I Suppose I Should Write Something Pretty Quickly

… or you guys are going to give up on me and just assume I’ve lost my mind.

That may not be all that far from the truth.

I just don’t really know what to say anymore.

~~~~~

One day last week after class, Mr. Williams and I were talking about some of the students.  Many of these “kids” are not doing as well as they should be, and for the first time, I’m beginning to see a little bit of wisdom in the way Mr. Williams approached things with my class.  I don’t think he needed to be quite so much of an asshole as he was, but he has been super easy on this class and now they’re paying the price.  They didn’t have all the pressure on them that we had, because he wasn’t so demanding and because he only did two chapters a week instead of three and now they are scrambling, on their own time, to get through the rest of the reading before their final which is this Wednesday.

We spent the last three class sessions doing skills tests.  Since I am a certified EMT I can do the testing and I have done all of the Trauma Assessment tests thus far.  Not everyone has tested, but most of them have and of the ones that tested, most of them failed.  Even the class brainiacs who I expected to do well, failed the test.  In some cases, it was on a technicality.  Judy failed because she didn’t initiate high-flow oxygen for her patient (well, pretend to anyway.)  She said that she didn’t feel that her patient needed oxygen since he was not showing signs of respiratory distress, and technically she’s right, but, it’s right on the testing sheet that “failed to initiate high-flow oxygen for the patient” is an automatic fail and we’ve been stressing this with the students all semester.  She gets a second chance to take the test and she’ll do just fine, but she should have passed the first time.

We lost half the class at the midterm because they didn’t pass the test, I’m not sure that all of the rest of them will pass the final and all their skills tests.  Last Wednesday, they were all afraid to come to me for their Trauma Assessment test because everyone who took it on Monday failed.  That wasn’t my doing, it was theirs, but of course I have the reputation of being the guy who fails everybody.  I was very glad that most of the people who did take in on Wednesday passed so now they know it wasn’t me.

Tonight, I am conducting a review for the final and they take the final on Wednesday.  Next week we will finish skills testing and then this class will be over.  It feels like it went so fast; much faster than my class.

I’m kind of glad it’s ending.  I’m tired of having to run from work to school two nights a week.  I’ve given up a lot of my personal time to meet with students and help them practice skills.  Most of the one’s I have helped, have passed the skills and so it makes me unhappy that the rest of them didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that were presented.  But I’ll be glad to have my time back.  On the other hand, it makes me kind of sad because I don’t know when I’ll get the opportunity to make use of my knowledge and skills and I don’t want it to fade away.

I’m working on my resume, something I’m not skilled at and I’m waiting for some feedback from some people on it.  Once that’s done, I’ll start applying to jobs and see what comes of it.  I still don’t know how I’m going to support myself working in this field, but maybe if I just try it’ll work out.

I want to try to make a “teaching” resume as well, and I’d like to see if I can’t work part-time as a safety trainer; maybe with the company my employer uses, maybe with the Red Cross, maybe with another entity I don’t yet know about, I don’t know.  I just know that I need to make a change.

Confusing Confusion Which Confuses Me

Where does one even start with a post like this?

Honestly, my anxiety level is pretty high right now and that tells me one thing…

I really don’t want to think or “talk” about this.  The problem of course is, I can’t not think about it.  So I might as well write it and get it out of my head.  I’m very confused right now.

Somewhat against my better judgement, I went out with some people on Saturday night.  Two of the people were students from the EMT class that I’m helping with.  The third person was another “Teacher’s Assistant.”  I guess that’s what I am, unofficially.  I’m volunteering my time because I wanted to reenforce the knowledge for myself, but right now I’m kind of dealing with some feelings of being taken advantage of.  I don’t doubt that Mr. Williams appreciates my help, but I think after so many weeks of my reliable presence he is taking it for granted that I am going to be there and that he can put me to work.  That’s not what bothers me though; that’s what I signed up for.  It’s the students.  Some of the students are less than gracious.  They seem to take us (the other “TA”, Micah, and me) for granted and they don’t seem to appreciate the sacrifices we are making for them.  I suppose that feeling may have accounted, to some extent, for Mr. Williams attitude last semester, but the thing is, he is getting paid.  The rest of us are volunteers.

That’s really not what this is about.

After my experience last semester, I am very reluctant to consider being friendly with any of the people in this class now.  I have given up every other Sunday afternoon (the time when I’m not hanging out with Lil’B) to go and meet with some of the students and help them practice their skills.  Over the course of the weeks a rapport has developed among some of us, and I was more or less OK with it except that I feel like at times I’ve let my guard down more than I should and I’ve allowed my need to be liked to interfere with my position as a leader or an authority in the setting.

Micah has been very involved with this class, more than he was for mine.  He has helped with all the study groups and skills practices. He’s a good guy and I like him a lot.  He and I are the only ones who show up reliably to assist with the class.  There are other people, but their attendance is sporadic and unreliable.  And when they do show up, all the students clamor to join up with Micah and me, because Allen is a jack ass who yells at the students (when he’s not telling them of his personal life difficulties) and teaching them to his teacher’s specifications, which is all well and good except that his teacher wasn’t Mr. Williams, and Mr. Williams is who is teaching now, and then there’s Noah, who really has no idea what he’s doing and routinely comes to me to understand what he’s supposed to be doing, even though I’m not the teacher and graduated from the class more recently than anyone else who is helping, which seems wrong to me, because at least in theory, they should have more experience than I do, and oh my God, I can’t believe I just wrote another run-on sentence.

Anyway, I’m well liked, apparently, by most of the students so it came as no surprise when Judy texted me.  “Check your calendar for the 16th.  It’s Laura’s last home game & I want to go & support her.  & then we want to go out afterwards.”  Laura comes to class most days, dressed in some sort of athletic attire embroidered with the name of the water polo team from one school or another.  These days she is affiliated with the women’s water polo team at Cal State Berkeley.  She’s athletically built, is quite outgoing and has a very confident personality, or at least that how it seems at first.  More on that later.

Judy is two years older than I, and Mr. Williams says she is my twin.  I don’t honestly know why and I’m not sure I like it.  We do seem to have a lot of similarities, however where we differ, we differ greatly.  Judy was a cheerleader; I was a dork.  Judy is very outgoing; I’m shy.  (No really, I am!)  Judy makes herself the center of attention, all the time; I try to fade into the wood work.  Judy is perpetually laden with sexual innuendo, to the point of seeming like she’s trying too hard; I’m unreasonably uncomfortable talking about such things.  In another text Judy said, “I hope you know that when this class is over, I am going to actively pursue you till you become one of my best friends!!!”, to which I replied, “Read: Stalk.”

I told Judy, “You might have guessed I don’t know the first thing about sports, but I am free that day and I might go.”

She replied, “there is no ‘might go’ available.”  Earlier that night, I had to actually separate Judy and Laura because they wouldn’t stop talking and giggling while I was trying to teach them the skill of emergency childbirth, something I really don’t know how to do in the first place (would very much like, never to experience) and found out halfway through the night, I was not teaching correctly.  Judy texted me, “That is what Laura & I were talking about is how much fun we would have hanging out with you.”

The next day she texted me to say, “I need another job so bad.  Don’t you need a personal assistant or something?”

I told her, “Have I mentioned how much I hate MY job?”

She replied, “Yes…but you would like your job more if you got to hang with me all day.”

Somehow I doubt that.

Over that week-end, I found out that Aisha Tyler was playing a local comedy club this past week-end, but only on Saturday and Sunday.  I love Aisha Tyler!  (If you’ve been coming around here long, you know this already)  I don’t generally go out on Sunday nights though, because I’m old and I have to work the next day, so I really wanted to go see her show on Saturday night at 10:30.  I texted Judy, “About what time do you think Laura’s match will be over?”

Judy:  “Don’t know but we wanted you to hang with us afterwards.

Me:  “Did you have something specific in mind?”  I wondered if they’d be interested in going to the show and if we had time to get there.  Maybe everyone could get a little bit of what they wanted.

Judy:  “Yep… but I can’t share it with you.  Teehee.  Laura wanted us all to go out after the game.  Especially if Cal wins!!!  It will be fun (trust me).  Just pencil us in from 7 till we get you safe back home.”

Me:  “You obviously don’t know me very well.”

Judy:  “I don’t… that is why we have to hang out.”

Me:  “I never trust anybody who tells me “Trust me”.

Judy:  “Haha.  Smart move.”

Me:  “So??? What is the plan?”

Turns out there was no plan made.  Micah apparently wanted to challenge Judy to Karaoke.  Laura just wanted to make sure there were drinks involved.  Judy said, “I think we will just go with the flow & see what there is to do in Berkeley.”  This week, the school where the EMT class is taught is on Spring Break.  Cal is not on Spring Break so it’s not really a break for Laura, but it’s a break from the EMT class at least.

When it was all said and done everyone was interested in going to see Aisha Tyler.  Laura, I found out, is not a player, but an assistant coach.  She’s a Fifth-Year Senior, “My victory lap” she calls it, and apparently she’s no longer eligible to play.  Judy’s answer was, “Sounds like fun, but I don’t drive in the city.”  I get so tired of people saying that.  San Francisco is not that bad to drive in and certainly that’s no reason to deprive yourself of having fun.  Originally, I told her I would drive her car.  She drives a small-ish SUV, as compared to my compact hybrid.  I didn’t really think we would fit in my car very well, but I really didn’t want to drive someone else’s car  and eventually I told her, “Micah is so big he actually crowds me in the driver’s seat of my car.  But I can wear my big girl panties and suck it up, if you two don’t mind being cramped in the back seat.”  (None of these people know I’m gay, and occasionally I drop hints.)

