Just because you’re not crying, doesn’t mean you’re not grieving

Just because you’re not crying, doesn’t mean you’re not grieving

3 months ago I lost my father.

He passed away at home. We think he had a massive heart attack.

My dad and I never had the best relationship. He’s an old school, short, Greek man. And in traditional Greek culture, the men are viewed on a more prestigious pedestal than women.

Men carry down the family name, own the land, make the money, blah blah blah BS. So, in other words, my brother could do no harm in my father’s eyes.

I tried my hardest to have the relationship I wanted, and deserved, to have with my dad. I’d call him to see if/when we’d see him. I encouraged him to come to anything school related I was in. I called him on the holidays and his birthday. I always made in effort.

I hope he’s realized how hard I tried to make it work.

There was a lot I didn’t know about my father and the lives he lived…

Yes, I did mean lives.

When I went down to Florida, where he lived the last six or so years, I learned more about my father in four days than I did in 25 years.

I never knew my father was sick.

In fall 2017, I received a message from my step-sister saying my dad was in the hospital. Didn’t tell me what but that he was admitted. I cried a puddle of tears in fear, and I called him, like any daughter would do. He yelled at me for knowing because I wasn’t supposed to know. He told me it was pneumonia and that they were only keeping him because “they want money.”

He never wanted me to worry about anything, especially about him… so I didn’t.

I never did worry about him.

Two years later, I learned it wasn’t pneumonia. He was filling up with fluid, turning his legs black and blue. His retaining of fluid led to a week in the hospital and diagnoses of heart failure, respiratory obstruction and diabetes.

No pneumonia after all.

At the time of his passing, my dad was roughly 42 inches circumference. All my life he was 36 inches.

I had no idea. He sounded like my dad on the phone. I miss the tone he used when I’d say, “Hi, daddy,” and him saying, “Hi koùkla.”

He was always so excited to talk to me.

I learned about the life he led in Greece. Why he left and what happened next.

Through my dad’s passing, I finally got in touch with my half-sister. We’re both into the arts and theatre, which to be quite honest without you, I had NO IDEA where my passion of the arts rooted from. I also didn’t know that she reached out to my step-mom in 2014.

That’s a whole different story I’m not going to tell but it leads me to my next point.

My father wasn’t the nicest man. He held grudges, he had a temper, he had a dark side I’ve seen too many times. He kept everything and everyone separate.

When I moved to Ithaca when I was 13, he was furious. Furious that I was leaving, having the convenience of knowing I’m right down the street. He always said he made a mistake of “letting” me go.

Between 2007 and 2012, I went back to NH every other weekend for my father. He came to see me in Ithaca twice.

He moved to Florida without telling my brother and I. I hope he sees that what he did and I did weren’t too far a part. Only difference is that I told him and made an effort.

He lied and kept secrets from me.

He told me he stopped smoking after the “pneumonia” incident; he did stop but picked up vaping. He stopped working when I turned 18 since he didn’t have to give child support anymore. I learned so much from my step-mom, a woman I was made to dislike by my dad.

My step-mom never heard much of us after I started college, I probably wouldn’t be wrong by saying high school, too. Not because she wasn’t interested but because my dad never spoke of us.

She said he’d always go outside when I called. She’d ask about us but he never told her. She’s the unsung hero in this whole story.

My dad made her out to be evil and manipulative. She paid for child support some months, she told him to call us and see us. When I visited them in 2017, my first time being in Florida as an adult, she suggested all these different places to go and see and take me to.

We didn’t do anything she said.

My dad stopped working in 2012 and they’ve lived off a single income for over seven years. And my step-mom is one of the hardest working people I know.

She practices putting peace into the world, hoping to receive that back. She came to my high school graduation and I didn’t even know it because my dad kept it from us. She always asked about my brother and I. I feel bad I ever thought ill of her because I was made to believe she was bad.

She was never the bad one in the equation, far from it actually. She put up with a lot shit from dad and I commend her for doing such thing because it couldn’t have been easy.

Maybe all I’ve written is word vomit but the truth is I’ve been trying to wrap my head around all I’ve learned about my dad and who I thought my dad was. I know he’s gone but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Parts of me are really angry. Parts of me are effing sad. Parts of me feel bad for him. Parts of me want a redo. And parts of me are trying to let go.

My dad did a lot of things to himself; not making the effort to see us or financially support us, taking noticable interests in our lives. Remembering who we are.

My mom never spoke one negative word about my dad, even when she was mad at him. She’s even said he was never the same after they separated and divorced; as we’ve gotten older, she’s said he wasn’t the man she originally married.

