Friday, October 13, 2017

The End of the "Nerdwriter" Era

(Happy 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun! This is the third of the three-part series I started last weekend.)

"Yes, I did."

"I'm fine."

"It was a long time coming."

These are a few of the responses I gave to those who asked about my (now defunct) @nerdwriter Twitter account in the first couple of hours and days after I deleted it. What, you didn't know? You hadn't noticed? That's what I had hoped and expected.

Most of you know I have a serious love-hate relationship with social media, especially Twitter. Just search "social media" on this blog's search button and you'll see plenty of posts on it. For months, I'd been considering deleting the account due to several reasons, all negative. As I said in the last blog post, I've been praying to become more detached of worldly things (which I firmly believe was why I was tempted with returning to my former life earlier this year; lots of superficiality in the entertainment business) since the 54-day Rosary novena last year. I've made some strides in that area but I decided to ask once more, during the St. Therese novena. I wasn't sure why the intention came to mind (at the time) but it did so I went with it. I had no clue that it would lead me to delete my nearly decade-long Twitter account.

I opened up my Twitter account in January 2008. I never changed the username. I rarely changed the avatar/picture. I became known as the "nerdwriter" before Evan (the famous "nerdwriter" from YouTube) did since I've had "nerdwriter" as my username in various places since my reversion in 2006. It became part of my identity. I met so many wonderful people through Twitter. I hope that I used it to spread some goodness out into the world during those 9+ years that I had it. Lots of prayer requests... lots of love and support during difficult times... and lots of good conversations.

All but one person have asked me "why?" Why did I do it? I would vaguely reply that there were so many reasons but it all boils down to it being the best option for me; one that became clear last week. Here comes the most humbling part (for me) of this post: giving you the real reasons why I deleted the account.

I was becoming vain about the account. "Look at all my followers!" "Look at all those 'favorites' and retweets!" I would try to think of witty things to tweet to get more retweets; to try to keep up with the (far more) clever folks on Twitter. If I thought something was clever and no one (or a handful of people) liked it, I'd be bummed out. While I tried to stay on the site to try to help spread good, my vanity was flattered more than was healthy... especially when I had some compliments that were (perhaps) more harmful than helpful for me. This was just the tip of the iceberg of all the negativity that social media has brought into my life so, you know, "If your hand or your foot should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away: it is better for you to enter into life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire." (Mt 18:8)

Jealousy reared its ugly head. I would get constant reminders that other writers (some of who've been blogging or on social media less time than me) were getting so much success while I could barely find freelance work outside the Catholic world. I tried to not be competitive about it but the constant reminders (which were also good because it humbled me) fed into my own doubts of being good enough. The devil knows how to attack, especially when it comes to your self-esteem. I'm so happy for those who have success... but it makes me sad that I've been at this for longer with no/little success. See why this is problematic? The comparison to others (whether I did it on my own or whether it was shoved into my face by others) is so unhealthy and it made me not think about the gifts that God has given me. What ingratitude jealousy was bringing out in me.

Anger seeped out into my offline life. You can't talk about social media without mentioning disagreements and anger. How people treated each other -- what they said about others -- made me angry. What people said about Catholics (and even the infighting on Catholic Twitter) upset me. Arguments I wasn't initially a part of but was dragged into ticked me off. Comments about how I'm this and that... how I fail to do this and that... They hurt. Look, I'm human. Negative comments affect me, probably more than others because I'm admittedly a very sensitive person. At first, they used to make me cry because they hurt. Then, somewhere along the way, sadness became anger that lasted for only a short while. That developed into unhealthy anger that lasted all day and affected how I interacted with my mom, friends, and neighbors offline (read: grumpy, irritable Emmy for the rest of the day). Those who've known me for years know this is me at my worst; Twitter brought out the worst in me.

