Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Daily Adventure: Spoiled

I was kind of confused and amused as to why Tillie is on this sign?
My daily adventure is not so much going to a new place, but experiencing an old place with a new perspective.

As I said in other entries, I have been spending a lot of time at the beach, helping to fix up a lot of the issues with our shore house. The house has two bedrooms, but it is only 750 square feet. My brother was with us for the first time in a while.
I told him, "For about 24 hours, I considered renting this from the family so I could have my own house for a while."
In reply to that, he said, "The problem is, it's just so small." (This is coming from the guy who considered building a tiny house, which is only like 250 square feet.)

It's true that I feel a bit claustrophobic in the house, but in all honesty, it is much larger than a lot of apartments....almost all apartments in major cities, actually. It's larger than the space in which the majority of the world population live. So, it sounds extremely spoiled for those words to have come out of my brother's mouth, but honestly, I feel the same way, because we were both raised in a huge house...Despite all of our problems, we have the luxury of the private space to get away from one another when we need to. Once you've lived that way all your life, it's really hard to go backwards.

Growing up, I used to always think of myself as "poor", because I was comparing myself to the kids I went to school with. We never went to Disney World. I never had great clothes. We  went on and off of food stamps over the years. I could go on and on about why I classified myself as "poor"...but lately, I feel rich.

Nothing has changed. In fact, in a lot of ways, money has gotten worse for all of us ever since 2008. We are struggling with money, but my family has so much that other families do not have, and it has taken me until now to fully appreciate it.

This isn't bragging, so much as a call to everyone to just step back and appreciate what you have. If you are on the Internet reading this blog post right now, that means you are more wealthy than the majority of the world's population. I don't know who you are, but I already know this:
 a) You have some kind of expensive technology to read this on. If sold, the money from that device could feed a family in a third world country for years.
b) You have internet access- either at home or somewhere near your home. Which means you are in a developed country/area, and you are not being denied access to information.
c) You have the luxury of free time to be reading this, instead of working crazy hours in a sweat shop or fields somewhere until you are ready to pass out from exhaustion.
d) You have the education to know how to read...and not just any language, but English, which is one of the most-used languages in the world.

I could go on, and on, and on. Some of you may roll your eyes, and think, "Well obviously. Are you going to tell me to finish my all of my food because children are starving in Cambodia, too?" 
I bring this up, hypothetical sassy reader, because all of us are so ingrained in our society to believe that this is "normal"....That anything less than 1,2000+ square feet and vacations to Disney every year is "poor." And it's just not. I can be at the bottom of the barrel in life..and trust me, I have. I have hit Rock Bottom, but the Shannon version of Rock Bottom will never be as impoverished and destitute as much of the world. And for that, I am grateful. Really, truly coming to that realization and internalizing it as part of my identity is an adventure within itself.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Summer's Starting

I don't know why anyone would want to read this blog, when all I ever talk about lately is rocks, but according to Google Analytics, I still get views on those entries? So here it goes...

A week ago, semester ended, and my campus job stopped along with it. I was sort of worried about myself. I got used to having a paycheck to count on, and sadly, my business hustle had slacked a bit when I concentrated more on work. I thought, "Will I be able to make enough money? Will I make it? Will I get bored?" Thankfully, this past week has been jam-packed, and I am so happy that I do not have work anymore until September.

My brother Phil has been in a lot of tennis tournaments, since he is on varsity. This is his senior year of High School, he will graduate in June. He got accepted to an honors program for engineering, and he has so many scholarships that college is almost completely paid for. I have been slowly buying everything he will need to live on campus; shampoo, razors, a mini-fridge, etc. etc as my graduation present to him, because I do not want him to have to worry about necessities the way I did.

The Peacock was sitting next to the Bald Eagles as if trying to show them up
On Mother's Day, we went to the Cape May Zoo, which was fun. Being anywhere outside on an 80-degree day makes me really happy. The winter was so long and terrible, it was making me depressed. On the drive home, I was a passenger, so I could look at the trees and feel just so content and happy to be alive. I seriously thrive in the heat.

My brother John graduated with his Bachelor's in Bio-chemistry, and we heard a NASA astronaut give her inspiring keynote speech. Again, our whole family had a great day outside and going out to eat.

Any spare time in-between all of these outings has been spent hustling to get more merch online, and my sales are pretty good. Since the holidays are over, I can finally use my SwagBucks to get myself free stuff rather than getting presents for everyone else. I got the new Alpha Sapphire Pokemon 3DS game, and I'm ordering professional photography lighting so I can improve my product pictures. I'm easy to please when it comes to "toys", so all is good.

Well, you can probably guess what's next- I went to the secret beach again and gathered more rocks.
Here is a photo of an example of some of the rocks I find. A couple of those are semi-translucent, so they may actually be sea glass.

When my dad saw the rocks on the driveway that I brought home a week or two ago, he said something that I did not expect;
"These rocks from the beach are really pretty...and the best part of them is that they are real. The gravel we bought before was man-made from breaking down larger rocks. I like these rocks you brought home so much better, because they were made by God."

I was taken aback. All I could say was, "Wow, I didn't think about it that way, but it's a beautiful sentiment, Dad." I really do love anything that is All-Natural, especially when it comes to food, but it made me realize that in a way, once it is done, it will be sort of a luxurious driveway. Not many people have stones hand-picked and delivered from the shore. Recently, I have been thinking about all the improvements I would pay for at my parent's house if I could afford it. I would rather put money into my future inherited property than wasting it away on renting some shitty studio somewhere. Sadly, I can't afford anything at all right now, so the best I can do is help with saving money on things like this.