She always knew what was going to happen by the choices he made.

And she did say he would die alone.

Part of me believes he did. Part of me knows she’s right. It’s like being in a crowded room and being alone at the same time.

My mom told when she was younger, already married to my father and pregnant with my brother, she saw a psychic. Take it for what you will on what I’ll say next; the psychic told her that her husband would die when she’s 47.

I never thought about it much, almost forgetting about it completely. How true could it be???

My dad passed on Sept. 11 at the age of 75. My mom turned 48 Oct. 30.

It didn’t hit me with that connection until my mom went to the ER and her ID tag showed her age.

Through it all, and believe me when I say this, I love my dad and I miss him so much.

I took for granted that I could call him when I pleased and knew he would answer. I look in the mirror and all I see is my dad; I look, and I’m built, just like him. I gave good traits from dad; I’m ambitious, I’m a hard-worker, I’m curious.

Not a day goes by where I don’t think of him; or have his voice run through my head so I don’t forget it.

I burst into a puddle of tears when I had to mark an “X” on deceased next to my dad’s name. I cried over the fact none of my family asked me how I was doing over losing my father during the holidays.

It made me think I was crazy for missing my dad… I know I’m not. I have every right to be sad, he’s my dad.

I’m learning to slowly let go of negative emotions I have in other to remember him for the good. It doesn’t excuse him for anything bad he did but it’s more energy to worry about the things I can’t change or redo.

I know he’s given me signs that he’s here with me, making up for the time he chose not to be there. I truly believe that he’s letting me know he’s here with me every step of the way. Certain things that have happened weren’t by accident; I believe everything happens for a reason.

I have a lot of feelings to work through. I have to decide what to do with his ashes that are sitting up in my coat closet. I have to make peace with a lot of things. I have to let go. I have to fully accept all the things between us that I haven’t been able to do yet.

My mom told me, “just because you’re not crying, doesn’t mean you’re not grieving.”

It couldn’t be more true.

My dad wasn’t perfect. He’s not the type of father I want for my children. I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone. But he was meant to be my dad. And I love my dad so much.

And I miss him more than anyone could possibly know.

Nursing school reflection, part two

Nursing school reflection, part two

The last post I made here was my first reflection on nursing school in…July?

Oof… it’s been awhile.

And a lot has happened in these last three months. I think a lot is kind of an understatement.

At the time of my first post, we were just a few short weeks from starting our clinical rotations and hitting the ground running. We were going into a long-term care facility, where LPNs typically work but depends on the area and facility.

Our facility is attached to one of the main hospitals here in Buffalo. It was just renovated within the last few years with patients from all walks of life.

Now, when people think of long-term care, also known as nursing homes, you automatically think of patients in their late 70s, 80s and 90s. Yes, we did have patients in that age range. But a few of my patients were in their early 60s. I took care of a patient who was in their 50s. Throughout the facility, I saw a handful of patients my age, some even younger. I took care of patients who are my age just this past week.

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It became more than just taking care of the elderly. This became taking care of patients who could be my parents, or my brother, or my best friends, my grandparents. Their stories they shared, or couldn’t share, you just knew. I saw so much vulnerability but I saw a lot of happiness. I witnessed anger but felt hope. Every emotion on the spectrum I felt or saw in my 13 weeks at clinical. Life became more surreal and a huge culture shock.

You just don’t know unless you’ve seen someone in that state of being and have taken care of those patients. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself counting my blessings.

Most days I felt good about care I did. Some days I felt absolutely defeated. I’ve been emotionally drained just by reading through the files of patients I cared for. There were slight doubts that crept in on my hardest days. Here’s one in particular.

Halfway through my second rotation my father passed unexpectedly. I found out on a Wednesday after I came home from clinical. I was confused, shocked, quiet. But I went to clinical the next day, I had to. I had patients to take care of.

But my mind was not where it should have been. And one of the first rules of nursing is that it’s always important to have a clear mind when working. Distractions can lead to errors that could harm or put the patient in danger.

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There was no harm or danger in my patient. I performed wound care on the wrong foot. The nurse for one side of the unit reassured me that I’m a student who’s learning and that it’s okay. To not be so hard on myself.

I was. And after that moment, clinical became a complete blur in the last four weeks of rotation.

Class started having multiple tests a day, my brain was starting to become a giant puddle of mush. I studied my butt of for each exam, some tests harder than others but I passed them all. I even ended my semester with an 86 average. Once clinical started in early August, anything fun went out the window. I didn’t go out with friends, let alone see my friends.