It became an addiction that took over my life. I tried moderation but I couldn't do it. I thought I could do it but I obviously couldn't. I would take breaks (during Lent or whenever I felt I needed a break) but I would still log in because it was a compulsion. I thought I was immune to FOMO (fear of missing out) -- and I did have good stretches in which it wasn't an issue -- but ultimately, it was too much for me. I used the excuse that it was the way I socialized when I couldn't leave the house... which is nearly every day. What an excuse to keep the addiction alive, eh? I would check Twitter multiple times a day, even if I didn't post anything. I woke up and immediately checked Twitter. When I had a study break, I would procrastinate on Twitter until it was too late (and I was too tired) to continue studying. I would check Twitter twice "just in case" before I went to bed. Step away from the Twitter, Emmy!

I failed to love others and be as charitable as I should have been. This isn't just a problem for me; it's a problem that nearly (if not) all of us face when we use social media, especially on a platform as massive and divisive as Twitter. There was a lot of criticism (even if it's just done internally), a lot of griping; complaining about things others said that bothered me. Because I'm so perfect, you know. /sarcasm. Basically, I was doing a lousy job of loving my neighbor. I don't want to keep adding to that list when I go to the confessional. It's personally much easier for me to be more patient and give others the benefit of the doubt away from Twitter.

Of course, deleting the account wasn't easy, even in spite of knowing that it was bad for me. I didn't want to delete the account because I had developed an unhealthy attachment to my nerdwriter "brand." I was worried someone would take over my username once they knew it was available and get me in trouble. I was worried that people would stop reading this blog because they weren't getting linked updates. I was worried that my friends would forget about me, dooming me to further social isolation that would send me into depression. Stupid, silly fears, I (now) know.

I reached the point where I thought, "How about worrying about the stuff that mattered?" "How about taking another step towards repairing my relationship with God by cutting off what was being harmful to my soul?" "How about recognizing what my faults are (instead of criticizing or judging others) in order to work on my interior life?" (Mt 7:1-5, anyone?) It was at this point where I knew Twitter was history... and that I needed to delete it. That's why one of my last tweets was asking for prayers to find the courage to do something that was hard but necessary.

The first person I told of my plans to delete Twitter was my mother. Of course, she supported me because she was a firsthand witness to how much Twitter affected me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I waited a while before I broke it to the friends who know me the best. I was planning on waiting until November 1st to delete my account until a trusted friend (who is a seminarian) suggested I do it right then and there. No announcement, just deletion. I thought about it and it made sense to me. It would keep me from having my ego stroked by people who might tell me they would miss me or might try to convince me to stay. I did tell a couple of people (in private) whom I trusted but, overall, nearly no one knew I was going to do it. Then, I did it. Odds are, you probably didn't even notice until now because I'm writing about it.

Deleting Twitter was predictable (yet surprisingly) freeing. Remember how I mentioned that I wanted to become detached from worldly things? This was one of the biggest culprits; one of those things that kept me attached to many earthly and superficial things and feelings. I was too attached to how people thought of me. I was too attached to my "brand." I had become too attached the addiction... to the things that fed my egoism... to being "known" (even though, let's me real, I wasn't really "known.")

I thought about Sr. Mary Magdalene of the Divine Heart (formerly known as Channing Dale) who gave up her podcast and social media accounts to enter the Discalced Carmelites Nuns in Elysburg, PA a couple of years ago. She wished to be forgotten in the world but I haven't been able to because she was the first person who I knew (even if it was through social media) who wanted to give everything up for God. I still pray for her every single night and I know that she prays for me.

I thought about Br. Joseph of the Holy Family (formerly known as Mike Gannon) who, like his best friend, Sr. Mary Magdalene, gave up his accounts when he entered the Discalced Carmelites Friars of Holy Hill in Wisconsin. He briefly returned to the world of social media but gave up his accounts once again in recent months. He, like Sr. Mary Magdalene and other religious, have an immensely fulfilling life without the need of social media. (side note: I've had the immense privilege of counting him as a pen pal for a couple of years so I, at least, have that as a way to keep in touch with this great young man.)

