May 30, 2012

PTSD sneak attack

I'm glad that I don't frequently experience the effects of PTSD anymore.  But jeez.  When it does sneak up on me, WTF. 
I'm sitting at work, doing market research for seafood restaurants around the country.  One of the 300 national chains I'm researching is Bertucci's, so I look up its menu and am recording the contact information for headquarters, and it's in Northborough MA, on Otis Street.  And immediately (unconsciously), my shoulder muscles flare up, tense and painful, and my blood runs cold, my hands get clammy.  I have a flashback to the location: I lived in neighboring Westborough my first year in MA, and my bank was on Otis Street, next to the Bertucci's and I had a terrible experience there too, not just at vet school.  God damn, that place was trying to spit me out from the get-go. 
I am so glad to be away.  I am so glad to be doing meaningful work in a beautiful place where people appreciate me.  I just wish my past would just stop haunting me and sneaking up on me.  I'm over it.  I have moved on.  Why bother bothering me!??

May 28, 2012

Envelopes from Old Calendars

I had a pile of pretty Thank You cards, but they didn't have envelopes.  Even better!  I just wrapped them (similar to a present) in old calendar photos.

May 27, 2012

Post Graduation

Aside from all the fun I had with my parents, in the past week, I have:
  • gone boogie boarding (clearest bluest water I've seen looked like the Bahamas!)
  • gone horseback riding at Pebble Beach
  • secured not one but two interviews for next week
  • sewn a button on a sweater
  • organized all the cards, correspondence, and memorable ephemera since my house burned down, by year
  • done 1.5 months worth of laundry (embarrassing, but there you go)
  • organized my digital life a bit more (started using evernote, & deleted a bunch of files from my computer)
  • switched from safari to chrome (because I finally didn't have a million tabs open for school projects)
  • enjoyed hot chocolate every night
  • slept in every day
  • played trivia
  • enjoyed going to work at Seafood Watch without schoolwork breathing down my neck

    Basically, I am trying to take my friend Mira's advice, "enjoy it."   Not only am I not in school, but I'm not even on 'summer vacation,' really, since I'm not going back in the fall.  This is new territory for me.  Though I had 2 yrs not in school between Tufts and MIIS, I was lost, poor, working 4 jobs, and didn't have much time to enjoy my life.  I forced myself to dance so that I would have something to enjoy (dance is truly a lifesaver, many times over) during that time.  Anyway, here I am. Yay.  Enjoying the fact that I can pretty much do whatever I want to do whenever I think of it.  Instead of having to focus on a single project, or prioritize things, I can spend 20 minutes on one project, then when I think of something else I can pop up and start on that.  It's super fun.  

    Ah, yes, what interviews, you ask?  One is for the Digital Coast Fellowship through NOAA, with the National Association of Counties and the National States Geographic Information Council, located in Washington DC, and the other is for the position of Program Manager of the local NGO (Monterey), Friends of the Sea Otter.  I won't bore you with the details, but here are the wordles of the job descriptions, and they do a pretty good job summing up what the jobs would be like.  I had a practice interview which was very helpful, and I'm looking forward to both interviews.  Very different but equally awesome potential positions.  Wish me luck!

    I am a Master, and that is surprisingly overwhelming

    I never gave much attention to my own graduation ceremonies.  I didn't go to my undergrad graduation, for instance.  But given that I have spent ~30 (!) years of my life in school, and that this graduation means potentially leaving school forever, and especially since my graduate path has been long, winding, and arduous, I hedged my bets and invited both my parents to the graduation ceremony at MIIS.  I thought this might be a little more serious than other graduations I've experienced.

    I had NO IDEA how hard it would hit me. 

    I turned in my last paper (the economic impacts of sandmining paper, which our professors want to publish!) at 4:45pm on Friday, the day before commencement. My mom and her beau, Daniel, arrived at 5pm.  We went down to school where we enjoyed snacks and a whole passel of graduates & their parents.  After a lovely dinner at Hula's (our favorite Hawaiian fusion restaurant), we picked up Dad at the airport, dropped him off at the hotel, and headed home.  It was just 10pm but I was exhausted and I had a bit of a meltdown.  

    Sobbing on my bed, Ben tried to console me. "There're a lot of happy things too," --but I wasn't crying because I was sad, I was just overwhelmed with the feeling of actually being finished with my graduate degree.  I actually finished it!  I didn't get dismissed.  I actually did super well.  And I completed it.  After the many years preparing in undergrad, after the many years of toil in vet school, after the years struggling in Lexington, after the years of hard work and wonder here in Monterey, I FINISHED.  I knew that I had 3 friends coming to watch the ceremony the next day too, and that overwhelmed me.  All 3--BrieAnn, Thatcher, and Dorothy--met me while I was at vet school in Massachusetts.  They met me as a miserable, desperate, zero-fun-having, insane vet student (at least that's how I felt).  Dorothy, in fact, was at Tufts with me, and even repeated the first year of vet school with me.  She--more than Ben, more than my parents, more than most of my vet school friends, more than anyone else I'm close with--knows exactly the academic hazing hell I went through.  She was there with me every goddamned day, struggling, studying, freezing with me in that terrible place.  It meant so much to me that she was able to come, and wanted to support me in this much better, happier time and place in my life.  As I continued sobbing, Ben said, "it's a lot to take in..." to which I replied, "it's a lot to release!"