I worked almost every weekend. I worked after school. I did doubles more often than I wanted to. I made it work when it’s been a lot of work.

Second semester started this week and we’re halfway through this marathon to become an LPN. And if I thought I was going to be having any fun these next six months… Well, I’m wrong. Between clinicals, studying for class, studying for my boards, memorizing various drugs and all they do in the body on top of working 20 hours a week, I don’t have time for anything else.

But let me say this, I’m having the time of my life. Truly, I know my hard work is paying off. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be; I wouldn’t be putting myself through another year of school, let alone nursing school, if I wasn’t serious.

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These last six months have been a roller coaster of new experiences, doing things I never thought I was able to do. I’m finding my way through this field all while finding who I am as a nurse. There are many similarities to nurse Zoe and regular Zoe but there are differences. I’m still getting myself acquainted and comfortable with nurse Zoe.

I’m learning quickly that there comes a certain balance with being nice and being assertive. Staying calm but being stern. But also continuing to find the joy and positivity during hard times. This job is all about balance and keeping everything fresh to avoid burning out.

I’m passing my second semester of nursing school. I’m passing my NCLEX exam in the spring. I will be a licensed nurse in 2020. I’m ready. I can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Six more months of nursing school this round.

Cleansing breath, Hakuna matata. I’ll post another update soon! 🙂

Nursing school reflection, part one

Nursing school reflection, part one

Three months down, 9 more to go.

The LPN program I’m in right now is a lot of work, and that’s not an exaggeration. From learning the anatomy and physiology of the body, pharmacology, various skills like vital signs, GI care, catheters and washing hands, fundamental theories of nursing, math conversions and so much more, my brain is already fried. Five years of college with various semesters taking 20+ credits only slightly prepared me for the workload I currently have.

I go to school six hours a day, four times a week. I study, do homework, read and review almost as much I go to school. I work at least 20 hours per week. I make sure I have one day off where I don’t have school or work. I’m awake at 5:30 a.m. and sometimes don’t get asleep until past 10 p.m. Days where I go to school then work is the absolute worst.

My life has become revolving around school because, it’s true, it takes so much time and energy to do well in nursing school. It’s taking the time to understand how the body functions, how procedures effect the body, learning about medications and all their side effects. It might be easy for some people but for others, like myself, it takes 10 times more effort to do well.

Over the last few months, I’ve taken on too much during my first three months of school. I was thinking I could fit 10 pounds of potatoes in a five pound bag… but I couldn’t. Is that even the right analogy to use?

I’ve spent too many consecutive weekends with friends instead of studying. Staying up until like 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning with friends messing up my entire sleep routine. Spending money I don’t have when one of my goals is trying to save money. I stage managed a show while trying to balance school, life and sudden stress induced health moments.

I’ve had too much fun.

I don’t regret having so much fun, most times I’ve needed it but I need to refocus and put school first as my main priority. I’ve also made myself stressed when there was no need, causing multiple migraines and a sprained jaw. Oh, and I had my second root canal caused by an infection of the nerve (which came out of nowhere!)

I can’t burn out or become this stressed so quickly.

It’s one year, less than one year now. I can wait to have all the fun I want next year when I’m out of school and have a stable job with a steady income as a nurse. Before I know it, 2020 will be here, I will have passed my boards and I’ll be a nurse. Shortly after that, a year to 18 months, I’ll be going back to school to get my BSN to become an RN.

I want nothing more in my life right now than to become a nurse and in the very near future, a RN.

Everything I’ve ever done in my life has revolved around taking care of people or prioritizing people first than myself. Every step, every decision, every moment and every sign I’ve trusted has led me to this.

“What about Fredonia?” my family asks.

My time at Fredonia taught me so much and I constantly use all my skills and knowledge to help me do well in nursing school. Fredonia was not a waste. It allowed me to grow up, mature, gain independence, succeed, fail and learn. I wouldn’t succeed as a nursing student, or nurse for that matter, if I started when I was 18. I had my eyes on the Broadway lights. But now, halfway through 25, I gaze at those Broadway lights from a different point of view.

There are moments where I’ve said, “What if you tried a little harder? What if you decided not to leave theatre as a potential profession?” And then I remind myself that it’s not where I want to be or should be. Theatre is my passion, my first love and honestly, my entire life. Ask any of my friends, I live and breathe theatre. But like I said in my post when I first started school, I’ve changed immensely and as I’ve changed, my goals have changed, too.

Theatre is my home, my comfort, my life. I’ll never let it go.

