is that I froze. A million thoughts jumbled around and I couldn’t focus on anything or think of anything to say, and the longer I was silent, I worried about not saying anything and got stuck in a loop. “On no, I don’t know what to say, try to think of something to say, still haven’t said anything, this is awkward, what do I do now?” And instead of being able to answer the question, I fell into a feedback loop with no way out. Needless to say, I didn’t get into that school. Cynthia Kim describes this really well in her book “Nerdy, Shy, & Socially Inappropriate.”

People are always surprised that I can express myself very clearly in writing, but when it comes to speaking, I can’t seem to get my thoughts together. I stumble over words and probably come across as a little inept.

In college, my friends were my classmates, mostly the ones in my major. We shared many classes and spent lots of time together. I didn’t entirely feel like an outsider for once. I was included most of the time and I would always make sure I could leave whenever I wanted. I have a tendency to leave parties earlier than most.

Now as an adult, I am realizing more and more that my social skills are lacking. Most likely due to avoidance – I didn’t get to make too many mistakes and learn from them. And also because I think I miss out on subtle clues that others pick up on. I have many acquaintances whom I may call friends, but most likely they don’t know me very well. I will usually have no idea if someone likes me or not unless they say it outright. So even if I were to initiate activities with people, I usually have literally no idea if it will go over well. Which means I usually only talk to people in the venue where we meet, such as school, or work and rarely see or talk to them  outside of those areas.

It is no longer a complete mystery to me how people get together romantically. As I’ve gotten older, people seem to be more direct (well they have to be to get my attention) and I haven’t had problems finding people who are interested, but I still feel like I don’t really know how they really work.

24525721329_b127a71792.jpgphoto credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/76813793@N08/24525721329″>Mermaid’s lair</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

All of this is why I think the particular master’s program I chose was extremely difficult for me. The classes were primarily based on the sharing of experiences & reactions in a group setting, as well as identifying and processing emotions and feelings. All things that I have difficulties with. I am much better with facts and in situations where there is a right and a wrong answer. Ask me to share my thoughts and opinions and I’m lost. No wonder it felt like a miracle I got through it.

I am writing this because it helps me process everything, so that I can remember, and learn my strengths and weaknesses. So that I can learn new ways to be in the world. I know now that my former adherence to lists and structure is necessary for me, and that I need to try to learn the subtle cues, to make friends and become the person that I know I can be.


A Tale of Universal Relativity

index

This is a poem I wrote after reading the book shown above. I will post a review soon, but I really enjoyed it. I got it for my dad for Father’s day and we read it together.

A Tale of Universal Relativity

Can we, through the subtleties of poetry

discover the secrets of the universe?

of who we are and why we exist

if we even exist at all

If we look to the implications of modern physics

it seems to say that only nothing is real

that nothing

is real

that we live in an observer-dependent reality

negating the idea of of a True reality outside of us

not that we can’t observe it

but that it cannot exist

 

Who are we in the world of nothing

what then of our experiences

of life

of love

of hurt

and pain

and longing

and grief

of fear

and death

Is there a purpose behind the world of illusions

the world as we know it

according to each of us

 

There must be some sort of overlap

so that we can share a sense of understanding

of love

Maybe our emotions

or love

as Maya Angelou said

is what holds the stars in the sky

 

Maybe the world will end in fire

or possibly in ice

in the words of Robert Frost

 

Or maybe it will not end at all

if it never began

if it always has

and always will

exist

And what of life

and of consciousness

and sleep

and dreams

 

I go to sleep at night, or sometimes day

and visit a different world

one very different, it seems, from the one I usually see

where things seems to overlap

boundaries are non-existent

and nothing is distinct

a fluid universe of probabilities

only vaguely remembered upon waking

I try to create a story

out of the fragments of my memory

the fragments of my fading dreams

 

We start out as a mixture of DNA

a blueprint for a being

encoded in strings of molecules

giving birth to a cell

which grows to form a baby

who is born into this strange evanescent world

where we learn of love

of hate

of pain

and hurt

but also of joy

and empathy

we have experiences

interpret them

allow them to shape our world

 

Once upon a time

my mom told me

she thought she was an alien

I have often felt that way myself

as if I am an observer

learning human ways

And maybe that’s true

that we are all observers

observing the worlds

of everyone around us

 

It has sometimes been hard to tell the difference

between my dreams and this reality

I seem to have a memory

sometime when I was small

of there being a wall inside of our apartment

just high enough to reach the windows

of course I know

it was never there

but the memory is so clear

and maybe it was there

an internal wall

built around me

that only I could see

 