Judy:  “Yah… except that way we don’t get to see you drunk, which would be really entertaining.”

Me:  “I don’t do drunk.”

Judy:  “I figured…that is why it would be so entertaining.”

Me:  “It’s really not that entertaining.  That’s why I don’t do it… Anymore.”

Judy:  “Well, I’ll just keep it on my bucket list (since we will be friends till we are old & gray.)

Saturday morning I sent a group text to the three, “FYI.  There will be a 5 or so (not level) block walk from the parking garage to the comedy club and back again, so take that into consideration when selecting the height of your heels… Micah.”  See, more hints.  Laura, apparently, was very impressed that I thought to warn them.  She said she told her father about it.

I was a little reluctant to go out with these people.  I feel a little bit like it’s inappropriate to associate myself with the students.  On the other hand I’m not the teacher and I don’t exactly have people banging down my door to be my friend.  I decided I would go and just try to maintain an appropriate level of detachment which, by and large, was easy enough to do.

Micah is currently unemployed and he doesn’t have a working vehicle.  I agreed to pick him up and take him to Laura’s match.  I asked him on Friday what time he wanted me to pick him up and he said 5:00.  That seemed unreasonably early to me but I let it go for the time being.  However, as the, as it turned out, very lazy Saturday progressed, it became apparent I was not going to be on time.  At 5:00 when, Micah called me, I was just about to step into the shower.  Micah told me he was in Pacifica and just about to get on BART.  He then told me he’d be back in Oakland around 5:30.

~

Mr. Williams, he himself a black man, often talks about some of the students living on “BPT” (actually, he says “CPT” but I personally find the C to be offensive.)  BPT is “Black People Time”.  I would never use that terminology myself, but based on my experiences with Michelle and her family, I can see where the phrase comes from.  Michelle has no concept of time.  She tells me she’ll be over at 5:30, it’ll be well after 6:00 before I see her.  She tells me the movie starts in 20 minutes and we have plenty of time, even though we’re a 15 minute drive from the theater and still have to park, buy our tickets, go to the bathroom, buy our concessions and find seats in the crowded dark theater, but she’s still wandering aimlessly around the house.

~

It takes nearly an hour to get from Pacifica to Oakland on BART and I knew there was no way that Micah was going to be home by 5:30.  I told him I, too, was running late, and we’d play it by ear.  I took my shower, brushed my teeth, beautified myself, before I texted him to say, “I’ll be ready to go in 10 minutes.  Will you be ready to be picked up?”  I got dressed and went into the kitchen to feed the cat.  That’s when my phone rang.  It’s was Micah who wanted to know how long ago I had sent the text.  I told him about 4 minutes.  It was 6:03 and he had just arrived in Oakland.  He was waiting for the bus that would take him home so he could change for the evening.  I told him I would head toward the street corner he was on and we would see if I got there before the bus did.

I picked Micah up and took him to his house so he could change clothes.  I hadn’t eaten in hours and I was starving.  I knew we would all go eat after the water polo match but I was too hungry to wait that long so I told Micah we’d stop at McDonald’s or something along the way.  I didn’t mind buying him a burger.  Due to a few circumstances beyond my control we were late arriving at the match.  Cal lost to Stanford 8-4 if anybody cares.  The match was over a little after 8:00 and we went back to Laura’s apartment so she could change.

Laura’s room mates were having an impromptu party, and there were many distractions as Laura was trying to change and Micah was trying to Flirt.  Judy and I were starving and we wanted to get something to eat before heading into The City and Micah and Laura were slowing down the works.  Despite my warning, Laura wore a pair of close-fitting jeans, a lovely, but casual black maternity shirt (she says she actually bought it in the maternity department, but God only knows why, she certainly doesn’t need to shop there) and three-inch heels.  To be honest, that surprised me for reasons unrelated to the walking that would be taking place.  The top was low-cut and she was displaying a pleasant, not absurd amount of cleavage.  This was the first time I had ever seen Laura with her hair down and I had no idea how long her hair actually was.  She always comes to class with a pony tail.  Laura is beautiful, with long blond hair, clear, glowing skin and bright blue eyes.  She has perfect, white teeth, with a beautiful smile.  She has a low-pitched voice she describes as a smokers voice, even though she doesn’t smoke (think Angie Harmon).  It’s not gruff, just not high-pitched.  She has a fantastic laugh that is very infectious.  She’s just a lot of fun to spend time with.

When she was ready and we were about leave her apartment, Judy told Laura that she looked “hot”.  I was surprised to see Laura blush and trivialize the very accurate complement.  Later as we walked from my car to the restaurant, I asked, “Laura.  You’re not self conscious are you?”  She said she was not, but then she said she didn’t believe it when people say things like that.  (Um…  What does “self-conscious” mean to you?)  Judy’s reply was that she had enough confidence for both of them.  Oy!

~

We had dinner at Chipotle and then headed into San Francisco.  While we waited in the longest line I’ve ever experienced at this club, I looked up and realized I had a beautiful view of Coit Tower.  I tried to take a picture of it, but of course in the dark, at a distance, with my crappy little point and shoot digital, it came out as a blurry swab of dim light on an otherwise dark background.  As I pointed my crappy camera at the beautiful specter, I heard Judy behind me.  “Two beautiful blondes right here and he’s taking pictures of landscapes.”  After I took my bad picture, I turned the camera on her.  I couldn’t even see her, and I didn’t really care how the picture turned out, but when it was taken and I looked at the finished product, I saw that in the blink of an eye, she had posed for the picture.

~

The host/first act of the night was a local morning radio show host; one half of Fernando & Greg, the only gay radio show I’ve ever heard of.  I don’t honestly know if it was Fernando or Greg.  I don’t really care.  He wasn’t funny.  The opening act, also a gay man whose name I can not remember, was downright filthy and offensive.  Both of them made a lot of gay jokes, which, naturally, I found humor in, to a point, but they both pushed the envelope quite a bit.  There were a number of anti-female and anti-heterosexuality jokes made with a lot of derogatory references to female genitalia and I found the whole thing very uncomfortable.  I know some people believe that’s what comedy should be.  I am not one of those people.  Aisha Tyler, of course was hilarious, only once saying something that I found offensive, a single word, but still.  That was a new experience for me.

Judy, Laura and Micah enjoyed the show.  They complied with the two drink minimum.  Micah with a whiskey & lime and a Kamikaze, Laura with two beers and Judy with a bottle of White Zinfandel.  I had two Diet Cokes.  Judy paid for Micah’s drinks and unbeknownst to me, Laura paid for mine.  I drove, used my gas, my electronic toll pass to cross the bridge and paid for the parking, so I didn’t mind letting Laura pay for my absurdly expensive soft drinks ($4.00 a piece).

When the show was over, we got in line to meet my BFF.  Laura took this picture.  It’s better than the one Michelle took the last time I saw Aisha.  That picture was unsharable.  (Also?  LOOK BRACES!)  We also took a group picture.

Micah, Me, Aisha Tyler, Judy and Laura

After, we headed back to the parking garage where my car was parked.  No sooner did we get outside, than Judy grabbed Micah and said, “I need an arm.”  She then proceeded to hang on him all the way to the garage.  Laura and I walked together a few paces ahead of Micah and Judy.  Laura was curious about my “relationship” with Aisha and we talked all the way back. She was amused and seemed genuinely…  Impressed doesn’t seem like the right word, but for lack of a better option…

It was nearly 1:00 AM when we got to the parking garage and I realized I forgot to have my parking ticket validated.  I was just going to pay the full price for my parking ($2.00 every 20 minutes for the three or more hours we were there) but both Judy and Laura told me I shouldn’t do that.  I said, “Do you guys really want to walk all the way back there?”

Laura said, “Sure!”

Judy said, “No.”

I said we would have to walk back to get it validated.  Judy wanted to wait while I went back.  I told her, “We all go or nobody goes.”  So we all turned around and went back to the club, about seven blocks, to get the ticket validated.  The whole way, Laura and I were ahead of Judy and Micah, and we talked.  (You’ll recall that Laura was wearing three-inch heels.  What I didn’t say was that she was wearing them with no stockings.  At no point did she complain about her feet.)

I was very thirsty and after getting my ticket validated we crossed the street to a liquor store so I could get a bottle of Diet Pepsi.  While I was standing at the cooler, I heard Judy say, “Pepsi please” and I grabbed one.  Micah and Laura both said they didn’t want anything.  I held the Pepsi out to Judy and she just looked at it.

I asked, “Didn’t you say you wanted this?”

“Yeah,” she replied, “but I can’t hold it yet.”  After a beat as I just looked at her, she said, “I’ll pay for it, I just can’t hold it.”

I put the bottles down on the counter.  The cashier rang them up, and I gave him $4.00.  He handed me my change and put the bottles in a black plastic bag.  I turned around and followed the crew outside where I pulled the Pepsi out of the bag and held it out to Judy.  “I can’t hold that yet,” she said again.  Enough was enough.  I rolled my eyes, put her Pepsi back in the bag, pulled my Diet Pepsi out and held the bag out to her.  She whined for a second and I continued to hold it out to her.  Finally she took it and I turned to walk back to the car.  Suddenly I felt a drag on my arm as Judy reached out and grabbed it to “steady herself”.  Again she said, “I need an arm” and she proceeded to hold on to me all the way back to the car.  I hated it, but I didn’t man up and tell her to let go of me.

At first Micah and Laura were ahead of us, but soon, Laura fell behind and walked with Judy and me, and she and I continued our conversation.  Soon, Micah joined us.