I thought about three very inspiring women (one who I have the honor of calling one fo my best friend) who are three of the most social media-detached people I have the pleasure of knowing. One of them doesn't have a Twitter account (nor has she ever had one) and the other two rarely use it. They do have Instagram and Facebook accounts but their posts aren't frivolous and, while all three are very different, they both inspire me to grow closer to God. They share the beauty God has blessed us with, both in pictures and in words. Two are wives and mothers, one is a fellow single gal. One is known in Catholic social media circles while the other two aren't. I actually told my bestie (who hasn't tweeted in several weeks) and she was happy with my decision because, as she said, stepping away from Twitter makes her feel a lot better and helps remind her to live the life God wills for her without comparing herself to others. Amen, my sister (in Christ)!

When I asked God to help me become more detached to the world, I meant it... and, to this day, I still mean it. I want to do good, even if it goes unnoticed. Like Sr. Mary Magdalene and my friend who doesn't have Twitter, I want to live my life with simple honesty (and occasionally hidden from the world) and glorify God with my efforts. Like Br. Joseph and my friend with Twitter, I want to occasionally be out in the world and do some good for His greater glory. Like my bestie, I want to do God's will and if that means stepping away from social media than I must do that.

The best way I could think of "resetting" my interior life -- to remember just how unimportant I am and to eliminate those things which could continue leading me astray -- was to delete Twitter. THAT is ultimately why I deleted the @nerdwriter account; it became just another obstacle that kept me from growing in my relationship with God and that kept me from living a life worthy of Heaven. I'm sure there are other reasons that I can't see right now, but when I made the decision I had the feeling that when I looked at it, in hindsight, I would see that it was for the best.

It's been less than a week since I've written (and added) to this blog post (wrote most of it on the 7th but added to it on the 11th) but you can already see the immediate change. I just asked my mother and she confirmed that I'm less stressed, less irritable, and a lot more calmed and relaxed. She said, "you can just see it on your face/in your being." I think that, alone, is worth losing my username and that part of my identity.

I became "nerdwriter" upon my reversion to the faith, 11 years ago. As of now, I only have "nerdwriter" as a username on Last.fm and Goodreads because I can't change it on those sites. Otherwise, the username will never be used by me on any other social media platform. I don't plan on ever having a "public" Twitter account, especially not at the capacity I once had it. I will keep this blog's FB page open because I love interacting with y'all and you can always leave me comments on here; I'm not fully cutting myself off from y'all! I do have "catholicnerdwriter" as my username and as part of the title of this blog because I'm still Catholic, I'm still a massive nerd, and I'm still going to write; I'm just retiring the username from social media.

As I start this new chapter in my life -- which I hope means that I'm maturing in both my personal life and in my faith -- the "nerdwriter" chapter has officially closed. It's the end of that era... and I couldn't be more excited to see what the future holds! I look forward to seeing the fruits of this decision and (mostly) seeing what God has in store for me, in all areas of my life.

That's it for now. I hope some of you aren't too upset with me; I made sure everyone had a way of contacting me if they needed to. I will try to blog more often, especially now with one less (massive) time waster in my life. Back to the basics... even if no one ever reads this blog again. lol. :)

I hope you had a lovely work-week and have found a way to celebrate today's wonderful anniversary! :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

St. Therese Has Been Schooling Me

(This is the second post of the three-part series I started last weekend.)

I wanted to do something special for St. Therese of Lisieux's feast day last week but, sadly, things did not go as planned. I didn't go to Trader Joes to get some roses (the blog post picture is from a couple of years ago). I did not make any delicious French food. I was not able to watch Therese. The only thing that I was able to do was the novena and that was because Pray More Novena sent me the daily prayers/reminders every day. Little did I know that that novena would bring on a couple of changes... including one big one that was a long time coming.

St. Therese, like Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Francis de Sales, has been randomly popping up in my life lately. She and Bl. PGF were my patrons during my time at my CINO college alma mater so it seemed appropriate that she should once again pop up during my (hopefully) last academic year of this degree/program. When I started the novena, I had no particular intentions. On the first day, I winged it. I asked for her intercession on a couple of things including vocation patience (something we single gals in our 30s occasionally struggle with), motivation in school, and for help from my mom's physical pain.