My childhood memories are vague

my memories in pieces

shards whose edges have been rounded by time

or is it distance whose disappearance

causes its velocity to be undefined

 

I look at the child I used to be

all those years ago

now as an observer

an impossibility

my memories shaped

by the person I have become

the one I seem to look at

being somewhat different

from the me I was then

the me that I felt

from the inside

 

We live our lives from the inside

with only occasional glimpses from others

who have a more objective view

we are only ever able to approximate how we seem to others

interpreted back to us

through their eyes

their perspectives

their biases

because maybe

there is no ultimately objective view

and due to incompleteness

we cannot measure ourselves

but only know ourselves

as completely as possible

from the inside

 

Some may call this intuition

some of us are good at following it

some of us have yet to listen

 

There was a time when it saved my mother’s life

she had a feeling and decided to listen

unable to explain why

until we made it home

to find the window shattered

a bullet hole in the wall

 

She told me stories of how she left her body

saw it lying there on the bed

and how if someone had tried to wake her

she would not have been able to get back in

 

There was the time she found her grandmother

knocking at her door

coming to see the baby

born the day she died

fulfilling her earthly promise

to tell her granddaughter

what death was like

and restore the baby’s health

for whom no earthly treatment could cure

 

I was afraid for her before it happened

I could see the signs

She told me to trust her

she knew how to handle it

And I suppose

since she was the adult

I listened

but I was still scared

I was sure he had tried to kill her once before

and was just waiting

for another opportunity

It came a few days later

a week maybe

and I knew

when she didn’t come home that night

when I didn’t sleep waiting for the sound of the gate

but knowing every time

that it wasn’t her

she would not come

 

The next day at the police station

they did not take us seriously

said maybe she just left

I told them they didn’t know her

they said there was nothing they could do

 

I knew I had to find her

had to go back to that apartment

find out if the neighbors heard something

My brother went, since he had not been

but I found that I

could not sit idly by and wait

so I put on a disguise, changed my clothes, my hair

and went to join him

in our little escapade

a ruse to get inside

 

we knocked on every door

to no avail

no one wanted to talk to strangers

no one would come to their door

not until after we broke down the door

and found out what I had known all along

somehow now they opened their doors

for us to call 911

 

I remember the first few words of a note he left

I was not allowed to see the rest

I remember being afraid

that he would come after us too

they found him after a week

as he was about to be released

from the hospital after claiming to be hearing voices

 

Once upon a time

I kept my secrets to myself

kept my heart locked in a castle

only rarely allowing entry

to those I had given a key

never allowing them to see me

barely daring to enter myself

 

But maybe sometimes

it’s okay to open the door

to show you around

maybe it doesn’t have to be

a pandora’s box

where hope is the only thing

that cannot escape

 

As Emily Dickenson says

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words-

And never stops – at all


My Story So Far

So, I want to tell you a story…

Actually sort of a recap of my life for the past year and a half since moving to California.

I remember how when I told people I was moving, they were always more excited than I was. I had no interest in moving here, it wasn’t really something I even wanted at all, it was something I felt I had to do, some unknown force. (Especially since I avoided California when applying to schools as an undergrad due to fear of earthquakes.) But this graduate program felt like something I needed to do. What I was excited about was going back to school (too bad it’s not quite what I had expected). And in hindsight, I realize I should have done a little (a lot) more research, and a little (a lot) more preparation. It’s hard to know what to expect when moving across the country on your own without family/ friends (although for me, it’s not the first time…I was seventeen then, an undergrad-with very few things…but I digress) to one of the most expensive areas (SF Bay area) in the country when you’re broke and dependent on an unknown (at the time) amount of student loan income, in a recession with unrealistic expectations of the length of time it will take to find a job in your field…

After two months, I put all of my things in storage and left my ridiculously expensive shared apartment and my jerk of a roommate whom I found on craigslist and chose as being the better of two unappealing living situations (the other having been less expensive but with four other people who didn’t seem to get along very well), having had only 1 week to find a place to live for me and my cat… (not to mention how pet-unfriendly most places in the area are…) and went back home (Chicago) for a month, where I subsequently lost, and found said cat, and decided to give California another try. This time with a little more insight (still nowhere near enough). But at least I was able to find a slightly better living situation (month-to-month lease, my own bedroom/bathroom/yard, but still shared, and still way too expensive for a struggling unemployed grad student with too many bills.) While I was home, I had told myself I would find my cat, find an apartment, and find a job. And within 2 months I had done all three. Although in hindsight, I should have been a little more specific…