We were back at Laura’s apartment in Berkeley by 2:00.  After a few minutes of conversation, Laura went inside, and Micah and Judy got into her car while I got into mine.

~

You may be wondering what is so confusing about all this, as the title of this post would imply.  On the other hand, I’m not terribly subtle, maybe you’re not wondering at all…

Really, there are a number of things that are confusing to me.

I had fun, and yet, I didn’t.

I liked being out and doing stuff, but I didn’t enjoy feeling taken advantage of.  I didn’t like playing taxi service.

I was simultaneously willing and annoyed to have to buy Micah’s food.  I understand what it’s like to be broke when everyone else isn’t, and I’m OK with helping him out, and yet, I kind of feel like he should have declined to come out with us if he didn’t have any money.  I can imagine how he might feel and I don’t want to make him feel worse.  I also think it’s kind of presumptuous of him.

I found Judy’s behavior off-putting, but I realized I don’t really have a good reason to not like her.  Plus, she seems to really like me, which means if I reject her, I’ll feel like even more of a dick, than I would if we were just casual acquaintances.  She really isn’t a not nice person and I should accept her friendship at least to a point, but I really hate that girly, helpless, I need a man for everything attitude.  Too dainty to walk very far.  Too dependent to hold her self upright after a couple of glasses of wine.  Too cold to hold the cold soda that she asked for.  Give me a break!  Puh-lease!

Judy and Laura had a lot of whispered conversations.  I really hate that!  I know it happens.  Frequently even.  Especially among women.  But it’s just so annoying, and I think rather rude when in the midst of company.  They sat in the back seat of my car as I drove into the city and they were whispering to each other.  They wanted me to turn on music, but in order to be able to hear each other talk, it had to be turned down so low that you couldn’t hear it anyway.  After one song I turned it back off and no one noticed for almost 10 minutes.

I felt a little bit like I was bullied into the whole situation, because Judy wanted it and she always seems to get her way.  I’m realizing as I write this that Judy tells people what they’re going to do, but she does it in such a way as to feel as though you’re being asked when in fact you’re not.  And it’s not until later that you realize you’ve actually been manipulated into doing what she wants.  Generally what she wants is harmless enough, but that’s so not the point.

And then there’s the biggest confusion of all.

Without really giving it any thought or even really being aware of what was happening, I found myself admiring… Laura.

I’ve liked Laura since I met her.  She’s funny.  She’s smart.  She’s personable.  She’s self-assured.  She’s athletic.  She seems to be very happy.  She’s always seemed a bit of a tomboy, which is fine if that’s your thing. Not butch, not masculine, just… Tomboy.

Something that has always bothered me about women, if you haven’t already picked up on this, and which should have probably given me a clue about myself sooner in life, is the helpless, needy, dainty, girliness of them.  I know that I’m treading on dangerous waters here, since the majority of my readership is female, but still…

I never wanted to be with someone I had to do everything for.  I always wanted to be with a partner; an equal.  I want someone who when they ask for help carrying in the groceries they mean help not do it for me.  Better yet, someone who won’t ask for help.  That would be awesome!  I want to be with someone who, when they get a wild hair to rearrange the furniture, asks for my input, because that’s the only thing they need from me, not my “help” because they want to point and direct while I push all the furniture around.  Someone who wants to remodel the bathroom together, not have me do all the work (which is a joke, because I’m as unhandy as you can get.)

I wanted to be with someone who is strong (physically and emotionally), capable, independent, but who can clean themselves up, throw on a nice outfit and be attractive and sexy for an evening outing.

The point is, I wanted to be with someone who was independent.  Someone who didn’t need me for every little thing.  Someone who is perfectly content to do things on their own but who enjoys doing things with me.  I want to be with someone who wants to be with me, not needs to be.  I want to feel wanted not needed.

Growing up, I was sure I was never going to find that, but if I some how did, it would be a woman.  It had to be, there was no other viable option.  For the last few years I’ve been sure I was never going to find that, but if I somehow did, it was going to be a man.  Men are my thing, and since I’m not sure I’ll ever truly come to terms with that, I fully expect to be alone for the rest of my life.

But…

But…

But I haven’t stopped thinking about Laura since Saturday night.   It’s all very confusing.  And there are a lot of reasons for this to be confusing.

I have no idea if Laura is interested in me.  Sometimes I think she might be.  She enjoys talking to me, and naturally, that can’t possibly be just because she likes me as a person…  I’m realizing now, that whatever her motivation, or the extent of her interest, she does show genuine interest in knowing me.  She bought me lunch once when we were meeting with a bunch of people to review skills.  She hasn’t done that for Micah.  She bought my drinks on Saturday, even though I had already handed her money for them.  She didn’t buy anything for Micah all night. She walked with and talked to me all the way to the parking garage and back to the club.  After just a couple of minutes with Micah, she came back to talk to me on the next walk.  She presumably wanted me to come on this outing with them, at least that’s what Judy said.

Laura, seems to me to be all the things I described above: strong, capable, confident, a partner not a clinger on.  She’s tough and athletic which is something I’ve always found appealing.  But when she took her hair down, and she wore the high heels, never once complaining about how hard they are to walk in, and walked a lot. She looked beautiful; sexy even.

Laura is also too young.  She’s only 22.  I’m 35.  There’s a whole span of history and culture she knows nothing about and I do.  I’ve strongly adhered to the “half your age plus seven rule of not being creepy”, which clearly dictates that I can’t be with anyone under 24.

Also, in case I haven’t mentioned it previously… Laura is a girl.  A full-fledged girl with floppy chesticles and a real vagina… I assume.

I never truly ruled out the possibility of accidentally falling in love with a woman.  Lord knows, a part of my heart always has and always will belong to Heather, but Heather is safe and those feelings are far more about the unconditional love and acceptance I get from her, and not so much about physical or sexual attraction.  Heather represents something I’ve never had in my life and I never expect to have again.  Laura… Laura is something new.

But I have been with a woman.  I know what it’s all about.  I’ve performed oral sex, exactly one time, on a woman and I was quite sure, from that one time, it was not something I ever wanted to do again.  I can’t imagine feeling differently about that, just because it’s a different woman.

It would be horrible of me to try to get over it and fail.  How could I do something so hurtful to someone I cared about?  The risk is too great, and not worth taking.

Besides, this may all be one-sided.

~

I’m blowing this out of proportion.

I’m sure.

Laura is something I don’t often seen in women, something that I like and I’m sure that’s what this is about.

It’s novelty.

It’s not real.

It’ll pass.

It’s all in my head.

It’s very confusing.

I Survived to Tell the Tale, Will They?

On the first night of my EMT class my teacher, Mr. Williams, spent an inordinate amount of time talking about how hard the class is (he was right) and how most of the students weren’t going to make it to the end (he was right) and about all the possible ways that we might get kicked out of the class (lot’s of people did.)  He was quick to tell us that we weren’t going to be able to get through the class on our own (I did) and if we were smart we would form study groups early and rely on each other (wasn’t for me.)

Mr. Williams talked for a good forty-five minutes about how most of us were doomed to failure in this arena and when he was finally finished, I thought, Oh thank God.  That was ridiculously unnecessary.  Finally we can get on to the business of class. And then the “co-instructor”, Mr. Harvey, got up and said a lot of the same things… with a st-st-st-studder.  This guy went on for a good twenty minutes saying all the same things that Mr. Williams had just said, just sl-sl-sl-slower.  Obviously, Mr. Williams repeated a lot of the things since it took him twice as long as Mr. Harvey to say it.

When Mr. Harvey was finished, I breathed another sigh of relief and looked at my watch.  More than an hour of the first class had passed and we hadn’t really even started yet.  Finally we could get to it.

Um, the TA got up next and, you know,  um, said a lot of the same things, you know, that um, you know had already been said.  Um, he included a lot of, you know, “um”s and “you know”s, you know.  But, you know, um, things were looking up, ’cause, um, you know, he only spent five or ten minutes, you know, talking about it.

This is getting ridiculous! I thought to myself as I consciously instructed myself not to take any of it to heart and not to let them succeed in discouraging me.  I was determined to finish the class and not allow the naysayers to shake my resolve.  One by one, each of the instructors, and helpers and former students and possibly a janitor, anyone who wasn’t part of MY class, got up in the front of the room and told us about how we weren’t going to be able to finish this class and how it was going to be an impossible struggle for each of us.  Finally, everyone had spoken but one.  It had been nearly two hours and I was desperately ready for us to move on and do something productive.  Mr. Williams turned to the one young lady who hadn’t spoken yet and asked her, “Do you want to say anything?”

“No,” she said, “that’s OK.  You guys have all pretty much covered it.”

“Ah, c’mon,” he chided.  “Everyone else has talked.  You might as well too.”

So she did. She got up in front of the class and told us all how this class was going to be the hardest thing we’ve ever done (not so sure about that) and how many of the students wouldn’t make it to the end (she was right) and that we would just have to work really hard to get through (have you read my blog lately?)

That first night, the class, which was supposed to be over at 9:20 lasted until after 10:30.  I left determined to do my best.  Determined not to let him rattle me.  And determined to do everything in my power to prove them wrong.  I also left that night determined that I wouldn’t spend a minute longer dealing with that man than I had to.