The three big ones were:

  • that I become less selfish and more selfless
  • that I learn how to be more detached from earthly things
  • and that I do and see the joy in the little things as she did. 
I'll get to these intentions a little later in the blog post since you're probably wondering how St. Therese schooled me this past week. No, it was not a clickbait title; she really did show me a lot of things that I need to work on.

In the past, I've received the compliment that I've reminded people of St. Therese. To be honest, I usually don't believe these kind words but I thank those who say them to me nonetheless. It wasn't until this past week that I wondered if they saw something I did see... and not necessarily in a good way.

Most of us think of St. Therese as being selfless, gentle, meek, child-like, innocent, and deeply pious. That's how I thought about her for the longest time. A lot of people (a surprising amount of people from what I've seen on Twitter) have an intense dislike of St. Therese because of her "flowery words" and "saccharine personality" rubs people the wrong way. I guess I kind of see that but I tend to sort of lean towards that myself (trust me, these blog posts could be a lot worse, lol) so I think of her as a kindred spirit.

I'm willing to bet that many people either don't know or (most likely) forget that St. Therese went through periods of depression and was extremely sensitive. She suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and was scrupulous as a result. When she was a child, she threw epic temper tantrums, she had a lot of "excessive self-love" (as she describes it in Story of a Soul), and as a spoiled, selfish child. A question to those who've known me for years and have seen me at my worst: does that remind you of anyone? Yeah...

Like St. Therese, I've always been sensitive. We now have the term "highly sensitive person (HSP)" which my own childhood doctor. My system is just more sensitive to things, emotional and physical stimuli such as foods and medications. (I've even written a blog post on this topic). I express intense joy, anger, and heartache in tears. I've battled with depression and anxiety (on and off) for years, though it has lessened in recent years. I've definitely struggled with falling into scrupulosity if I'm not careful and don't constantly remind myself that God's love and mercy are greater than my sins; it's something I've been trying to work through for years. According to my mother, I also threw my fair share of tantrums (though she says it's because I was brought up as an only child).

I wasn't materially spoiled... but I was spoiled in other ways. My parents asked me not to work while I was in school so I could focus solely on that (and this was prior to my health issues). I've never had to pay for rent or anything like that though I do financially contribute as much as I can when I have an income. My mother, as much as she means well, will shoo me away from the kitchen (she will literally, yet gently, push me out of the way and take utensils out of my hand at times) and cook my food when she's home (and not in physical pain).

The sad thing is that I didn't realize these things until recently... around the time that St. Therese started reappearing in my life. Like I said in last Saturday's blog post, struggling with schoolwork is something that (still) challenges my academic pride and vanity. My breakdown two weeks-ish ago had nothing to do with that but it certainly didn't help to be reminded of how things once came much easier to me. I've recently been trying to work on things that have made my ego much larger than was healthy... and which will part of tomorrow's blog post. Let's just say that the St. Therese novena and having her presence in my life have been helping.


Like I said earlier in this post, I just asked for whatever came to mind when I started the novena. I'm sure the Holy Spirit was behind that because I've come to realize, a week and some days later, that it was exactly what I needed. I've actually been praying to become more detached from worldly things since I did the 54-day Rosary novena last year but I thought St. Therese would be another good intercessor for this particular intention. Obviously, she did not disappoint. lol.

It's still too early to see any noticeable results when it comes to my petitions but I have been trying to get better at these in little ways that I can do. I made a massive step towards getting better at the second big intention one... but you'll have to wait until the next blog post for more on that because this post is already too long. ;)

Before I wrap up this post I just want to say that I'm grateful that God continues to use saintly examples, like St. Therese, to help us become better versions than ourselves. While I don't anticipate ever being compared to St. Therese again (especially not when it comes in the form of a compliment because I'm nowhere near as awesome as she was), I'm also grateful to those who've helped me see that I have a kindred spirit in her... and that she can serve as a wonderful reminder of how much a person can change for the better once we place all of our love and trust in God.