I got a job tutoring high school students in math and science part time, which was cool for the most part…the kids were great….but it would have been nice if they paid me on a regular basis…

So at this point, I was ready to leave, move back to Chicago, Philadelphia, anywhere at all. And if I hadn’t gotten my current job, I would have…but apparently it seems to be in the cards that I stay, at least for now. And even though my grad program isn’t quite what I thought it would be, I have learned a lot (mostly about myself, which I guess is why they call it Consciousness and Transformative Studies). I’m still not sure if I will finish it, but I’m taking it one quarter at a time…

Even with my job, I couldn’t sustain life in the Bay area, so I moved to Sacramento and am definitely much happier there, even with the commute. I really don’ t mind the drive, but for me an hour commute isn’t terrible…(in Chicago, it usually takes about a half hour to get anywhere anyway so I’m used to that). I’ve noticed that most people seem to love San Francisco and the Bay area. I am not one of them. They’re definitely great places to visit, but not places I want to live…(SF = expensive tiny apartments, multiple roommates…I like my privacy too much, even Oakland and Berkeley are not much better); so now I have my own studio apartment in Sacramento and I feel much more at home :). It’s more suburban than I’m used to, and I may move to midtown when my lease ends, but my rent is affordable and no roommates (Yay!)

So I made another vow; to stop focusing on the problems in my life and know that everything will be okay. I have food to eat, a place to live, a job…that’s all I really need. Every problem, I think, has a solution and life is about finding them. The solution may not be obvious and you may have to be creative, but it’s there.

A couple of months ago, I started a full time temporary day job thinking it could be a solution. Because, although my rent is now affordable, my total expenses have not decreased much (the law of conservation of expenses has converted it into gas for my commute). Well it definitely helped, but not in the way I had hoped. I worked there for a week and a half before I quit. I found that I could not work a full time day job, part time (30 hour/week) night job and go to school. The work was boring, tedious, and I was so exhausted I could barely function. But in that week and a half, I learned something. It was because I hated it so much, that it made me realize everything I love about my current job (never having to set alarms and wake up early, not having supervisors monitoring my every move,  having free time during the day…)  It made the negatives mere annoyances (non-compete clause, ten hour shifts (as opposed to twelve), etc.). It helped me truly understand that I am lucky to have a job, especially one that I enjoy and that allows me to go to school. And I am definitely grateful, because a lot of the people I worked with there don’t have the luxury to quit.

So now I look forward to going to work (I work as a sleep tech). And I started taking math classes at another school as well during my free time during the day. I’m currently taking a Linear Algebra class (which is where I quit math as an undergrad) here’s to hoping I can get through it this time around…first math class I have ever had difficulty with and I took Calculus through Differential Equations…conceptually I love it (vector spaces, etc.) but I can’t seem to finish the exams… This summer, I’m taking Discrete Structures and a few courses in my other grad program probably on psychology of consciousness and starting my research project. I’m also working on writing a sort of fictional memoir as well as  starting a science literary project and preparing to apply for PhD programs… I think I have finally figured out that I am a philosopher after all and am looking into programs in Philosophy of Science (neuroscience, physics, cognitive science, etc.) because I love to think about this stuff… (and if I got to do that all day, it wouldn’t be work).

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference on consciousness in Tucson, which was very interesting…I will post my thoughts on that very soon… So until next time…

Latasha Monique


Letter From My Future Self (as an old woman)

So yesterday, I was thinking I wanted to get a glimpse of my future, you know, like flipping to the back of the book to see what happens. So then I started thinking that I should just start writing my story from the end so that I create the ending myself and that’s how this letter came about. I thought about myself as an old woman and tried to look back on my life from her point of view. I thought I could discover details, facts, but in writing the story, it turned into a letter to myself, and I realized that the facts, the details didn’t matter. What mattered is who I become. And now I have this vision of myself the person I want to be, the life I want to live.