~~~~~

On my last night of class, after finishing my final exam and earning a 90% on the 167 question test, I told Mr. Williams that I wanted to come back and “just sit in” on the next class, my motivation being to keep refreshing the information.

Mr. Williams said, “JUST sit in?”

I said, “Well, I guess I could help out, if you want.”

“Good,” he replied enthusiastically.

I walked out of the room that night surprised how much the situation had changed.  I still think his tactics are less than productive and I would rather see him be encouraging and supportive but he’s going to do what he’s going to do.

~~~~~

Mr. Williams seemed to be pleased that I planned to come back and I assume he wants to put me to work with the new bunch of students.  I had assumed that he would contact me prior to the start of the class to talk to me about his needs or expectations and any arrangements that might need to be made, but it’s pretty cut and dried, I guess; show up, work with the new students.  I never heard from him the whole six weeks.

~~~~~

Two weeks ago, I looked at the on-line course catalog to find out when he was teaching so I could be sure and show up to the first class.  It said that this semester Mr. Williams was teaching a Tuesday/Thursday class.  I thought about the first night of my class and wondered if it would be similar.  Mr. Williams mellowed a lot over the course of my class, and I wondered if we’d be dealing with a kinder, gentler Mr. Williams, of it would be the return of Captain Blood.

I didn’t really want to have to make a speech in front of the class about how horrible this is going to be for them, but I remembered the last girl to have to speak in my class and imagined he wouldn’t let me off the hook.  I began to formulate my speech in advance:

“Boy, they made it sound really bad didn’t they?  It’s not really; or anyway it doesn’t have to be.

“If you came here tonight thinking this class was going to be easy, you were wrong.  If you came here tonight thinking you were going to get by just listening to the lectures, but not reading the book, you were wrong.  If you came here tonight thinking, this class was going to be a lot of work, you were wrong.  If you came here tonight think this class was going to be a lot of work, take however much work you thought this class was going to be and double it, or triple it.  It’s going to be at least that much work.

“If you’re not committed to this class, to learning the material you might as well not waste your time.  BUT, if you’re committed to learning this stuff, to doing well in this class and if you’re willing to make the sacrifices for the next four or five months of this class to make sure you do, then you can forget everything they just said.  Just work hard, do your best, and this can actually be fun.”

I imagined giving my speech and wondered how Mr. Williams would feel about it, but I wasn’t going to participate in the fright fest that they tried to create my first night.

I decided to leave work early on the first night, so I cold get to the class ahead of the new students and check in with Mr. Williams and be there for the whole class.  So I left work, yesterday at 4:00.  I went home to change clothes and feed Mischa.  If my class was any indication, I could expect the class to run very late and I didn’t want to make him wait ’til I got home to eat.

I showed up to campus about 4:50 and after running by the restroom and stopping at the concession stand to get a drink, headed into the building that housed our classroom…

And found a sign on the door stating the Tuesday/Thursday class to be cancelled.

I called Mr. Williams.  Turns out they cancelled the class due to funding and he’s teaching the Monday/Wednesday class again…  Which means, I missed the first night of class altogether.

Trying Something New

It’s 4:30 and, at least in theory, it’s almost time to go home, but I’ve been itching to write.  I didn’t know what to write though and all the traditional advice keeps going through my head:

“Just start writing and the words will come”

“Write about what you know”

Something, something, something “…bits and pieces.”