I hope to have the third (and last) part up on Friday. I've actually written this the afternoon (into the evening) of the 7th. As I write this, I don't know if it'll be scheduled ahead of time (like this one has been) or if I'll just write it on Friday but that is the goal and I hope I can pull it off. :)

May God continue giving y'all a lovely week (or may He grant you a better week than you've had thus far).

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Breakdown That Led to a Breakthrough

This is the first of a (planned) three-part series that I hope to post over the course of the next week.

September 28, 2017. That's the day I had my first school-related breakdown this semester. Say it with me, "Well, that was fast!" It took exactly one month before I felt so stressed and overwhelmed that I broke down in tears. I cried because I hated how I felt: yes, stressed and overwhelmed, but also forced and trapped to finish the academic program I'm currently in. I tried not to question things -- to not dwell on the feelings -- but it was hard. I placed my forehead on my laptop (on my desk) and I cried.

Almost immediately, Our Blessed Mother popped into my mind. I imagined that she was there, being there for me during that emotionally draining time. I somehow started imagining Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (my chosen patron for this degree) kneeling down next to me, on my right, with an expression on his face that was trying to comfort me; as if he was telling me that everything was going to be alright. Then I thought about my Guardian Angel, also beside me, bringing comfort.

Somehow, the images of Mama Mary, Bl. PGF, and my Guardian Angel (thank you, healthy imagination God has blessed me with) gave me the strength and courage to push through the rest of the lecture videos -- 2+ hours worth of videos -- that I was trying to finish when the breakdown happened. I no longer felt overwhelmed. Instead, I felt a peace and consolation I could've even imagine when the tears began. Furthermore, I felt (deep down) that this was truly the path God wanted me to take. I let that peace and consolation wash over me as I kept repeating, "This is what God wants me to do. I can do this."

A quote by St. John Bosco popped up one of my social media feeds during this time, "When tempted, invoke your Angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Ignore the devil don't be afraid of him; he trembles and flees at the sight of your Guardian Angel." With the feast of the Archangels coming up the following day, I felt like God was telling me what to do in situations like that -- feeling overwhelmed and stuck doing something I didn't want to do even if I knew it needed to be done.

That breakdown was what led to the breakthrough that has led me on my current path. As I said in the beginning of this post, this is the first part of a three-part series so all I'm going to focus on in this post is the fact that it took me breaking down to realize that I was probably doing the right thing... and gave me the courage to push forward.

I've somehow managed to gain the motivation to do well and work through all the academic obstacles that have come my way. As I shared in a previous post, schoolwork had always been easy for me... to the point where my pride and vanity were greatly affected by it. Having to repeat a class for a third time, not having things come as easily for me, dealing with random health issues (stomach problems, fatigue, physical pain, etc) while trying to study and/or do exams -- all of these things were beating me down in the first month of the semester.

I wasn't doing well on my exams because of the intense mental fog I've experienced on and off (mostly on, on a daily basis) wasn't helping. I would study for hours on end and yet I couldn't remember what I was studying. My highest grade in an exam (in my classes) has been a 78% up until now. It's hard. It discourages me.

I was studying for two back-to-back exams when I had my breakdown so I understand why I was feeling the way I was feeling... yet God reminded me that this is part of His plans for me (or so I'm interpreting it this way after receiving signs over this summer). I remind myself that God will give me the fortitude and graces to continue because I am doing His will. If He wants me to do something else, I know He will make it known to me. For now, I have to keep reapplying the war paint and keep moving forward, even when I feel like I did on September 28. Thankfully, now I know that I have some amazing Heavenly allies who will intercede for me during my darkest moments.

