A Metaphor for My Functional Life with Depression

Ever since I started being more open about my depression, I’ve heard the same thing from almost everyone – “But you’re always so bubbly!” “But you’re so good at work/school!” “But you never act like it!” This makes it very hard for people to understand what I am going through, because I am bubbly, I am good at my job, and I am too good at hiding it.

I live with a battle inside of myself. I have points that I hit lows and I have thoughts of suicide. Sometimes it comes on all of the sudden, and sometimes I can feel it coming for days. It is really hard to explain, but I have come up with a way to describe what is going on in my head in relation to my college roommate, Katie.

Before I begin, I want the reader to know that I tried desperately to help Katie. I walked her to her counselling appointments, called numerous hotlines to get her help, got our RAs involved, called her parents, and stood by her side the entire time despite all of the things she put me through. When I describe my year with Katie, I am not saying any of this to ridicule her. She is merely an example of how I can describe what is going on inside of me.

When Katie and I first met, she was awesome. We had some gen-eds together our freshman year and later found out that we were in the same major. She was fun-loving, was always down to get ice cream, and could light up a room with her smile. When she asked me to live with her for the following year, of course I said yes!

When I made my way to the dorm to start moving my stuff in after a long summer of endless conversations and making plans, I knew something wasn’t quite right. Katie was already moved in, and her stuff took up over 2/3 of the room. I asked her about it, and her reasoning was that since I would be going home most weekends and she was only going home for winter and spring break, she needed more room than I did. It sounded reasonable at the time, plus I didn’t want to already start arguing with my new roommate, so I let it go. This is how it was when I had my first suicidal thought at age 10. It was an intrusive thought that was not like what I had experienced before. However, there was an explanation. My dad was in the hospital, my mom was stressed out, and I was trying to be strong for her and my siblings. I wrote it off as stress and prepubescent hormones and moved on.

As the weeks went on, things seemed pretty normal with Katie. She was her usual fun self. We went out for ice cream like we did freshman year, we joined a Zumba class, had dinner together with friends every night, and helped each other study. She would do things that ticked me off, like stay up late and loudly laugh at whatever show she was watching on her laptop, NEVER do her dishes, ALWAYS leave hair in the sink and drain, and sometimes bring friends over late at night without talking to me first. It was annoying, but it wasn’t anything that other college people didn’t have to deal with. This is how my depression feels most of the time. I will feel down, feel moody, and have some not so great thoughts about myself. It is annoying, but it isn’t something I can’t work around if I push myself hard enough.  My job, family, and friends aren’t impacted at all. I’m barely impacted myself, to be honest. It is more of an inconvenience than anything. I just roll my eyes and think, “Really, brain? Are we going to do this now? Let’s just read a book or go for a walk and get over it.” It is livable.

Katie joined a sorority late in the fall semester. She also got a friends with benefits. And then another, and then another. She partied with her new sisters starting Wednesday nights. She would come home pretty tipsy, if not mildly drunk, and wake me up. She would want to talk to me about the drama that was going on with her sorority sisters or her f*** buddies. Sometimes she would bring a guy back and ask me if she could have the room to herself for an hour. I usually wouldn’t argue with her, but would talk to her about it the next morning. She would apologize, but would do the same thing the following week. Her behaviors started affecting my life, but it was something that I could still deal with. This is how my depression feels some of the times. The roommate that lives in my head likes to cause some drama and make me feel like crap about myself. She likes to keep me up at night with her bullshit or try to kick me out of my own head so she can do whatever she wants in there. It can feel overwhelming and I get angry. The feelings I feel really suck, but they’re manageable and I do a pretty good job using coping strategies to deal with them. I can work, go to school, be a good wife, and live my life almost normally. It is tolerable.