OK so that last one wasn’t really so much traditional advice as it was me thinking about how some people just write little snippets, almost bullet points about their day, lives, experiences or whatever.  I’m not really good at snippets and to me bullet points are outlines just waiting to be expounded upon.  Brevity is not my friend.  But let’s see…

~~~~~

I’m thinking Jafet and Hashima know something is up, maybe feel some of the same things I do.  When I got to school Monday night, they were both already there and parked in a different area than we all normally park.  They weren’t in the classroom when I got there though.  They didn’t really give me the cold shoulder when they came in, they just didn’t really talk to me much.  Then again, I didn’t really talk to them much either.  Wednesday night was more of the same.  We had our first skills test and while people were being tested the rest of us were out in the hall practicing other skills (or at least we were supposed to be.)  Jafet was “all business” talking only about the test we had that night.  Hashima was with another group all together.  At the end of the night when we were all parting ways in the parking lot, Angelina, another person from our study group was getting into her car and before she sat down she said, “By everybody.  See you this week-end.”

I don’t know if there is a gathering planned that I wasn’t invited to, or if she’s making an assumption that we’ll get together and study again.  Not a big loss, just feels weird, like things are unresolved…  I suppose things like this usually stay that way though don’t they.

~~~~~

I took Monday off to rest and review for the test Monday night so coming back to work Tuesday was a bit of a shock, especially when I got here to find out that both of the Department Secretaries were out of the office and I had to cover for both of them and do my own job, including catching up from my absence on Monday.  So when Wednesday rolled around, it didn’t feel like a Wednesday and I actually forgot that I had to leave at 5:00 to get to class.  I left at 5:15 and got to school with about 10 minutes to spare.

Last night was our first practical assessment over maintaining the airway, again the details about this aren’t important, just know that it’s among the most important things for us to know how to do, ’cause if you can’t breathe, none of the other life-saving measures I might take will matter.  This is the skill that our teacher told us from the beginning we get one shot at and if we don’t get it right on the first try, we’re out of the class.  No pressure there!

I arrived to hear Jafet and some of the other students discussing some changes to the procedure as we’d been practicing it.  They were also discussing the results of the mid-term.  Angelina told me that I got the highest score in the class (a 91%).  Then she told me three other people were right there with me but she could only remember two names.  She said she got this information directly from Johaun the TA.  Later I mentioned to Johaun that I thought it was interesting that other people knew my grade but that I hadn’t heard it, nor had there been any indication that I was going to find out.  He told me he had not told Angelina any grades and that I had gotten 92%.  Whatever.  So I passed.  That’s all that matters.

~~~~~

Angelina was the first person to do the Airway Practical and when she came back several minutes later she said it was easy; that it was nothing like we had practiced but that it was easier than that and we didn’t need to stress out about it.  I wasn’t really stressed about it, I just wanted to get it over with.  Our teacher had put so much pressure on us and on the outcome of this test, I just wanted it to be done.

After Angelina, the teacher decided to test two people at a time and he kept coming out into the hall.  He looked right at me, more than once and then selected other people.  I knew he was saving me for last because he loves to fuck with me.  I hate him.  Two people who I am friendly with failed the test.  Without getting into too much detail that doesn’t matter, Cole failed because he measured an oral airway as if it were a nasal airway, a stupid mistake that he realized right away was dumb.  Cole is the smartest guy in the class in my opinion and he knows how to do Airway, he should have been given more of a shot than that.  David let the teacher shake his confidence.  He was doing things right and the teacher asked him if he was sure about how he measured the nasal airway.  He changed his mind when he should have stuck to his guns and the teacher failed him.  At the end of the night the teacher called the two of them back in the room and said, “I don’t normally make exceptions, so what do you guys want me to do?”  He told them he’d let them know by Friday whether he’ll let them come back Monday for another shot.

At the end of the evening the teacher came out into the hall and asked us how many of us still hadn’t taken the assessment.  I and three other people raised our hands.  He said, “OK, you four will do your test on Monday.  Everybody go home.”  I was annoyed.  I thought, Shit!  What time is it? I looked at my watch but it was only 8:55.  I was (am) livid!  According to the catalog, my class is supposed to be over at 9:20 but he has kept us there till nearly 11:00 more than once because he can’t keep his act together long enough to conduct an effective, efficient class and get our weekly tests done and then he sends us home 25 minutes early with only 4 more people to test?!?  It wouldn’t have taken more than 10 minutes each if that and I would have gladly stayed 15 extra minutes to get all the tests done.  My hope is that he had every intention of giving Cole and David another shot and so he’s going to do the six airway practical exams on Monday night.  He just thinks he has to be a hard ass so he has to let them stew about it.  If he’s going to let them come back than I can understand, and don’t mind as much having to wait an extra five days.  If he doesn’t let them come back then I’ll be pissed.

~~~~~

The longer the night went on, the more people started asking each other – and me, –  “Did you do yours?”, the more frustrated and annoyed I became.  I knew he was going to make me the last one.  About 8:30, when he pulled yet another duo of people in there after looking at me, Angelina said, “You’ll be fine.  Don’t worry.”  I said, “I honestly don’t care” and I realized, I meant it.  Of course I don’t want to fail, and I’m not going to drop the class but I honestly don’t care if I fail.  I do not like this teacher, I do not like the people he’s working with, I don’t really even like the people in my class very much and I’m tired of being in this situation.