Anyway, that's it for now. I hope to have parts 2 and 3 posted between Monday and Friday of next week. I have to figure out when I can write and post (or possibly schedule) them. I will give two hints: St. Therese for part 2 and social media for part 3. :)

I hope you all had a lovely weekend and are currently enjoying your weekend!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ladies, Don't Romanticize Your Celebrity Crushes

I wasn't going to do it. I wasn't going to blog until I finished studying... and I still have a lot of studying to do for tomorrow and Saturday's exams. I was going to wait until this weekend to blog (and I do have a few posts in mind) but then I read this article about why Harry Styles would be the "best boyfriend" the writer will never have and I had to write this because I feel very strongly about this topic.

This was the reason why I wanted to finish and publish the third novel. The fantasy world that so many young women (and some young men) live in because of their crushes on celebrities is seriously unhealthy. Social media has made it worse because it's now easier than ever to get in touch with someone famous that you like. Ladies, I'm so sorry to burst your bubble but who we usually see on interviews, tv shows, movies, on stage, etc... that's usually either a completely different persona or just one small part of who that person is. I'm going to admit that I know this firsthand because the last guy I dated is also an actor.

My ex-boyfriend presented (to the public) someone who was completely different than who he was in private. His fans thought (and possibly still think) he was this very sweet, humble, Christian guy... and I got someone who was emotionally and mentally manipulative and somewhat abusive. This was a guy who, while I accompanied him to a conference in which he made a "celebrity" appearance, thought it was funny to say "hey, look at this picture" and show me a pornographic shot (think Playboy-style) of a naked woman. I obviously looked away right away and I was sick to my stomach over the photo... but he thought it was just hilarious to defile my eyes and my mind. After we broke up and I cut him out of my life, he spread so many lies about me and he hacked into my emails and accounts to try to ruin me and my reputation. Now you see why my friends and I joke about his needing an exorcism?

The fangirls generally don't see how dangerous and how destructive some of the lifestyle choices their favorite celebrities make... or they choose not to care because of the crush. The drinking, the drugs, the sleeping around, the excess, etc. They do so many things that lead these people astray and they do these things behind closed doors because they don't want to alienate their fanbase. These girls buy into this myth that their celebrity crush is clean-cut and wholesome... or they see part of how they truly are and they glorify these dangerous actions. "This is the new Millennium..." "It's his/her life..." "Who are you to judge?" "Who cares what he/she is doing; he/she is hot..." I've seen and heard it all... and have seen them then try to emulate their crushes' actions because they want to be liked by them. Our culture is very used to Kardashian-style openness that doesn't hide very much from their fanbase... but there's still a lot that people don't see. These people have publicists and things they don't want you to know or see. Of course, just like with every profession/career out there, there are exceptions to the rule (and I still have acquaintances within the biz)... but, sadly, there are not enough good people who are honest and moral in the entertainment biz.

As someone who became a teenager in the late 90s/early 00s boy-band boom (I was a teenager between 1998 and 2004), I totally get celebrity crushes. I still get "celebrity crushes" like once every 4-5 years or so which feels weird now because I'm 32. lol. It's different for me because I usually "crush" on the talent and not so much on the person because of what I've lived through. Tom Hiddleston? A talented guy who can really act. Before Hiddleston it was James McAvoy; same reasons -- talented but it ended there. I think if I had to pick someone right now, I'd say my current "celebrity crush" might be Danny O'Donoghue from The Script because that man can write a great song... but the crush starts and ends there... and I'm still selective of which songs I buy and I wait for clean version of songs because I like my songs innuendo and cuss-free. lol.

I truly believe this is not just a celebrity crush thing. I think, sadly, many women romanticize their crushes (whether they're famous or the boy-next-door) and they project their own thoughts and feelings about them onto the person. I've lived through that myself; very few of us are immune to it. But I think it's gotten worse with the younger generation. They have this romanticized idea of what love is supposed to be like... how relationships are meant to play out... what an "ideal" boyfriend is supposed to be like, etc. All of that greatly distorts what true love is and it sets them up for heartache and unrealistic expectations.