Katie got really involved with the party life when we got back from winter break. She also came back with some serious drama from her favorite friends with benefits. He had given her an STI, and she found out that he was also seeing other girls. I tried to reason with her that she was also seeing other guys and that she needed to use protection in order to prevent STIs, but she was inconsolable. She started behaving very recklessly to get even with him. She would get very, very drunk at parties and she would call me to come get her. She would scream at me and belittle me the whole way back. She would call me names and make me feel terrible about myself. I knew she was drunk, but I also knew what she was doing wasn’t okay. I wanted to talk to someone about it, but I didn’t want to burden our campus counselling, my family, or the RAs with her drunk nonsense. This is how my depression can get. My brain decides to wreak havoc on my emotions and my body. It tells me I’m not good enough, that everyone hates me, that everything I’m doing is wrong. It tells me I’m useless, that everyone would be better off if I wasn’t around, and that I’m a waste of space. It tells me that I’m a bad friend, that I don’t deserve love, and that I need to go away. It is difficult to reason with it. This is when things get more difficult to manage. This is when I have to work extra hard to make sure that I put on a brave face so my family and friends don’t know that anything is wrong. I don’t want to trouble them with my issues. I have to make a conscious effort at work to smile and remember that my actions impact my students, family, and husband. This is when I have to remind myself that my husband and mom are there to help me if I need to, but I feel like a burden to them. It is difficult.

Katie got really bad in the late spring. She started purposefully spilling drinks on my stuff and ruining assignments. She got drunk and projectile vomited on my bed. She got high and convinced one of the guys she was with to put slices of pizza under my area rug and in my pillowcase on a Friday and I didn’t find it until I got back to the dorm Sunday night. Even though I can’t prove it, I swear she started spitting in my food. She had sex in my bed on multiple occasions and would leave used condoms under my mattress. I tried really hard to distance myself from her, but that’s when the real verbal abuse started. Katie started self-harming and drinking until she passed out. She would send me pictures of her bloody razors on the bathroom sink when I would go home for the weekend and text, “This wouldn’t happen if you were here. I hate that you leave me alone.” This is when I got the RA involved, helped her to make counselling appointments, and called her mom about what was going on. I threw out all of her razors and dumped her alcohol down the sink. I locked up all of my prescription medication. I sat down with her and made very strict rules about what our dorm life would be like from there on out. She hated me, but she was alive. This is what my depression can get like if I don’t keep it in check. My brain tries to convince me to behave like Katie – to cut myself, to burn myself, to starve myself, and that the world would be better off without me. It verbally abuses me and tries to convince me that I would be better off dead. It tries to convince me that if I would just do what it says, things would go back to being normal and I could be fine. It tries to sabotage everything that I hold dear like Katie did to the stuff in our dorm. It tries to suck me into its madness. This is when my life really starts to get impacted. I have to get my husband and mom involved, even though I really don’t want to. I have to put all of the things I could use to hurt myself in inconvenient places so I at least have time to think about it and talk myself out of it when the bad thoughts come in. I have to set very strict rules for myself on how I’m going to treat myself and the things that I am not allowed to do. I hate myself at these times. Part of me hates myself because it would be easier to just let go, part of me hates myself for feeling this way in the first place, and part of me hates myself because I hate that this happens to me. It is absolute hell living in my own head, but I do whatever it takes to survive.

I am very fortunate that my bad times with Katie were brief, much like my bad times with depression. I was able to finish that year with a 4.0, be an active member of 4 different clubs, and go on a few dates. I made some really awesome friends that year, and that was the year that I became honest with myself about what was going on in my head. Since then, I’ve gotten married and started a life in a beautiful home with our cat and dog. I landed my dream job almost a year ago and I’m crushing it. I will graduate at the end of fall with my master’s degree with another 4.0. My husband and I are planning to try to have kids in about a year.

Even with everything great that is going on, I still struggle with the depression. I still go through hard times, but I am very fortunate that I am functional. Sometimes living with my depression is like going through a cycle of living with Katie. I am very fortunate that for the most part, the roommate in my head remains an annoying inconvenience.

Talking About Racism to my All-White Class

My class read The Watsons Go To Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis this year. We talked about issues of race all year long, not just on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We had very candid conversations about our own biases and ways we could work toward improving ourselves as human beings, our community, and our world. But nothing has prepared me or my class for this.

While we were saying our goodbyes on Zoom, one of my students was on with his grandmother. Another was on with his mom. A third with her dad. The adults were anxious and I could tell everyone was watching my every move. I chalked it up to the end of the year jitters and being excited for a well-earned summer. The grandmother nudged her grandson and said, “Go ahead, ask her.” His face turned beet red, but I encouraged him to ask anything.

“Mrs. T, what do you think of all this? I mean everything with George Floyd and the riots.”

I realized this might be one of the most crucial moments of my teaching career. This was a moment where I had 3 generations of people from a small-town, pretty much all-white community sitting in front of me, and every word I said would be judged forever. This would have been the time when Mrs. T would discuss how racism is wrong, but so is hurting other people’s property. This would have been a good time for Mrs. T to discuss police brutality, race relations, and how the Civil Rights Movement is not over. But I didn’t. I realized that no matter what I said, I was saying it as a white woman.