If I fail the test and I’m expelled from the class, I won’t be devastated.  I won’t be angry (I might be a little angry).  I won’t cry about it.  I’d probably be relieved.  I’d be happy to be out of this situation, and then I’d go home and finish reading the text book and learning all the stuff, and then I’d take the class again next term with a different instructor (Maybe at a different school) and try again.

~~~~~

Today we had fire drills at work.  We did half the building and we’ll finish tomorrow.  We had fire fighters with us but only two (usually four) and they weren’t cute.  My Fire fighter was not here today and if my stalker calculations are correct, he doesn’t work on Friday ever (must be nice) and so he won’t be here tomorrow.  Oh well.  Maybe the third shift will be better.

Well, there you go.  I guess my bits and pieces plan didn’t work out so well.  Maybe next time.  (But don’t count on it.)

Half-Way

Gosh, I hardly even know where to begin.  I’ve got so much to say and hardly any time to say it.  It’s been 13 days since my last post and if you’ve been jonesing to hear from me half as much as I’ve been jonesing to write, well, that’s a hell of a lot of jonesing going on!

I had my mid-term exam last night in my EMT class.  It seemed to be pretty easy and the teacher said he didn’t think there was any way anyone in the class could fail so I don’t think I have anything to worry about.  Tomorrow is the first of our skills tests.  It’s a one on one test so I don’t know when I will do mine or if he’ll be able to get them all in in one night, but I’ll be glad when it’s finished.

The test is over managing the airway (assisted ventilations, supplementary oxygen, airway adjuncts, etc.)  If you don’t know what those things are, don’t worry about it.  It’s not important for this story.  What is important is, it’s a pass/fail situation with only one shot to get it right.  I’ve practiced it many times and I feel confident that I know what to do and will pass, but still I won’t relax until it’s done.

This last week has been a bit stressful for  me emotionally.  It started with the instructor “reminding” us, one week before the mid-term that there are four chapters that will be on the mid-term that we never discussed or tested over in class.  I had planned on using the review week to review the information we’d studied so far and get a head start on the rest of the reading for the year.  No such luck.  In spite of that, I sort of put off the reading until the last minute.  Really shouldn’t have done that.

Friday night, I got a call, around 10:30 at night, from one of the guys in my “study group”, Jafet.  He was studying at his house with another person from my group, Hashima.  Jafet and Hashima were friends before this class started and I thought I was becoming friends with them.  Jafet called me to ask me to explain something that they didn’t understand.  (Apparently, I’m the know it all of the class.  A moniker I do not wear proudly.)  I answered Jafet’s question the best I was able and then I hung up to go back to my own reading.  Half an hour later, my phone rang again.  Once again, Jafet and Hashima wanted me to explain something they didn’t understand.  I tried to tell them where to find the diagram that depicted what they were asking about and they didn’t want to look they just wanted me to explain it.  I explained it the best I could, though they complained about how detailed I had gotten, and then before we hung up, Jafet asked, “What time are we getting together tomorrow?”

“Um, we’re not,” I answered.  “The whole group is getting together on Sunday.”  (A whole big bunch of the class was getting together to study.)

“Are you going to that?” Jafet asked.

“Yes.”

“Good, me too.  What about tomorrow?  What are you doing tomorrow.”

“My laundry.  I told you, I’m going over to my friend’s house to hang out and do two weeks worth of laundry.”

“What time are you gonna be done,” he pressed.  “Let’s get together, I need help.”

I told him I could probably come over in the evening but wasn’t sure.  He told me to come over at 8 and the last thing he said before we hung up was, “Bring some questions for me.  I need a lot of help.”

What about me? I thought as I hung up the phone.  I need to study too.  I still have 150 pages to read.

I actually finished my laundry fairly early and Michelle was going to her parents house in Berkeley while her step-sister is in town, so it sort of worked out OK.  I texted Jafet when I was leaving Michelle’s house to find out if he still wanted me to come over and to see if it was OK for me to come earlier.

I arrived at his house at 7:40 and made my way into the family room to start studying.  Jafet, for his part, wandered aimlessly around the house for 20 minutes.  He called Hashima and she told him she’d be over in half an hour.  “So what questions have you got for me?” he asked.

“None,” I told him, “I’ve been doing my laundry.”  For nearly an hour, we went through the work book and tried to study.  I’d ask him questions and he’d answer.  He’d ask me questions and I’d answer.  I’d ask him questions and he’d make a phone call.  I’d ask him the question again and he’d get up and walk out of the room.  I’d ask him the question again and he’d start telling me a story.  And then at 8:45 he told me he had to run to the store.

“You’re going to the store?  Now?” I asked in disbelief.

“Yeah.  I’ll be right back,” he told me.  Hashima still hadn’t arrived and eventually it became clear that she wasn’t coming at all because she couldn’t get her daughter to sleep.

“If you’re not back by 9:00, I’m leaving,” I told him in my most stern voice.

He chuckled, “What?”

“If you’re not back by 9:00, I’m leaving,” I repeated.  “I didn’t give up valuable study time to come over here and help you so you could go grocery shoping while I sit in your house.”

He handed me a bag of mediocre peanut butter filled pretzels (which I obviously ate), like it was going to keep me there.  “I’m not going grocery shopping.  I’ll be right back.  I’ll take the mustang,” he told me like that was going to make a difference.

“If you’re not back by 9:00, I’m leaving,” I said again, “and the clock is ticking.”

“OK, OK” he told me before wandering around the house looking for his keys.

Ten minutes later (at 8:57) he wandered in through the back door with three snack sized bags of chips and a pack of cigarettes, in his hand.

Newly nic’ed and gorging on spicy funyans (ick) he sat down and re-focused on the task at hand…  for a little while.

We went through a couple chapters of the workbook, “Becoming an EMT”, “Well-being of an EMT”, “Lifting and Moving” and his ADD kicked in again.  He began telling stories and making jokes and disrupting the process.

Throughout the evening, Jafet’s husband Bryan was in the front room watching a movie, on surround sound, with the volume at movie theater level.  Twenty minutes after Jafet got hom from the store a friend of theirs came in.  She was apparently going to spend the night in their guest bedroom.

About 9:20 I watched as Jafet poured himself, what I was certain was not his first “cocktail” of the night (can you really call a cup of ice with vodka and Diet 7-Up a cocktail?)  This, I have learned, is regular behavior for Jafet, because why wouldn’t you drink vodka while you’re studying for a test?

Not long after that the trouble started.  Technically, maybe I started it, I don’t know.  You be the judge.

Jafet, I have learned, grew up in the Bronx, New York.  He is Puerto Rican of descent and with the exception of a fairly stereotypical “lilt” to his voice he has an accent reminiscent of J-Lo.  He comes from a large family.  He talks a lot.  He tells a lot of outlandish stories.  And he’s very opinionated and out spoken.

Over the weeks that I’ve been getting to know him and Hashima, I’ve heard both of them use the N-word on multiple occasions.  Hashima, as you might have guessed by her name is black.  (In my opinion, that doesn’t matter, and doesn’t make it OK for her to use that word.)  I’ve heard them use the word many times and every time, I’ve bristled but I’ve kept my mouth shut.  On Saturday, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut any more.

I don’t honestly remember what I said to start the conversation, but I told him that I really dislike that word.  He asked me why and I told him it was hate speech.  I told him I didn’t believe that was his intent behind it but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a hateful word and I hate to hear it used.  He went on to tell me that it’s OK to use the N-word if you are one.  I told him I didn’t agree with that, and even so he isn’t.  He told me he was and proceeded to show me camera phone pictures of old grainy photographs that could’ve been anything and told me they were his older siblings.  Both of the pictures were of noticeably black people, with stereotypical black features, i.e., the lips, the noses, the hair texture.  Jafet possesses none of those features.  He looks latin through and through.

He told me that, of course, I couldn’t get away with using the N-word because I’m white, but that he can.  About this time, Jafet’s husband, who is as white as I am, walked into the room and Jafet said, “He Bryan, how does my family use the word N____?”

Bryan paused before he said, “N____, N____, N____!” He chuckled.  Jafet Laughed.  I looked him straight in the eye without a hint of amusement.

Jafet laughed some more and said, “See! N____, N____, N____!  It’s no big deal.”

“It’s a big deal to me,” I told him.  He proceeded to try to convince me that it was OK.  He went on and on about how they use it in his family all the time.  “It’s not uncommon to look at somebody across the table, call them on their bull shit and say, n____ please!”  More laughter from him.  More lack of amusement from me.

Then he pulled the, “Using it takes the power away” card to make his argument.  He went on to mention other words that people have used through time to refer to minorities in a derogatory manner.  A C-word used for asian people, an S-word which, to be honest, I don’t even know what group it refers to, that’s how far removed I am from that kind of thinking.  And then he asked me, “Have you ever been called a fag?”  Of course I have “How did you respond to it?”  I didn’t.  “I always ask them ‘how’d you know?'”

I reminded him that it was still more hate speech and that his choice to react that way doesn’t change that fact, and I believe, it doesn’t take the sting away.  He got back to the topic of the N-word and used it several more times, giggling all along the way.  Finally, I spoke up.

“Look,” I explained, “I’m not telling you that you can’t use that word.  I’m just telling you that it offends me and I wish you wouldn’t.  But now you’re just going out of your way to say it, on purpose, because I told you it offends me and that’s just not funny!”

And then he said it, the one thing that, the more I think about it, the more it upsets me, “This is fun.  It’s fun fucking with you.  I’ve been waiting for this.  Hashima told me to fuck with you a long time ago, but I told her no.”

I left shortly after that and I think I’m done.  I’m disappointed, to be sure.  I wanted to like Jafet.  I thought I did.  I wanted the three of us to be friends even after this class is over and for a little while I thought Jafet and I had bonded a little bit.  Now, I don’t think so.

~~~~~~

The instructor who teaches my class, as I have mentioned before is an ass hole, though to be fair he has mellowed out a lot now that half the class (and half the term) is gone.  From the beginning he has pushed some major buttons in me.  If I wasn’t very careful, he could have retriggered some serious self doubt and derogatory emotions that I used to put on myself and only recently have I been able to quiet those thoughts.  Without some serious vigilance on my part, my teacher could have re-ignited those fires and sent me in a tale spin that might well have had me failing the class and crashing head first into a bottle or the pharmaceutical bin (antidepressants), or both.

For seven weeks, I’ve been so diligently monitoring those experiences and feelings and activities, that I completely failed to notice two other serious pit-falls.  In my desperate need to be liked and approved of and validated by others, I have compromised myself.  Not my integrity or my morals so much, just my self, my personality, my me-ness.  I have gone along with things that I knew deep inside I shouldn’t.  I accepted situations and responsibilities that I didn’t want to accept.