But I’ve found where I want to be in nursing. I know I don’t know everything, it will come with experience and patience. I’m learning to trust my instincts and being confident in myself to understand what I’m doing.

It’s about finding that levelness, staying calm in situations that definitely won’t be calm… even in the slightest.

But I’m not scared. I was scared of the unknown and what I was doing in theatre, thinking was this profession for me? I don’t get that feeling with becoming a nurse. I’m looking at the signs the universe is giving me and going towards them. I haven’t doubted myself once since starting school.

Okay, only place I’ve doubted myself is in learning medical terminology but that’s very hard not confusing the different suffixes and prefixes. Everything else I’ve gone in confidently!

Most importantly, I still have that excitement, that fire, burning inside me about school. Even on the days I don’t want to be at school. I’m present, I’m ready and I’m kicking it into high gear for the remainder of the first semester. We’ve been back for over a week now after our two week break. We are really hitting the ground running, that’s for sure.

And not to mention, we begin clinicals next month. It’s going by so quickly.

I wouldn’t be adding another stack of money onto my already mile-high student loans if I wasn’t serious. I really want this.

Three months down, 9 more to go. Another update to come in the coming weeks.

Life with an undiagnosed learning disability

Life with an undiagnosed learning disability

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you read something, the simplest thing maybe, and you just have no idea what it’s even talking about?

Or you read something out loud, just to realize that words you said weren’t the words on the page?

Or you read a sentence you wrote, exactly how you have it in your head and even read out loud to yourself, and post it to social media just to realize that some words never actually made it in the post?

Or you say a word(s) or phrase you believed was right, just to find out the word(s) you said is actually similar to the correct word(s) or phrase?

Welcome to my life.

All my life, I’ve struggled to the point of tears because I couldn’t understand words, sentences and passages. In elementary school I was always placed in the reading groups with the easier books to read but even then, I couldn’t read them. I didn’t understand them. I didn’t know what was happening.

In forth grade, the teacher told my mom that word problems in math were hard for me. I couldn’t understand what was being asked from me. I got a little bit of help but it didn’t help long term. She reassured my mom, as did every teacher I had before, that I’d be fine and would grow out of any reading issues I had.

I struggled really hard. I was behind all my peers. I was being pushed along without any teacher recognizing the signs that I needed help academically.

But here’s where the education system failed me.

In fifth-grade, my mom had a meeting with my teacher. It was after I said for the first time out loud, “I don’t get it.” Sitting at the kitchen table in tears because no matter how much my family tried to help, I just couldn’t get it. My mom told my teacher something wasn’t right, refusing to take the excuse, “She’ll grow out of it,” again.

My mom asked my teacher for help who, eloquently, said no. She did tell my mom that I could get tested for an IEP, individualized education program.

An IEP helps a child in public schools to succeed with personalized plans according to their learning habits and learning disabilities, which are diagnosed by therapists and experts.

But she told my mom I shouldn’t get an one because I would always be labeled as my IEP, that it would follow me all throughout my years in school and that’s what would define me as a student. She advised that I’d be fine and will grow out of it. My teacher said it wouldn’t be a good idea to get tested anyways. “It’s not worth it,” the teacher said.

My mom was furious, and I feel like that is a huge understatement to how she actually felt. Refusing to give up on me and unwilling to let me go on struggling, she took matter into her own hands. She did what a mother had to do.

My mom found a learning center 15 minutes away and my grandparents paid for it completely, no questions asked. I never forget how lucky I am.

I got tested on all levels of reading, writing, math, comprehension and critical thinking. My results were just as we thought. I was in fifth grade reading/thinking/comprehending at a pre-K level, if that.

For two years, I went to the learning center 2-3 times a week to improve on all my skills. It was hard, I got frustrated really quickly, I would be exhausted after my sessions but I gained the skills I didn’t have before.

I began to actually understand what I was reading. I learned how to give a summary to someone else about what I read. I learned how to read between the lines and find those context clues. Understanding what was being asked of me in math problems became way easier.

I couldn’t do all those things before I got the help I needed.

By the time I left, I was reading ahead of my grade level. I knew how to write complete sentences. I wasn’t afraid of books or passages anymore.

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Even with the help and support I got, I still struggle every single day at 25 years old.

It takes me 30 minutes to write a simple tweet or Facebook status because I over analyze myself and think it doesn’t structurally sound right. I miss use words that are similar to one another because I think that’s the phrase or word I hear. In college, I would read articles 4-5 times to understand the content. I stick with writing in AP style (not only because that’s what journalists use) but because it’s way easier for me to understand its rules than MLA or Chicago style.