I wish I could get more into this topic because it's one I feel strongly about but let's just say that I feel like we should do what we can to help any person who might be falling into this trap. If you yourself fall into their category, please don't think I'm attacking you. I'm just trying to help open your eyes to the reality. You do yourself, the person you're crushing, and your future spouse a disservice by living in a fantasy world. Yes, real life can be much harder and less predictable than fantasy-land... but it's also so much more beautiful and fulfilling than whatever fantasy your imagination can come up with. Not to mention, if you fall into lustful fantasies about your crushes, you need to get to the confessional asap. Slippery slope, y'all.

Okay, I think that's all I'm going to say for now. I've already spent too much time writing this (as quickly as I could) instead of studying. I just needed to get this off my chest.

Anyway, I hope you're all doing well and I hope to write again this weekend... if I can get Saturday's exam completed early.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Why I Decided to Share This Decision With You

I wasn't going to do it. I was going to wait until I was finished to drop the big surprise on everyone. On this blog, I've talked about a "new chapter" and a new long-time project but very few (we're talking probably a handful of) people knew what I was talking about it. Then last week happened and God made me see that I'd made my decision to not say anything partly out of fear of failing horribly and partly due to pride. What a prideful moment I would've had in telling y'all that I (God willing) finished something this big. However, I could feel God telling me, "Share it. You could use the prayers. No lady is an island." So, here it goes...

I returned to Utah State to finish my second Bachelor of Science in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education late last month. It was not a decision I made on a whim nor one that I took lightly. As some of you may remember, I felt like I had no clarity about what I was meant to do with my life at that time. When I made the decision to take a leave of absence in early May, I thought I was done. I thought I wasn't going to return to finish the degree... yet something in me didn't want me to leave the school completely. I asked for some time off while I figured things out. I didn't want to burden myself with more student loans and I had a slew of other reasons to not continue... except that I had one good reason to continue: it seems to be what God is calling me to do.

I actually took nearly an entire month to be sure that it was what God was calling me to do. I did a couple of novenas but the one that really gave me a huge result was the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena Mom and I made for both my health and my clarity of mind since both were answered within a week of each other.

It started with getting those amazing health results towards the end of May. Then I had this big "Eureka!" moment during which I felt like God opened my eyes. I was honest with myself about what I wanted; what I felt called to do. It was when I honestly said (and told some of my closest friends) that I felt like my future will be me focusing on my family and not so much a career that I figured everything else out. In order to do what I feel called to do, I need to pay off my student loans... and what better way to do that than with a career that is in demand, especially for someone who is fluent in both English and Spanish? Not only that, I will learn to work with children, with whom I don't have a lot of experience with since most of my friends have moved away and I don't get a lot of time with my nieces and/or nephews.

I forgot who said it -- possibly St. Francis de Sales or Bl. PGF -- but I remember reading a saint's own words about how sometimes we need to do what feels like a chore in order to be able to get to what we feel called to do. St. Therese of Lisieux had to wait a while before she could enter the convent. Other saints have had to do other things before they were able to begin fulfilling their vocations. I am no saint (though I aspire to be one someday) but knowing that those much holier than I have had to wait and have had to do work they didn't want to do (and offer it up along the way) in order to achieve their goal made me want to push forward.

I'm not going to pretend that my career path was chosen solely out of selflessness because that would be dishonest. Don't get me wrong, I actually like this career path. I initially chose it because I wanted to help children with speech impediments and it's still a big reason why I'm going forward. I enjoy giving the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation (probably my favorite thing to do in the assessment process). The big kid in me loves being able to incorporate play (like, actual boardgames and toys) into therapy sessions that help a child learn how to speak more clearly. I loved my little group of 3 to 5-year-old little guys when I did some of my observation hours at a private practice. However, I also know that the (current) biggest motivator is being able to pay off my student loans. It may make me sound terrible but that's the honest answer. I love the path God has me on now... but I'm working on something greater than a career.

I still believe that God is calling me to be a wife and mother someday. It is still a dream of mine to educate my future children at home if it's God's will. I don't feel like I'm called to make speech-language pathology a long-term career (I feel like God has other plans in store for me in the future; plans that involve writing and/or being a speaker) so I won't be pursuing a Master's in this field. Once I finish this degree and do my state-mandated hours for my license, I'm calling time on my academic career. I do, however, feel like this is where God wants me right now so I'm just going to go forward and see what else God has in store for me in the future.