And more importantly, I ignored my instincts.  I pushed away that small voice that guides us; the one we would all be better off if we would listen to more often.  The one that told me, you can’t trust him.  His stories are too much.  He’s a liar. The voice that told me, he’s an alcoholic and you should stay away. The voice that told me, he’s a drama queen.  You’ll never be happy getting drawn into his world

But he’s close to my age, I reasoned.  He’s gay and he likes me and I don’t have a lot of gay friends, I told myself.  This could be an opportunity for me, I hoped.

But he’s bad news and will only hurt you in the end.  Turns out that voice knows a thing or two.  I should’ve listened.

 

I’m Still Here

To borrow a rather brilliant title from what is sure to be a rather horrendous mocumentary, “I’m Still Here.”  I know you’ve been missing me terribly!

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have struggled with clinical depression in my lifetime and as many of you probably know, anxiety, in one form or another is often the evil handmaiden of depression (as if Depression on its own isn’t evil enough.)  I have been no exception to that rule.  Pretty early into my relationship with Deb, my therapist (like, probably 5 minutes in) she “diagnosed” me with Social Phobia.

For some reason this frequently comes as a surprise to people, but I’m actually quite shy.  In person, anyway, I am very uncomfortable meeting new people, or putting myself in situations where I’m going to have to meet and interact with strangers, and even though intellectually, I know I shouldn’t worry about what people think of me there’s still that small, insecure, child-voice in the back of my head that remembers every tease and taunt and abuse I suffered at the hands of other, cruel, children as I was growing up and fears experiencing more of the same.

Deb also diagnosed me, to a much lesser degree, with generalized anxiety disorder.  It’s nothing major.  In fact, for the most part I think of it as buzzwords that loosely translate to “I don’t like the unknown!!!

Who does?

Honestly, I am most aware of anxiety in the car, as I drive to my therapy appointments.  I don’t know what I’m going to talk about (which is actually a better way to go in, even if it doesn’t feel like it) and therefore I don’t know what our 50 minutes holds and it makes me anxious.  I feel a sense of needing to “do it right” even though there supposedly is no right or wrong way to do it and I worry that I’ll get it wrong and that it will be bad.

I occasionally realize, especially when I’m deep in thought, that I’ve not taken a breath in a while.  Quite literally, I forget to breathe.  My mind mulls over the situation, sometimes a very stressful thing, and I start to feel cramps in my stomach, both a feeling nausea and the potential on-set of diarrhea, and only as I feel a sense of panic start to come over me do I realize, “oh hey! I haven’t inhaled recently.”  A couple of deliberate, deep breaths, and the cramping starts to subside, the nausea disappears and the need to rush to the toilet subsides.  And then I continue to mull over whatever I’m mulling and I forget to breathe again and the whole cycle repeats itself.

Now, let’s be fair.  I’ve learned a lot in my… five(?) years of therapy and the anxiety, both social and generalized, has lessened quite a bit (though, sadly, not been completely dispensed with.)  I know what the physical symptoms mean, and I know that, usually, a few deep breaths will go a long way to remedy them.  Sometimes that’s enough to do away with the anxiety and sometimes it’s just enough to make me aware that it’s happening and to try to manage it as best I can.  (By the way, I’ve had to remind myself to breath, no fewer than 12 times just as I’ve written this much of this post.  Almost a “chewing gum and walking” effect.  I can’t seem to breath and type at the same time, right now.  I realize I’m not breathing, I have to stop typing so I can focus my energy on taking a deep breath.  There’s a reason for this.)