“Guys, Mrs. T’s opinion on this doesn’t really matter right now. What matters is the voices of those who are hurting. What do you hear?”

My students said they heard anger. They heard sadness. They heard confusion. They saw angry people breaking things. They saw sad people crying. They saw scared people running. They saw confused people not knowing what to do. They saw strong people speaking. They saw people hugging.

I explained that there was a really smart man named Maslow who created a pyramid of needs. At the bottom was food, water, shelter, air, etc. and if people don’t have those things, they have a really, really hard time. The next level is safety needs, where personal safety, employment, resources, health, and property are located. I explained how when they are acting up in my class, I know something in the bottom two or three rows of this pyramid is probably out of whack. I asked them if they can think about how this applies to what is going on in the world right now.

“Mrs. T, maybe black people are rioting and destroying stuff because they don’t feel safe.”

Bingo, kid.

We discussed how racism is very wrong. We discussed how vandalizing property, stealing, and harming others is also very wrong. But talked about how sometimes when people are harmful with their actions, it is because they are hurting really deep inside. It doesn’t make it right, but it is important to listen to the pain they are feeling, because peaceful demonstrations have not been enough.

We discussed how they can be part of the change. We talked about how even when they are scared, it is important to stand up when they see injustices happening. We discussed how listening is more important than speaking right now. They talked about how they can be friends to those who are hurting.

We talked about our own biases – how we are angry to see hard-working people’s belongings and businesses being destroyed. And how we might want to think that because Mr. Floyd had a criminal record that he was a bad man. We discussed how when we see young black men on the TV that we automatically think they are looters, but then see them passing out water bottles to protesters and police alike, or cleaning up the streets the following morning. We talked about how biases are natural, but it is important to reflect on our biases and work toward ridding ourselves of racism and prejudice.

I’m not a perfect teacher. I fall short in many ways. But I’m trying. I’m trying to help build a better world of tolerance, acceptance, and love. I’m trying to teach my kids to listen to the voices of the broken and the hurting instead of speaking loudly just to have an opinion. And I’m trying to teach them that they can be the change, no matter what color their skin is.

 

ALONE

Anxiety creeps in as the dark hours draw near.

Lying in bed, knowing this is when they will strike – when you are alone.

Only hoping, praying, for the strength to make it through one more

Night. Because that is what you promised yourself and your momma you’d do.

Eternally dreading the night, because the thoughts never leave you ALONE.

I Feel Like a Bad Teacher

I am not a teacher that usually doubts myself. When provided feedback, I take it and work hard to improve. When other teachers have great ideas, I try to implement them. I know there is always room to grow and that I am not perfect – but I know that I am a good teacher and that even when I make mistakes, I always do my best to correct them. I love my students fiercely.

However, Covid-19 teaching has made me feel like the worst teacher in the world. I teach middle school learning support and because my students have learning disabilities, part of my job is to make choices on how to educate them that is meaningful and challenging, but not more than they can handle. I do this on an individual basis for all of my students.

During this time, I am finding myself frustrated at some of the lack of effort my students are putting forth. Some of them aren’t logging onto the computer at all, and I know that they have access to laptops and the internet at home. Some of them have sent me Snapchat and Instagram request, for goodness sakes, I know they’re on there! For those that don’t, I’ve been making packets and trying to provide meaningful instruction at that level. I spend hours every week creating and recording lesson plans that are adapted, trying to help students who are included in regular education as well as their teachers, write IEPs, meet with my students on Zoom, provide emotional and autistic support for all of those that receive services, collaborate with speech and OT, and the list could go on forever. I get frustrated because I am spending so much time for them, but some of them aren’t even logging on to watch the lessons.

Then I remember some of the homelives that some of my students have. Some of them don’t have enough food in their house. Some of them have parents that work. Some of them wish their parents worked so they could have some peace and quiet. Some of them are watching their younger siblings. Some of them are being watched by mean older siblings. Some of them are worried because it is 2AM and their parents said they’d be home at midnight for the 5th night this week. Some of them are watching their parents do drugs. Some are quietly avoiding their parents so they don’t get hit for being too loud. Some of them have parents that won’t help them with their work. Some of them listen to their parents scream at me when I call to help them. Some are being told how terrible I am, and some are starting to believe it.