    Saturday morning, I put on Nana's dress from the 50s (Papa's favorite), ironed and donned my special robe and hood, and headed down to school.  

    The rest of the day was inimitably happy.  We lined up, walked behind the bagpiper and carriers of 33 flags representing the countries of all the graduates, and enjoyed the superb speeches given by our classmate Grace, and Myra Goodman (owner of Earthbound organic farm) (We all got her vegan cookbook as a present from her!  Super psyched about that).

     I had collected all the dots from 3-hole punches during my 2 yrs at school here to use as confetti.  I surprised the President of the school with it, and elicited a chuckle from everyone on stage and the first few rows of the audience.

    I was so happy throughout the ceremony I just wanted to squeeze the hands of my classmates sitting next to me.  I restrained myself, but, man, was I happy.  

    Then I got to go see my family!  And my friends!  I don't know how these photos were shot because I was not patient enough to shoot all the different combinations of people that they wanted to shoot.  I was too distracted with glee.


    At the reception, my friend Robert Xia and I did a celebratory piece that we'd been working on in our spare time.  I've been learning pop-n-locking from him, and I've been teaching him bellydancing.  I think it turned out okay, but mostly, we were just having a blast.

    We all decided to go for a walk--what a GORGEOUS day it was!  Garrapata was the winning site.  We hiked up the hill and watched for whale spouts (none that day), then made our way down to the tidepools.  

    The next couple days visiting with my parents was wonderful too.  They all got along really well (something I was worried about beforehand), and that was a major relief.  It was short, intense (I took them kayaking, driving on 17 mile drive, to the aquarium and to Cachagua general store in Carmel Valley), and excellent.  

    Wow.  I have letters after my name.  Alyssum Pohl MAIEP.  Master of Arts in International Environmental Policy.  Happy.  

    What are the chances?

    What are the chances that I would find this image (Laura Laine)

    and this image (viktor and rolf fall winter 2008)

    randomly within just a few hours of eachother in completely different locations?

    May 16, 2012

    The month before graduation

    What have I been doing preparation for graduation?  Let me catch you up. My friend/classmate Lisa and I have been working really hard on a paper investigating and calculating the economic impacts of the sand mine nearby.  It's the only shoreline sand mine in the States, and as you might suspect, causes significant erosion along the nearby coast.

    But they get away with it because they aren't dredging directly from the shoreline, see, they're dredging from a 'pond' behind the edge of the beach.  Of course high tides and storm events push the surf (and thereby sand) into the pond.  You can see in this picture how close the pond is to the ocean.  Totally silly, and sad.  So we've been working on that.

    One day, I went to the dump in search of a piece of drift wood, but came home with this large mirror instead!  It's been really wonderful to have a large mirror for dance practice.  I haven't really danced much while I've been in Monterey, but I'm super stoked to get back into the swing of things once I graduate.
    My friend Robert (who is an excellent pop-n-locker, check him out here) and I have been dancing together twice a week.  Mondays he teaches me his style, Wednesdays I teach him bellydance, and we are collaborating on a surprise piece to perform at the reception after graduation on Saturday.  I'll take vids and share later.
    Our tentative choreography notes

    Another classmate of mine lives at Pebble Beach, and hosted a chill and wonderful afternoon party one day.  We figured we had safety in numbers and breached the private property line of the golf course to play some frisbee.  Honestly, the grass was so well trimmed that we felt odd being there and left.  We brought a slackline to the party and had fun with that instead.  

    My friends Travis and Colleen had me do a pregnancy photo shoot with them, and it's a good thing we did it when we did...
     Because the next day, she went into labor, 3 wks early!  All's well and baby Aria is a sweetie pie.

    I went over to their house and decorated the nursery for them with some owl pictures I printed out, a collage I made, and pillows I made:

    Uncle Ben & Aria

      But none of that really answers the question that is on everyone's mind (myself included), "but what are you DOING after graduation?"  I don't know is one answer.  Trying is another.

    I know that I love living here where just doing errands gives me access to views like this:
    And a quick jaunt to Point Lobos when I have an hour to spare gives me access to views like this: 
    I bought myself a maiden hair fern the other day, one of my favorite plants.  Perhaps in an effort to avoid the question.   
    I have applied to several jobs and have several job applications to finish in locales such as Monterey, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Santa Cruz, Washington DC, London, Laos, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, Antarctica.  I would love to stay here, it's such a magical place, and I really feel at home here.  And of course the possibility of having a career here with SF and all it's dance access so close is really really enticing. But who knows?  I like moving around too.  And the pragmatic part of me knows that above all, I NEED A JOB, to help myself live.  Let's be real, folks, I have ~$300,000 graduate debt which I'll be paying my whole life...but I need a job to at least be able to pay minimum payments.  (Yes, it's consolidated to the max; no, declaring bankruptcy doesn't apply to student loan debt; yes, I'm using the income based repayment plan.  Oh, and Yes, I'm accepting donations).  In the meantime, I will be working part time at Seafood Watch, which I'm happy about.  I won't have benefits, and my hourly wage is low, but it's something while I continue my search. I love working there, I love my coworkers, I will get to stay in Monterey for a little while longer, and I get to continue work that is meaningful for me.