I wasn't lying when I said this was a new chapter for me. It is a new chapter since I'm doing things much differently this time around. I'm not ashamed to say that I have disability accommodations due to my PTSD. These accommodations allow me to get extra time on my exams so that I don't have a panic attack and blank out during exams. Oh, yes, that's been happening since I started the program 3 years ago; the little time we're given during exams trigger the fight or flight response in me. The memories of teachers (yes, teachers) and fellow students harassing me in front of everyone will always be in the back of my mind when I start feeling anxious/trapped in something school-related so the extra time allows me to take a moment to breathe and relax so I can continue taking the exam without worrying about not finishing it on time. I already witnessed how helpful it was when I did my first big exam this past weekend. I didn't do as well as I would've liked but, considering how poorly I felt (I had slept almost all day the day before and the day of the exam), I'm grateful for the grade I received and for the extra time which helped me focus on the big essay portion of the exam which was worth the most points.

Yes, I'm re-taking a class for the third time (y'all should see how many of us are repeating this one particular course) and that's humbling but that's okay. I needed to be humbled after how proud I was of my past academic successes. Perhaps that's why I also felt called to share this with y'all; to make sure I didn't fall back into that pride... and because, yes, I will need all the prayers I can get this and next semester.

This semester I'm taking three courses: the second and third hardest courses in the program (the hardest course is scheduled for the Spring semester) along with another one. I'm already incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of work and the amount of memorization I've had to do in the first couple of weeks. It didn't help that I was out of it for three straight days -- the entire weekend -- when I had my first big exam which made it difficult to recall the lectures I'd watched and the notes I'd taken. This is going to be a tough road -- one that I hope to finish (with a completed degree) in late April-early May (depending on when my final exams are scheduled).

As I told God before my exam on Friday night, I won't insult Him by asking Him to perform miracles if I don't put the effort to study myself. I'm not going to say "Oh, please let me pass... even if I don't study." No. That's why I've accepted my 64% on my first exam. I wasn't able to study as I would've liked, partly due to procrastination and some distractions but also because I've been sick. However, I do have the motivation to do and finish well now that I've gotten that score. It was the thing that kicked started my motivation because I had practically none for the first 2-3 weeks of the semester.

I know what I'm capable of (when I'm healthy) so I'm going to try to take care of myself and study as much as I can. This is where prayer comes in. I was somehow able to focus on the essay despite feeling as crummy as I did and I did so much better than I was anticipating. I know it was all God (thanks to the intercession of the Holy Spirit and St. Jude) because I actually felt alert that hour it took me to finish the exam. After that? Back to sleeping all day. In fact, I've still not recovered. I've still been sleeping all day (or barely sleeping like last night) and I have another big exam this weekend and 5 quizzes so, you know, back to praying that my health cooperates with me for this upcoming Friday's big exam/quiz bonanza... and the two big exams I have next week.

If it's His will that I finish this degree, I will. If not, I won't. St. Francis de Sales has been popping up in my life a lot in recent months and, despite not continuing with the third novel, I still have the ghostwriting gig (which, thankfully, the woman whose life story I'm writing is telling me to do when I have free time from schoolwork). I think more writing is in my future but, for now, my focus is on this degree and whatever comes from it.

So, there you have it. This is the big secret I was carrying around with me that I'd alluded to these past couple of months. In your charity, I ask you to please keep me in your prayers. Like I said, my health decided to mess around with me again (and it just began going down again only two weeks before the semester began after an unusually healthy summer -- lightheadedness and dizziness excluded) and this may just be my toughest semester (coursework and exam wise) of this program.

I may not write again until I get caught up with my studying and exams (I completely lost the first 3 weeks). After the 30th of this month, my coursework schedule should slow down a bit but I probably won't blog more than once or twice more before then. We'll see what God has in store for me.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend and have a great week. :)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D