I feel like I am failing my students by expecting them to complete their work. The emotional trauma they could be dealing with at home is unimaginable. How dare I expect these kids to do their work when their basic needs might not be met? On the other hand, if I don’t continue to hold them to high standards, I am still failing them. I am allowing them to have the mentality that when they are faced with adversity, it is okay to go belly up because “times are hard”. If I don’t help them to establish resilience, how can I firmly believe I have prepared them for the world?

Teaching is such a balancing act to begin with, but now we are at this crossroads of providing our students with the best education possible, but also knowing and respecting that their emotional and physical needs might not be met right now. We are trying to have our normal lives go on, but also being on-call 24/7 for our students whose parents aren’t home during the normal school day. I feel so terrible about myself as a teacher and a human being right now, and I’m sure there are many others out here that feel the same way. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself grace. Try your best each day, and realize that you might be your students’ lifeline. Give them grace as well. You’re doing the best you can.

 

My Dog Isn’t Friendly

My doggo is a rescue. It was very apparent when she came home with us that she was abused. She wouldn’t let us pet her head. She cowered if we raised our voices, even if it was in laughter. She was afraid of other dogs. She still gets worked up with loud noises or if we have rambunctious guests. However, she has come a long way! She lets us pet her head now. She gets along really well with my parents’ dog. She is loving and loyal. She is such a success story and inspiration.

I have been taking her on walks around our neighborhood and around our local school district. With everything going on with COVID-19, I have to get out of the house somehow. I know we are going to come across other walkers, but I feel that fresh air and getting to wave to old people and my students on our way is spreading more joy than germs for everyone. We do our very best to keep our distance, even if it means shouting across the street to talk to a hard-of-hearing 80-year-old. My dog’s leash is only 4 feet long, so she is never far from my side. We cross the street when we see someone else coming on the same side as us. I never come within 6 feet of another human.

Other people, not so much.

When I come across other people with dogs, I try to avoid them the most. My dog is not friendly with other dogs. I have been met by countless people, who I am sure are well-meaning, that allow their dogs to invade my dog’s space.

For example, I came across a lady yesterday walking a golden retriever. I pulled my dog’s leash in closer to me, so she was only walking 2 feet away from my body. She did well – her ears perked up like she was interested, but no growling. I nodded a hello and kept walking at our normal brisk pace.

“Oh, she is such a pretty dog!” I hear as I see the lady stop with her dog.

“Ma’am, if you don’t mind, we are going to keep our distance. She’s not very friendly with other dogs just yet,” I replied as I put some pep in my step.

“Don’t worry, my dog is so friendly!” I feel her closing in on me.

“Ma’am, I would really appreciate it if you gave us our space!” I shout as her dog comes to sniff mine.

My dog turned around and gave a warning nip on her dog’s nose. She barked and growled and put her body between me and the intruder. The owner cursed me up and down, even though I had warned her that my dog wasn’t friendly and expressed that she needed to give us space. She threatened to call the cops about my “evil mongrel” who “shouldn’t be in polite society”.

Here is a list of Doggy Social Distancing Rules everyone should follow:

  1. Ask before approaching. Always. We should do this with humans too if I’m being honest. If the person says no, back off.
  2. It doesn’t matter if your dog is friendly. What matters is if ALL of the dogs involved are friendly. If the person says no, back off. If they say no and you don’t listen, it is your fault if something happens to your dog.
  3. It doesn’t matter where you are. Even though my dog isn’t friendly, she still deserves to go on walks. She is kept on a 4 foot leash and I pull her into 2 feet if I see you coming to minimize our contact. She still deserves to play in our yard on a proper tether. It is her yard. If you step onto it, you’re an intruder. Not all dogs are friendly and you don’t have the right to invade the space of others, even if it is a public space.
  4. Size doesn’t matter. I don’t care that your dog is a Great Dane. My dog is still very protective and will take your dog down if she feels like I’m being threatened. It doesn’t matter if your dog is a puppy chihuahua and is “just curious”. My dog is not curious about your dog. Her only interest is keeping me safe.
  5. If you see someone coming and they cross to the other side of the road from you, that is a pretty firm indicator that they don’t want your dogs to interact. Don’t cross over to their side of the road so your dogs can meet each other.
  6. Don’t assume just because my dog looks well-behaved that she will tolerate you or your dog. My dog listens pretty well and walks well on a leash. That being said, the second she feels like I’m being threatened, that all goes out the window.