I spent over two months writing this exact post because organizing my thoughts and figuring out where sentences flow best is hard for me to determine.

I’ve never been officially diagnosed with a learning disability but through my own research and talking with family friends who have studied learning disabilities, it all makes sense; the way I think, learn and how I comprehend information. I don’t know what I could have, I know something’s not right. I don’t think or process information like everyone else. And it took me until I was 21/22 to finally understand what works best form.

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I’ve learned what works best for me all on my own, a lot of trial and error over the years. None of my teachers or professors could ever understand the extra effort I’ve had to put into my work over the last some-odd years.

I’ve had teachers tell me my essays sound like I wrote them the night before when they don’t know I spent two weeks trying to perfect it. I had my mom read my essays during my first year of college because I never thought they were “college standard.” I take twice as long to read anything. Pop quizzes and tests induce so much anxiety because even though I can study for days on end and can know the information, how tests are worded always confuse me.

My favorite story to tell is when one of my professor’s commented on my rehearsal reports for a show I was working, saying it sounded like I spent all my time on the rehearsal summary than the questions or statements towards the production team throughout my report. If only he knew it took me two+ hours to write my reports each night because I never knew if what I was saying would make sense to someone else or if I meant what I was articulating.

I just finished my first week of nursing school. I love it and it’s a lot of reading and studying and application. It’s more work than I was initially anticipating, and I knew what I was getting myself into. All the work I’ve done thus far, I’ve done double, maybe triple, the amount of work work. Literally.

  • I read each page at least twice in my books
  • I’ve done chapter summaries for each chapter I’ve read in my book, consisting of at least 8-10 pages, front and back, in my notebook.
  • I color-code* the highlighting I do in my textbooks to breakup all the passages, examples, information and definitions.
  • I color-code* my notes when I re-write them which differentiates the information I just read so I can understand it.
  • I type up my notes even though I just wrote them out
  • I make flashcards of all the things

*prime example that I thought it was color-coat BUT it’s color-code.

I’m putting in all this effort just to make sure I thoroughly understand the information. I’ve always been insecure about how smart I think I am, mostly because I don’t feel like I’m as smart as my other friends. I have to apply myself more so than anyone I know just to make it. I do more than I even half to. I’m putting my all into my school work, not only because I’m investing in this, but because I want this so badly. I studied hours upon hours for my entrance exam and I passed. I did that on my own.

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I’m smart. I’m capable of so many things despite the feeling of not being smart “enough” like all friends. That’s something I continuously work through, reminding myself that I’m enough when it comes to my book smarts. I’m learning to not discredit myself because I sometimes don’t feel up to par with my friends.

I’m enough. I am smart. I’ve worked so hard to finally earn the right to say that about myself, and finally believe it when I say it.

The year I stopped hating my body

The year I stopped hating my body

It’s 2019. I’m allowed to love myself exactly as I am.

So, growing up, the talk of the family during every gathering would be about my weight and my size. It was a hot topic of discussion. And even as an adult, I still can’t avoid it.

“Oh, Zoe, you really should be eating your vegetables.”

“Zoe, why don’t you try something new?”

“C’mon Zoe, look at yourself. Do you wanna be 300 pounds by the time your 20?”

“Oh, Zoe, do I see a VEGETABLE on your plate?”

I’ve heard it all from my family. And going to school as the fat kid wasn’t a grand ol’ time either.

I’d get whale noises shouted at me from across the hall, I’d be told I should lay off the twinkies or that no one would ever want to be with me because I’m fat. I’ve lived through some of my worst nightmares from when I was bullied because I was the fat kid.

Every time I looked at myself in the mirror growing up, I’d hate what I’d see. My stomach bulged out, I had the worst acne, my body was wider than others who were skinnier. The bullying over my body from my peers didn’t end until I left N.H, when there was no one else to make fun of.

I left the constant reminders that I was never the skinny one but those words cut through me like a sharp knife during high school, college and up until now in my mid-twenties. Words hurt, they sting and stick with someone for a long time.

Through all the bullying, I binged ate ice cream and chips and bread; it was as if no one ever fed me. I closet ate so much after everyone in the house would go to sleep. I ate my feelings away. I ate to make myself feel anything than what I was feeling in that present moment. Food made me feel better when I was walking through elementary school and middle alone with hardly any friends to go to.

I was already in a bottomless pit of nothing growing up, what did I have to lose?