To Latasha Monique (Age 32, 2013)

I know it’s late, but I have something to tell you. One day, years from now, you will become me. I remember I used to have so many questions. I wondered if I would travel, if I would ever find happiness, if I would find love. There were things that I knew. That I would have this beautiful silver hair. And yes, I had already found love – and yes it was real. For a long time I didn’t allow myself to feel. I mean really feel things. I was protecting myself. But you can’t live if you’re protected; if you push everyone away. Life is about experience. Experiencing everything that life gives you. The facts don’t matter. They don’t make your story. What matters is being true to yourself. I thought I had experienced love, but I had only scratched the surface. You will experience everything life has to offer if you just allow yourself to feel. I wanted a fulfilling life, and I believe that it has been. I haven’t always been happy. As you know, it’s an ongoing battle. But I have accepted that this is who I am. I understand my place in the world. I understand why all the struggles were necessary. Don’t rush through life to get where I am. Take your time. I have perspective now. As they say, hindsight is always clear. I hope that you will live your dreams and trust in yourself. You hold your mother within you; you are her daughter after all. She would be so proud of you. Listen to her voice inside you. She will always be there. She will guide you and she will never steer you wrong. Remember her advice.

Don’t lose your passion, your spirit, your love. Allow yourself to believe. When you feel the darkness taking over, you fight; you hold on to the light, don’t let it escape you. And remember, I am here because of you; I am who I am because of you, because you survived, you followed your voice. Because of you, I am. Of course you will make mistakes, but you will learn, you will understand. You will learn to be a part of this world. You will force people to think, to change. You will learn to say what you feel, to experience what you feel. And not be afraid of the passion. Not afraid to be a passionate person, a person who cares and feels, deeply, with all your heart. You are learning, but self-awareness takes time. It is a process – Do not rush it. All will be as it will be. And you will live through it. You may even enjoy it. Do not forget me. I only exist because of you. If you think I am wise, it is because you learned a lot on your journey. If you think I am happy, it is because you learned the value of true happiness. If you think I am fulfilled, it is because you learned to open your heart. If you think I am generous, honest, kind, it is because you are all of those as well. If you think I am beautiful, it is because you have finally allowed yourself to experience the beauty that exists within you.

Love,

Monique (Age Eighty-Something)


Death and Dying

Ever since I was a little, I’ve been fascinated (some might say obsessed) with death and dying. I didn’t realize until maybe college that my daily thoughts on the subject were possibly unusual. As long as I can remember, I would play out scenes in my mind. (Did I subconsciously have a death wish?) I don’t know, but I would just picture scenarios where, for example, I would get hit by a car, or the man across the street suddenly points a gun at me and shoots, among many, many others. They weren’t frightening to me, it was just my way of acknowledging many different possibilities. It would just flash through my consciousness, and then pass, and it was so common to me that it had no effect. It was just a thought that crossed my mind. It was almost as if they were fantasies and it wasn’t until I realized what I was doing that I started to be able to control it. It’s just always been the question of “what if?” and I try to think of all possible scenarios. Maybe it’s just that the negative ones were more interesting and thus stand out more. Even now, I still wonder what it’s like; an unknown experience.


Thoughts on happiness, childhood, etc

I’ve been thinking about happiness lately and how it’s always seemed to elude me. Of course I’ve experienced it in moments, but mostly I seem to deny myself. I usually have to force myself to do the things I know that I enjoy, as if I feel I don’t deserve it. Being sad or depressed is such a natural state for me, I fight with it on a regular basis. Sometimes it can be weeks before I realize it and then it’s only through symptoms. I’ll notice that I’m not eating, or I’m sleeping more, to the point where I’d rather be asleep than awake, or I lose interest in things I usually enjoy. It is only then that I realize and can begin to come out of it. As if by acknowledging it, it loses its control over me. I don’t remember a lot from my childhood, I only remember fragments; as if I’m remembering someone else’s dream. It always amazes me how much other people seem to remember. Maybe those were happy times for them; but I was always searching for an escape. Which I found in books; I could forget everything around me, my entire life, and become part of a different world. Until the book ends and forces me to return to this place. Dreams are another escape for me; in them I have completely different experiences; apartments, a whole other life that only exists in fragmented pieces in my mind; only accessible to my spirit, my sense of self, or my dream body so to speak. But back to happiness; it seems so fleeting to me, like a fragile state that can be shattered at any time and has to be treasured because it never lasts. I wonder if maybe for others, it is more stable…


Fragments of a Fading Dream

So I’m pretty excited! I’ve been working on self-publishing a book of my writing including some of the poetry that you see here. It will be called Fragments of a Fading Dream and it’s a collection of some of my writing throughout the years on various topics such as dreams, illusion, reality, consciousness, science, love, etc. I am publishing it as an e-book as well as in print and it will be available for purchase via all the major e-reader sites as well as in print on this website and Amazon.com. The cover art is tentative, still working on it… Let me know what you think.