If there is one thing COVID-19 has taught me, it is to respect (and absolutely love) my 6 foot radius. Please, people, respect the space of everyone and everything.

Thoughts About the Halftime Show

I’ve seen a lot of negativity about the Super Bowl halftime show. “Oh my goodness, do you think their outfits could be any more skimpy?” “Is this a halftime show or a stripper show?” “Women of that age shouldn’t dress/act like that.” I was indifferent to all of that, but there is something that stuck out to me.

There were 2 strong, successful, beautiful Latina women on stage tonight. They were selected to be watched by millions of people for the halftime show. Jennifer Lopez and Shakira have won awards in music, acting, and philanthropy. They move better in their 40s and 50s than I move in my 20s.

As a future mom of Latinx children, I am proud that women of color are on stage. I’m proud that my children will get to see women that look like them performing at halftime shows. I’m proud that my children will get to see women with their skin color who are that successful. In a world where they will be bombarded with people who are white, I know that they’ll notice when there’s someone with their skin tone. I know they’ll have pride.

So whether or not you liked the music or the show, just remember that there is a child with beautiful caramel skin somewhere mesmerized that someone that looks like them was on tv and everyone was cheering for them. That child might now be a little more proud of being Latinx.

I lost control tonight.

I have depression. It is something I am very open about with my family and friends because when I’m going through a rough time and I tell people I’m going through a rough time because of my depression, I am less likely to get unsolicited advice that makes things worse. Because my people understand that I have a legitimate mental illness and I’m not just being a pessimist, they are very supportive.

Tonight was hard.

I’ve been feeling my depression slowly creeping in the last few days. I tried to ignore it like you try to ignore the sounds your old car makes. The noises are there, but you turn the radio up louder and hope for the best.

Today started with me waking up to a migraine. Usually if I take one pill, I can go about my life within 20 minutes. They are very effective and I’m so grateful that modern medicine has made my migraines manageable. I couldn’t find my new box, but I did find one of the emergency ones that I keep hidden in my wallet. Not a problem, I’d find the box when I got home.

I got to school and everyone just seemed to be in a bad mood. The teacher that is across the hall from me looked at me like I was a pile of dog shit on her new living room rug when I said, “Good morning” to her. I tried to brush it off – I know too well that everyone is fighting their demons, and I had no idea what she might be going through. Still, it stung a little.

My students were just plain awful. They didn’t listen to me. The school graciously provided me with a half-day sub so I could finish a project that was due to the county on Monday – a project I had been signed up for by my previous district and my name was conveniently not removed from the list. I was thankful for the half day, but I knew my students would be awful. I was stressed. But I let it go – the teacher in my classroom was qualified to teach, and 3.5 hours of lost education never hurt anyone. Everything was fine.

While I was working on my project, my migraine came back and hit me full force. It was one of my ocular migraines – I couldn’t see out of my right eye at all. It felt like someone was stabbing my brain with a butter knife. I powered through it and got the project finished, perfected, and ready to go for Monday.

I came back to a terrible note from my sub. As anticipated, my kids were awful. Whatever, go home. Tomorrow is a new day.

I went to the boy’s house that I work with for homebound instruction. He was having a bad day and refused to work for me. Another hour that I wouldn’t get paid for. My college bill is due at the end of the month.

The migraine was still cutting off the vision in my right eye and I had thrown up 3 times from the pain in my skull.

I stumbled into the bathroom and realized I couldn’t find my migraine pills that I had been looking for that morning.

I went into the living room. I sat on the floor with tears streaming down my face as I dumped my purse on the ground, and searched frantically like a starved squirrel trying to find the nut it had buried in the fall. No pills. I ran back to the bathroom, almost hitting the wall because of the lack of vision in one of my eyes. I tore the bathroom cabinets apart and I couldn’t find them.

That was it. That was the last straw.

I slumped down onto the toilet lid. My pupils were so narrow and sore from the crying and the migraines and the rage that I couldn’t see more than a pinpoint from my left eye. I felt my heart beating so fast that I thought it was going to break through my sternum and go crashing into the sink in front of me. My body was sweating, I was crying so hard I could barely breathe. I was sobbing so loud – that sobbing that just tears your throat and chest to shreds.

And then, all at once, I felt nothing.

I felt absolutely no desire to be alive. No desire for my heart to continue beating, no desire to continue breathing. I just felt there.