I’ve tried all the dieting fads as early as 13 years old. My father and his wife once told my mom that they found an advertisement for diet pills and I should try them. I’ve gained weight, lost weight, gained weight, so on and so forth. I’ve binged, I’ve skipped meals thinking it would make a difference (it didn’t) and I made myself unhappy.

The same cycle just different points of my life.

I’ve always listened to everyone around me, encasing in their negativity and to call it what it is; utter bullshit. It is no one’s fault or doing but my own for the way I am.

And I’ve hated myself for too long and have beaten myself up over not being the deemed “perfect” standard of beauty society makes of women (also read: bullshit.) I’ve let everyone else’s opinions cloud my true perspective toward myself all my life.

Until last year, I didn’t know my body was imbalanced in its hormone production. PCOS is a hormone imbalance and part of that imbalance is the body loving fat and holding onto it, even if you’re trying to lose it, sometimes it will just stick. Yeah, I have a play in how fat I’ve gotten but when your body plays into it as well, it’s a whole new can of worms.

And yeah, my stomach is still too round. I have very large arms. I have a small double chin. I’m fighting to find a perfect balance in a body that’s imbalanced. Blah blah blah. I’m tired of talking about about the negatives! So instead, I’m going to talk about the positives because no one does that NEARLY enough when it comes to fat bodies.

I can keep up in a cardio workout. I can keep up in (beginner) dance classes. I can do a split. I look very nice in flowy dresses. I can handle a lot of weight during strength workouts. I can go for walks and not get out of breath. I look great in space buns. I’ve learned how to do a great smokey eye. I find the good in every single show I see. I’m an extreme extrovert. I have a great soprano range. I have fun all while making a fool out of myself.

But most importantly, I’m a work in progress. I have a long way to go until I end up at a place I want to be at. I’m taking the steps, I’m making the changes. But I’m physically tired of hating myself. I’m tired of blaming everything around me. I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself. I’m tired of explaining myself or why things have happened.

I don’t believe I need to love myself in order for someone else to love me. I do believe that I need to love myself in order for me to love me. Duh.

From this moment on, I’m going to stop hating myself for all that I’m not.

From this moment on, I’m going to let go of all the negative comments, words and actions that have eaten me up inside all these years.

From this moment on, I’m not going to feel like a failure when I get off the wagon in losing weight.

From this moment on, I’m not going to feel bad for the food that I eat.

From this moment on, I don’t care what anyone thinks of my body, my weight or how I look.

25 years is a long time to hate yourself and until recently, like New Year’s recently, I’ve started viewing myself in a new light. I’m seeing myself for who I’m meant to be. Like I said, I have a long way to go to where I want to be, and it’s going to happen, even if it takes a little longer. It’s my journey to live and tell and it’s okay if that journey is not linear. Besides, it’s not supposed to be.

Because no one has to wake up and live my life except me.

I’m letting go of all the, “well if you did this…” comments.

I’m letting go of all the, “we only say this because we love you…” tag lines.

I’m letting go of all the, “You were doing so well!” guilt trips.

I’m letting go of giving other people’s power over my life and how I should view myself. I’m letting go of the need to explain myself when I have nothing to justify. This is me.

I’m done apologizing and justifying my fatness. If you have a problem with me or any fat body you come in contact with, I suggest keeping any comments to yourself. They’re not welcomed and to be honest, if you have comments about anyone’s body, you need to check yourself. Because it’s messed up that you would even have such thoughts.

My name is Zoe. I’m beautiful, inside and out, just the way I am. And I mean that.

You & Me – a stage manager’s preview

You & Me – a stage manager’s preview

Since November, I’ve indulged in my first stage management project in Buffalo for the new theatre company, Green Buffalo Productions (GBP.) Three of my dearest friends started the company in April 2018 with the goal of producing original work by local and regional playwrights and poets. In a city that produces so much popular, mainstream theatre, there’s no other company that is producing new work like they are in Buffalo.

So, what new show are they producing?

I’m glad you asked!!

The semi-autobiographical play, “You & Me: The (Mostly) True Story of the Day Before my Senior Prom,” follows the relationship between Tori and Geoff from their awkward but happy moment at freshmen year orientation, to the day before senior prom where even the thought of Geoff pushes Tori to her limit. This 90 minute production takes you on a journey through young love, relationship violence and abuse, conflict, heartache, friendship and figuring out what to do once you reach your breaking point as a teenager. Through the perspective of Tori, we slowly connect all the pieces to the puzzle that leads her to ask for help the day before prom.Pair, Man, Woman, Discussion, Difference, Relationship

When I first read the script, its format reminded me of the musical, “Fun Home.” Obviously, they don’t have the same exact format but going from past to present Alison in “Fun Home” and demonstrating how she got to where she is, it’s structured like that for “You & Me.” The present day scenes set up for the scenes that take place in the past to give the arc of the story more depth and understanding. Usually in theatrical shows, whether they’re plays or musicals, they open up to a moment in time. You see the characters as they are without ever necessarily knowing how their story began or how their story ends.