Up until recently, I’ve felt like I had a much better handle on these feelings.

~~~~~~~

When I decided to take this EMT class, I knew I was signing up for a lot of work.  I knew it wouldn’t be a cake walk and that I’d have to put a lot of time and energy into it.  I had no idea how much time and energy it would require.  We have to cover three chapters of textbook a week and we have tests over each chapter each week.  THREE TESTS!!  These chapters are anywhere from 40 to 70 pages long and they’re filled with information that is important and needs to be retained and remembered.

My instructor goes out of his way to be an asshole and his general attitude and demeanor are very difficult for me to tolerate.  He’s not friendly, or kind, or supportive.  He’s determined to make the class as uncomfortable and unwelcoming as possible.  He’s doing it on purpose because the job is a high stress job and he thinks he’s preparing us for it by doing things this way, he has said so, more than once.  He might even be right and I understand that way of thinking.  But on the other hand, wouldn’t it be better to make the class as conducive to learning as possible so that we can know our stuff and then when we get out in the field we can focus solely on dealing with the stress, because we’ll have the knowledge down?

The class is very disorganized.  We have the tests first thing Monday night, usually and then if there’s time and he has his act together (which he frequently doesn’t) he’ll lecture, but there’s never time to do lecture on all three chapters that we’ll be testing over the following Monday night, so it really does depend on the reading.  Wednesday nights are supposed to be about Skills.  We break up into groups and he assigns each group to one of the volunteers from the last class who go over the skills with us, which is all well and good, except they’re not experts and as likely as not, they’re not getting it completely right anyway, and then when we demonstrate what we’ve learned for one of the two instructors we get called out for doing it wrong and made to feel stupid when in fact we demonstrated it exactly the way the volunteer had shown us, (for example, using a pediatric non-rebreathing mask on an adult sized mannequin – thanks for that, volunteer whose name I can’t remember!)

So every Monday we have three tests, one over each of three chapters that we’re supposed to read and learn and then we have not very good lecture over the materials in one (maybe two) of the next chapters.  Wednesday we go over skills and are constantly reminded that there’s going to come a time – though I’m not at all clear about when that is – when we will have to actually test over these skills and if we don’t get them right on the first or second try (except for airway at which we only get one shot) then he will kick us out of the class.

The purpose of this class is not to qualify me to get a job as an EMT if that’s what I decide I want to do.  The purpose of this class is to qualify me to take a National Registry exam to become licensed as an EMT.  As if the stress of this class weren’t enough, there is then additional stress about when and whether I’ll take and pass the written and demonstrative portions of the National Registry exam.

I’ve heard conflicting reports about what the pay for an EMT is.  Some reports have it as low as $16.00 an hour while others have it at $60K a year.  If I decided to pursue a job as an EMT that means a cut in pay, but how much of one is still up in the air.  And while I decided to take this class first and foremost because I wanted to know the information, the more time and energy I spend on it, the more I think it might be the direction I want to go and if I go through all this and then can’t make the career change, then what has been the point?  (I do recognize that this is not entirely rational thinking, but it’s still among the thoughts that are going through my head.)

I spend hours and hours and hours reading my textbook and highlighting information (I’ve completely drained three highlighters, which either means I’m highlighting too much (likely) or there’s a lot of important information that needs to be marked.)  I spend at least two hours a day at work, most days, reading or working in the work book.  I have hardly watched any television at all in the last three weeks and once I finish preparing food for the next day (or on the nights before a class, the next two days), cooked and eaten dinner, I spend a couple of hours at night reading and have been staying up way too late.

I read and read and read, and then when I’m finished with a chapter, I go through the review materials in the back of the chapter, I go over the sample questions on the last page (to which I have found no answer key, so I have no idea if my answers are correct or not.)

Then I break out the work book which does not get turned in, but is purely for my own study purposes.  I go through the materials in the work book, anywhere from three to twelve pages and then check my answers in the back.  I usually do pretty well on the mix and match, multiple choice and true and false sections, though not as well as I feel like I should be doing.  But the critical thinking sections are harder.  And the written answer questions are —  I don’t even know how to explain it.  I read the answers they give in the back and I realize it made sense and I remember all the information from when I was reading…  But I couldn’t formulate it into an answer on my own…  I don’t know what that means for my ability to make use of the information in the real world.

And then as if that weren’t enough, I download the three chapters of the book I’m working with to iTunes and then into my iPhone and I listen to them. ALL. THE. TIME.  I listen when I’m working.  I listen while I’m driving.  I listen while I’m grocery shopping.  I listen while I’m preparing food. AND I LISTEN IN MY SLEEP.  All in the hopes of retaining most of the pertinent information.  I never feel like I am.  I never feel like I know this stuff backwards and forwards and every Monday I walk into class worried that I am not going to pass the tests we have to take that day.

When I’m reading, I stress because I don’t feel like I’m getting it and I think about all the other things in my life that I’m not getting done and then I realize that my mind is wandering so I have to stop and go back to the last thing I remember reading and start over.  (By the way, I read out loud to help focus my attention on the text.  How can I read out loud, say the words, and not be thinking about them at all?  Doesn’t seem like that should be possible.  But apparently it is.)

When I’m not reading, like right now, I feel guilty, like I should be and that if I don’t get to it, I might not finish reading in time and it stresses me out.

I worry that I’m not reading enough.

I worry that I’m not learning what I’m reading.

I worry that I’m not going to pass the tests.

I worry that I’m not getting the practice I need to learn the skills.

I worry that I will learn the skills and still bomb the test, even if only out of stress and fear.

I worry that I’m not equipped to handle what’s coming when we get into the trauma portion of the materials (I don’t have a great track record with pictures of graphic things.  I don’t get sick or throw up, though that might be better.  But in my lifetime I have passed out as a result of looking at pictures or reenactments of serious injuries and I worry that this will be a problem now.)

I worry that I won’t make a good impression, or be able to handle myself, when I have to go on a ride-along later in the semester.

I worry that I won’t make it far enough in the class to have the opportunity to go on the ride-along.

I worry that I won’t be able to pass the National Registry Exam.

I worry that I won’t be able to make a good impression on a hiring manager when I start looking for a job.

I worry that I won’t be able to find something that I want to do with this new knowledge and skill.

I worry that I will get a job, only to find out that I can’t live on the salary, or that I can’t handle the working conditions or the hours or the stress.

I worry that I’ll get to the end of all this and realize that it’s not for me and feel like I’ve wasted my time and energy.

I worry about all of this, ALL of the time and I can’t shut my brain up and focus solely on what’s in front of me, the learning.

I’ve been crampy and nauseated and diarrhea-y for three weeks (you’re welcome.)  And as I was driving over to my therapy appointment on Tuesday and feeling all those things, plus the not at all unusual anxiety of “what am I going to talk about today?”, I suddenly reached the very rational realization that, “Hello!  I’ve been feeling so crappy and stressed out because I’ve been living at a heightened state of anxiety since the class began.”

So I asked Deb about Anti-Anxiety medication.  Deb is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (what that means exactly I don’t know) so she is knowledgable, but not expert about medication.  It also means she can not prescribe anything.  She told me what she knows, and helped me to eliminate some specific possibilities (I can not go on a benzodiazepine – Valium, Xanex – because they’re too “stoney” and I wouldn’t be able to function, or retain information while taking them.)  But there are some other possibilities and she suggested it might not be a bad idea to talk to my psychiatrist about it.  Honestly, I’m a little reluctant because after five and half years on antidepressants and feeling dependant on them (I’ve now been off them for about 22 months) I don’t want to rely upon more pills to regulate my life.  On the other hand, I’ve never been under this much pressure before and if it’s a temporary situation with a temporary solution, maybe I can work with that.

I contacted the Psychiatrist that I last saw at my healthcare provider and he informed me that because he hadn’t seen me in over 2 years, I had to start fresh with the intake process, which is funny because when it was all said and done, I still ended up with an appointment with him. BUT, the earliest appointment I could get is on Friday, September 17th.  What’s wrong with this picture?

I was actually going to end this post right there, because, I at least, think that’s funny, and I like to end my posts with a humorous note.  However it seems like a good idea to add a little bit of a reality check to this as well…

Up until now, we have taken our tests in groups.  Each week, we split up into our little work groups and we get one copy of the test and put all our names on one answer sheet and submit the one answer sheet with our “collectively arrived upon answers”.  Starting next week we will take our tests as individuals and it will be every man for himself.  (Don’t think I haven’t worried about that too.)  But here’s the reality:

1) I have not once, so far, been unable to finish the reading before Monday night’s class.  (I was going to add some “but”s and some qualifiers, but let’s just leave it at that.  Reading gets done in time.)

2) Somehow I became the default test-reader-out-louder-guy, possibly because I am able to speak clearly and rapidly and buzz through the test at a rapid pace, or possibly because I felt the need to take control and feel like we were doing everything we could to get through the test in the time allotted.  I usually read the question out and then select the answer I think is right.   I told my group-mates, “I’m going to just do this, if you think I’m answering wrong, speak up.”  They were all OK with that, and hardly, if ever, disagreed with my selection.  Either I actually do know the stuff when I need to, or they’re completely clueless and allowing me to lead them down the wrong path, except…

3) We finished our three tests last night (yes it was Wednesday but there was no class on Monday for the holiday) in record time.  We were completely finished more than half an hour before the other five groups.  I started to worry that maybe that meant something bad and just as I was verbalizing that to my group-mates the instructor asked, from across the room, “Are you guys done already?”  We confirmed that we had and he made some sort of comment designed to shake our nerve.  But then the Teaching Assistant spoke up and said, “No, they’re actually doing really well.”  He had already graded our three tests and knew our results.  I asked him, “We did well tonight, or we’re doing well over-all?” We haven’t gotten anything back, or any way of knowing our grades to date.  The TA glanced back at the computer screen and said, “Well, everybody did badly on Chapter 5” (chapter 5 was vitals, so, you know, that’s bad) “but over-all you guys are doing well.”

As of last night, we have an 88% in the class.  Naturally, an A would be preferable but I was a C average student in high school; I will not be complaining about an 88%!

I know all the real, rational facts about this situation.  I have a job that I’m not in danger of losing and that pays a decent salary.  If I fail (or get kicked out of) this class, I can take it again next semester (at a different school where this instructor isn’t teaching).  I’m probably not going to fail or get kicked out and I’ll do OK on the materials and testing and the certification.  I own the textbook so I can review whenever, however often and for however long I want and I can learn this stuff inside and out, at my own pace without all the pressure, once this class is over.  Time and experience and exposure will over-power any anxiety about the job and the injuries I might witness and eventually, it’ll become second nature to me, just like my job today became second nature to me.

It would be nice to think that having this rational knowledge would help to alleviate the anxiety, but you know what?  It doesn’t! Not one iota!

I sure do hope the psychiatrist can give me something to help!

See Ya Around

Don’t worry, I’m not calling it quits on this blog by any means, but for the next few months, I wouldn’t suggest you expect to see much of me.

This class has turned out to be a significant amount of work.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by that, and I’m not, really.  But it’s turned out to be even more work than I thought it would be.  I’ll be honest with you; I’m worried.  I don’t know if I’m going to make it to the end or not, but I’m sure as hell gonna do my best.  There are going to be tests every week and there’s a lot of reading to be done.  I made the mistake of not starting reading the book before the class started and even though the instructor didn’t have a syllabus for us until the second night of class, we were still responsible for the first three chapters of the book and had tests over them on Wednesday night.  Thank God I was on vacation this week or I never would have been able to finish the reading in time.

Anyway, there’s a lot of reading to do and I’ve got to fit it in around the rest of my life, [Insert panic stricken look on my face here] work 40 hours a week, regular trips to the gym, cooking and cleaning and eating and laundry and ironing and sleeping and spending time with Lil’B.  Oh and did I mention THE READING???

I’ll be around when I can.  I’ll try to post little tid-bits here and there, but since we all know, “little tid-bits” aren’t my specialty…

I’ll still be reading your blog posts  when I can, but I’m bound to fall behind on that too.  And I won’t be commenting as much (’cause it’s harder to do from my iPhone, which is where I’ll most likely be reading your blogs… from “the throne”.)

One way or the other, Class ends on December 15th.

So…  Yeah.  I’ll see ya around.