I don’t remember much after this. I know my husband walked me to our bedroom and gave me water. He called and texted my mom and dad. I don’t remember asking for pizza, but I know that I ate. I remember just existing in that moment. That moment that the lights went off, the moment the desire to keep going faded from my body.

I’m doing better now. My mom came over and just talked until I came out of that state. I know I shouldn’t scare them like that. It really sucks knowing that I left this disease get the best of me. It sucks knowing that for awhile, I had given up. I didn’t care what had happened to me. Even in my worst state before, I didn’t have the desire to just stop.

I’m not really sure why I’m writing this. I just needed to get it out there.

Mom, I’m sorry.

Dear Mom,

As I sit down at the table for a few minutes after scrubbing my house and washing clothes in preparation for our vacation, I think to myself, “I wish my mom was here to help me.” Even though we live super close, I would like nothing more right now than for you to come bursting through my door and wash dishes with me one more time.

Mom, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all of the times that we went on vacation and you cleaned the house top to bottom, watched me and the siblings, packed, and listened to my dad nag. I’m sorry I didn’t help you more. I’m sorry I got upset when you wanted me to clean because “why would we clean a house that we aren’t going to be in for a week?” I get it now. I’m sorry that I fussed at you for making me share a suitcase with my sister. I know now that it was easier on you to pack the car with one less suitcase. I know it was easier for you to have one suitcase in one room and have us packing it together. Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t clean while you packed. I’d give anything to have someone helping me now.

As my husband irritates me when I ask him to help me and he half-asses folding laundry or doing dishes, I think back on the amount of times that dad did the bare minimum to help you and when he did, he did it half-assed and you had to redo it. I’m sorry that I didn’t pick up the slack when dad was slacking off. I’m sorry that I probably made things worse when I whined about having to do stuff when dad was asleep on the couch and dishes were piled up in the sink.

Mom, when you were the ones making the arrangements for the pets, I’m sorry I didn’t help you pack up the bag to board them. I’m sorry I said tearful goodbyes to Toby while you went over the food, treats, toys, bed, and bathroom schedule with the person taking care of him, none of which I contributed to helping you do. As I scribble down notes for you and all of the other people that are taking care of the pets while we were gone, I think about how hard it was for you to leave our pets behind, but it was even harder because you had to take care of all of that stuff yourself. I’m sorry I didn’t help you more.

Mom, while I double and triple check the website of the place we are staying, I think about all of those times that you made itineraries, check amenities and accommodations, boarding passes, schedules, and the works that none of us appreciated. While I scramble to pack bed sheets because my husband didn’t read closely enough to realize our place doesn’t provide bed sheets, I’m sorry I didn’t listen closely when you went down through the list of things we needed to pack. I’m sorry I didn’t help you make the lists.

Mom, I’m sorry I was a spoiled brat and didn’t help you when we were going on vacation and for so many other things in life. I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate what you did. I sure know how you feel now. I just hope that I can spend the next part of my life helping you with what you need and be the right-hand daughter you deserved back then. Mom, I’m sorry.

To the baby boomer who told me to get an education

Dear Baby Boomer I had the misfortune of waiting on,

You looked at me and saw a 20 something year old girl working for a catering business. You saw me running around like a mad woman trying to wait on the 80+ other people at the party you were attending. You snapped your fingers at me to get my attention like I was a dog. You talked to me like I was gum on the bottom of your shoe. You wouldn’t even look me in the eye when you spoke to me, and you made nasty comments about me to the other ladies at the table. You were sarcastic and belittled me when I was just trying to do my job.

The industrial-sized coffee maker at the building broke that morning. It wasn’t even the coffee maker that belonged to the catering business, it was the one that belonged to the owner of the building who insisted that we use hers. It was no part my fault. I explained that to you and the other ladies at your table. I explained that we had smaller coffee pots down 3 flights of stairs that I was running up and down in order to bring coffee to all the tables as soon as the coffee was finished. I explained to you that I was doing the best I could and everyone else was waiting on coffee as well. You told me that wasn’t your problem.

You proceeded to say to me, “Honey, this is exactly why you need to go get yourself an education.”

Your words cut into me like a knife. I saw red.