In this show, audience members will receive all the information they need from beginning to end. Nothing’s left out, nothing’s left unsaid. It’s raw, it’s real and most importantly, it’s relatable. This production and story will leave audience members connecting the dots and starting a conversation once the final words are spoken.

Not only is this piece autobiographical, it’s a piece of theatre for social change.

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In the time of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement, talking about sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape is the forefront of the fight. GBP producing “You & Me” is giving a voice to survivors who wouldn’t otherwise get one. And this story takes place during high school, a pivotal moment for social and physiological development for teenagers who are just beginning to gain their own opinions, viewpoints and voice in this massive world. I don’t know of any recent established works that give a voice to a teenage girl who’s been through hell and back, literally.

 

More importantly, violence towards girls during the teenage years is not uncommon, actually, it’s more common than one would think. According to Love is Respect:

  1. One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
  2. One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  3. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.

Most of the depictions of abuse in “You & Me” are subtle, just like how they happen in real life. Words spoken by our talented, driven and passionate company of actors were said in real life, exact verbatim.

Why exactly were those words said? Some of that we don’t know.

Hand, Women, Hands, People, Violence, Nostalgia, Young

Why do people abuse and manipulate other people? Sadly, no one exactly knows that either…

This show is going to ring the bell louder and hit closer to home whether you’ve been in a toxic relationship or experienced intimate partner violence. Even if you haven’t personally experienced those things, you might connect with the reality of what happens when you ask for help or the feeling of almost losing your best friend. Maybe you’ll relate to its illustration and honesty of mental health. Maybe it’s something personal from high school that you didn’t think would resonate after so many years from this production. Most of all, anyone who sees this show will know they’re not alone.

It’s a show everyone should see in a time where violence against women is a continuous, rising international issue. It’s a show that will make you ask questions. A show that will make you want to turn the other way, like when you see a bad car accident, but you just can’t. It’s a show that will make you laugh (even with this show’s subject matter, there are moments of appropriate laughter, I promise!), it will make you think, it will make you uncomfortable, it will make your blood boil, it might even make you cry. But again, it will show you that you’re not alone in any connection you have with this show and this story.

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The point of theatre for social change is to talk about all the issues that are pinned uncomfortable. Those topics that we should push under the rug, this show is giving the proper light and opportunity for further discussion. “You & Me” shouldn’t be an easy show to watch or listen to. The only way we make a change in this world is by facing the problem head on and looking at how we can individually make a change in our lives to impact the bigger picture. If we keep the conversation going once the show is over, we’ve done our job.

I’ve watched this show grow from start: auditions, casting the show, notating every single change and movement made on stage. I’ve seen the cast grow with their characters, bringing this story to life and giving justice to the subject matter. It’s evolved from the page to the stage and in just nine days (eight, actually) we’ll have an audience. I’ve worked on many shows over the years and to begin 2019 stage managing “You & Me” is  an honor and the best way to begin my year of theatre. It’s a show not to be missed by an up-and-coming theatre company in the Buffalo area.

All information pertaining to the show and tickets can be found at Green Buffalo Production’s website by clicking this link. We hope to see you there; you won’t want to miss it!

DISCLAIMER: ‘You and Me: The (Mostly) True Story of the Day Before my Senior Prom’ includes direct examples of and illusions to intimate partner violence. Characters experience and discuss issues of emotional, mental and physical abuse. Explicit language, may not be suitable for anyone under 16.

Wait for it

Wait for it

On the top of my graduation cap, I put two of my favorite lyrics from the hit-musical, “Hamilton,” not realizing how true they would become to me at this point in my life.

I am the one thing in life I can control…

I’ve always been the one to initiate any and all sort of change that has happened in my life. I made the choice to get out of a major I wasn’t pleased with, I stepped down from a stage manager position because the person in charge made me feel useless, I ended friendships because it was long overdue, I made a lifestyle change because I couldn’t live the way I was any longer. Anytime I’m ready and want to do something on my own terms, I do it and no one can talk me out of it.

Change was coming, I just didn’t know it yet.

I’m not falling behind or running late…

I’m not late in the sense of time, because theatre teaches you one should never be late, but my maturity has never up to the same speed as my peers. I didn’t develop social skills until high school in my late teens, I didn’t figure out study skills until I graduated college, I understood class information and lessons days after it was taught in class. It’s always taken me longer than everyone else, and it still does.

In high school, I knew I wanted to major in theatre in college. Originally, I wanted to major in a performance focused curriculum, but after my first year, I just knew I had to graduate with a theatre degree, regardless of what my focus of study was. I added another major, switched that second major and minor too many times, and I graduated after five years with two degrees in theatre and communications with a minor in journalism.

I thought, “Okay, here we go. I have the skills to get a job!”

After coming home the summer I graduated school, I applied to multiple different places, with absolutely no luck. I began thinking, a small doubt in my mind, that maybe, just maybe, what I’m doing isn’t what I should be doing.

My first change happened: I moved to Buffalo in January 2018.

Two months later I took a job at a call center and six months after that I realized my mental health was spiraling out of control, so I left that job and have been living off my savings since August.

It was time for another change but I need a sign.

I’m willing to wait for it.

And I did but not for too long.

The world works in mysterious ways because before I knew it, I got my sign.

My mom went to a medium where she mentioned my brother and I. She told my mom that I was a healer, I had a healing aura, and that I’m capable of anything. It felt good to be reminded I’m intelligent and capable beyond my own self-doubt and insecurities. Through everything my mom told me, I just kept thinking of the part where the medium said how I was a healer.

I mean, all my friends can attest that I am the mom friend of the group. I take care of people when their sick, I took care of a girl I didn’t even know in college who was too drunk to walk one Saturday night. I am always the DD when my friends and I go out, I put other people’s well-being before my own. I make sure everyone is okay mentally, physically, and emotionally. I always take care of people.

I got the sign. I’m healing, a healer, and that’s where it all began to make sense.

Out of no where at 1 a.m. this past fall, I began feeling my fingers type rapidly in the google search bar, “n-u-r-s-i-n-g p-r-o-g-r-a-m-s i-n -b-u-f-f-a-l-o,” that I didn’t realize what I wrote until my search results appeared.

Nursing was never something I considered. For over 10 years, I had my heart set on being in theatre. It’s what I always knew I was going to do from the time I was in middle school in my first musical. I knew that, I believed that. But I’ve changed drastically over the years, and as I’ve changed, my thoughts, goals and dreams have, too.

I’m not upset over my five years spent at Fredonia. I don’t regret the degrees I studied, the classes I took, the shows I did and the opportunities I earned. Two years out of school with no luck, savings or some sense of security will make you think… a lot.

Maybe, I might not be in the right place. Maybe, I need to take another couple turns down this uneven path I’m walking. Maybe I need to step out of somewhere that’s comfortable to somewhere that is unknown and scary.

…I am the one thing in life I can control.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that I can’t compare my journey to someone else’s. I’ve learned that just because someone got from point A to point B one way, doesn’t mean the way I get to point B is any less. My story and journey is nothing like I originally thought; and that’s okay.

What does this all mean? Well, after much consideration and long hours of studying, I’m going back to school, sooner than I actually anticipated.

I got accepted into a LPN, Licensed Practical Nursing, program here in Buffalo starting in April. It’s a 1,100 hour, one year program.

I studied my butt off for my entrance exam in December, I found out I passed mid-January and before I knew it, I put my deposit in today, Feb. 5, for an official acceptance into the program.

I’m really excited, more excited than I’ve been about anything I did during my first round of undergrad. If I decided I wanted to do be a nurse when I was 18, I wouldn’t have been ready or mature enough. If gaining entrance into a program didn’t mean anything to me, I wouldn’t have studied as hard as I did, panicking from the doubt about, “what if?” I didn’t pass.

But I got in. This program is going to challenge me and I’ll have to put more time in than the average person because of how I learn and study but I’m doing it. It’s happening.

I’m 25; ready, nervous, excited and determined about becoming a nurse.

In a year, I’ll be an LPN. My goal is to become an RN and then earn my BSN within the next 10 years or so.

When I became a stage manager in college, I had this feeling, something I still can’t fully describe. In that moment during my first show, I knew that stage management was my home in the theatre. I had that same indescribable feeling for nursing; I just know it’s where my career lies ahead for me. I’m listening to my signs, trusting my instincts and understanding these moments that are happening in my life as they happen.

And I’m exactly where I need to be.

Because I waited for it.