“Ma’am,” I replied as sweetly as I could. “I have worked for 5 years educating the children of this community. I have possibly educated your grandchildren. I am a highly qualified teacher with 4 areas of certification. I’m going back to get my master’s degree, and this is how I have to pay for it because unlike your generation, college is NOT affordable and teachers are NOT always paid well. Your coffee will be out in just a moment.”

I don’t know what it is with you and your generation thinking you are allowed to treat service workers like trash. I don’t know what you get out of treating us that way. It doesn’t make your service any faster or the quality any better. It slows us down, it makes us feel like crap. We are humans and with the way you treated me today, I know I am more of a person than you are.

Furthermore, I don’t know why you assume that people in this industry are uneducated. Many people my age have a career, and also have a “side hustle” in order to make extra money just to get by. I teach full time, I work for a catering business part time, and I take care of people’s pets when they go on vacation. I do all of this while going to grad school and maintaining a 4.0. In my state, you have to earn 24 post-college credits to keep your certification, so it’s not like I have a choice in getting my degree. My husband is working 2 jobs as well. Our house probably cost triple what your first home did. A 4 year education was about $6,000 in your day. One semester is more than $6,000 today. Sometimes only the man in your house had to work, while my husband and I are both working more than 1 job.

Boomers, stop assuming that millennial are trash. Stop assuming those working in restaurants, as cashiers, as janitors, and in fast food positions are uneducated. Stop assuming we are lazy and unmotivated. You have no idea what we are doing just to get by.

Sincerely,

The educated waitress

You Have To Fill Your Cup Before You Can Fill Others’

Friends, my cup has been about half-full recently. Don’t be sad, this is a step up from last week, when it was totally empty. Not even a drop! I’ve been doing some self-care recently (hang with me, folks) and I realized something very important – I am unable to fill other people’s cups when mine is empty, and so are you.

When I was on empty, I literally felt empty. I was drained from the end of the year business, drained from the paperwork, drained from the child-abuse forms I had filled out for the 13th time for the same family, drained from feeling like I wasn’t contributing enough to our home, drained from cleaning our home, and just drained from being drained. I had nothing more to give.

A friend called me right near the end of all this. Her boyfriend of 3 months had broken up with her. She was devastated, she had loved him and was going to spend the rest of her life with him and his child in their one-bedroom apartment and work to support his drag-racing career so he didn’t have to work. If you can’t tell, I wasn’t captain of his cheering squad. I responded with the polite, “oh’s” and “mhmm’s”, but that just wasn’t enough for her. I tried to give my advice, that she needed to talk to him in person instead of over text. If he did not oblige, she needed to move on with her life and accept that he just didn’t feel the same. She told me I was the worst friend in the world and I wasn’t being supportive.

“You know what?” I replied, feeling the blood boiling through every inch of my body. “You have not asked me how I have been doing a single time in the last 2 months. You know we are struggling financially and that I’m struggling with depression. I just can’t take on your burden right now. I’m sorry”. I hung up the phone. I felt like the worst person alive. For about 5 minutes.

That’s when it hit me. I wasn’t able to handle her problems because I had too many of my own. I wasn’t taking care of myself and I was stressed to the max. I’m a person who likes to help other people, and I realized in order to do that, I needed to help myself first.

Every morning, I do 30 minutes of light yoga to start my day. I drink a coffee and get to work with whatever needs done for the day. But that half-hour a day has made such a difference. By just simply taking that 30 minutes for myself – no husband, no phone, no social media, no interruptions – I am able to get my brain set for the rest of the day.

That 30 minutes of light yoga turned into 30 minutes of light yoga and walking the dog for 2 miles. I use my time to just breathe and enjoy time with my best buddy. No husband, no phone, no social media, no interruptions.

Flash forward 2 months and I feel myself going back to my same old habits. Grad school started again, I’m working another job, and things just keep piling up. Only this time, I feel a little whisper coming from the corner of the room as my eyes fall on my yoga mat. “Come back, girl. You need me.” I crawl half-asleep onto the mat and just take some time to breathe. As my eyes are closed and I’m almost letting go, I feel a furry little paw touch my leg. My cat stares up at me with his big, green eyes. My dog sits not far and just stares at me. I grab her leash and we go.

I guess what I’m trying to do with my life is getting into a consistent routine of taking care of myself. I’m trying to overcome my bad habits of falling back to my old routine of going and going and going until I’m exhausted and collapse. I’m trying to learn that I need to take care of myself first in order to be able to appropriately and consistently take care of everything else in my life. Who knows, I might just get it right someday.