When I was at the beach a couple days ago,  I was not alone. One woman was tanning in a chair, and another elderly woman was just sitting in her car with the windows rolled down. I think she just wanted the peace of being at the beach. It was cold and windy, so I understand why she would want to stay in the car. I actually felt bad that the lady had to listen to my shh-shh-shh-shh noise shaking the sand out with my strainer, and left as quickly as possible so she could get on with her peace and quiet. 

Sometimes I get embarrassed over the stupid things I do like gathering rocks, but seeing these two women got me thinking- They are there literally doing nothing, and no one would judge them negatively for sitting and listening to the waves. They are decompressing, deep in thought, relaxing. I am doing the same thing, except I am spending my time here trying to reach a goal. It also made me realize that maybe I am doing this to satisfy my need to be in control of something.

When I was in High School and College, my goals were very clear. There was an obvious beginning, middle, and end. There was also an end-date in sight, and everyone knew what to do in order to succeed. Just study, work hard, get good grades. It was that simple, and I succeeded at that. I was also really in love back then. I thought that I had found The One, and that when I graduated college, things would all just fall into place. Even when my ex and I broke up, I always knew deep down that we would end up together again. When we did, every time, it would re-assure me that everything would be OK, A weight would lift from my shoulders, and I would feel like I am not crazy or stupid for holding on to my feelings, and I could still end up with my perfect Happy Ending.

Ever since entering "the real world", I feel like nothing in my life fits perfectly like a puzzle piece anymore. Nothing is simple, and almost nothing has a clear-cut path within my control. I can market and advertise for my business, but ultimately, I cannot control if or when people buy anything I put online. I cannot control the economy. I cannot control what sort of inventory I can find- it's all luck and timing, mixed with persistence. I also cannot control if I will ever find love again, but honestly, that is on the back-burner while I am fighting to make a real career for myself.
Some of my family members have told me that they don't think I can make it. Again, I feel the familiar emotion over and over that I am crazy and stupid for holding on to this idea, but I am really stubborn, because I see other people who are succeeding, and I think, "If they can, why can't I?"

When times get tough, I can't tell myself, "You just have a year left to go", the way I would in school. This is Real Life, so there is no telling how long it will take me. I wish my future self could come back in a time machine and say, "It's OK! Only two more years of this, and you'll be fine!" I think if that happened, I would feel alright, because I could endure the bad times knowing that there was an end in sight. That's just life. I will never know if I will ever get anything I want, and all I can do is fight for the things that are within my grasp, and climb higher from there.

Since these rocks are a different color than the driveway's previous gravel, it's easy for me to see my progress, and know that there will eventually be a time when the project is completed. It's tangible. It's something that I can walk outside and see growing with every bucket I bring home. For some people, decompressing is about just sitting and doing nothing. I guess for me, I need to know that my efforts can actually make something better.
So, even though my family is shaking their head, they think it's stupid, they think it's pointless- it makes me happy. It is almost like a physical manifestation of what I am trying to do online, except that I can see the driveway's progress in front of my eyes, while my online success is intangible. Hopefully, even if it takes years, if I keep gathering more buckets, it will eventually be a full driveway. Maybe, even if it takes years, if I keep working for my small victories, it will eventually be a full career.
At least, I hope so, anyway.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

I'm Ruined Forever

Yes, two laptops were necessary. And I spent 8 hours in that chair.
I joke about it a lot, but I really, truly am ruined from ever going back and getting a "normal" job ever again.
Ever since I started my business, once I accepted part-time work again at the college, it was such a small amount of hours at night and with summers off that it was totally fine. However, this week, since they needed extra help for final exams, I had a temporary schedule that forced me to do all of the things that normal full time 9-5 workers do.

When times are tough with my business or if things are not progressing as quickly as I would like them to, I consider just giving up my business, caving, and finding any full-time job....if I could even find one in this economy.

I recently made a whole post about wanting to be a work-at-home or work-at-my-own-studio mom some day in the future so that I can basically be Wonder Woman and not let a nanny raise my child 100% of their life while I am slaving away at a law firm 60-80 hours a week...but since I am still single, and there is not even a guy in the picture, it's hard for me to make my children that are years away from existing the only motivation to keep going. I want to make list in order to motivate myself any time I wonder, "So, WHY am I killing myself over this business again?"

Reasons Why I Am Ruined Forever:

1. Traffic.
I like driving. I like traveling. I actually love being a passenger when I travel, because I can give myself permission to read one of the many magazines I subscribe to and yet never read, or play on my Nintendo 3DS. But I DO NOT like driving in traffic. It has been so long since I had to deal with rush-hour, I forgot how horrible it truly is. It takes literally 10 times longer to get anywhere than it normally does. The time stuck bumper-to-bumper is a huge waste of nothingness. Unless you are listening to an audiobook or spending quality time with someone you carpool with, waiting in traffic is the least productive thing you could possibly be doing with your life. I am so Type-A and such a multi-tasker that it drives me insane. I can only imagine the time wasted in traffic would add up to days, weeks, or months of time off of your life that could have been used in better ways. Being stuck in traffic this week did not stress me out, because I knew it would only last a few days, but I am reminded now that when it becomes an every day occurrence for me, I get really frustrated, and that turns into road rage.

2. Stress
This sort of goes hand-in-hand with traffic, but stress comes from sooo many sources in the work place. This is one of the major reasons why I chose not to become a lawyer. High blood pressure runs in my family, and I tend to stress-eat, so it is just an unhealthy thing to get on a daily basis.

3. Gossip
I have been so socially isolated for the past year that once I was re-introduced to female gossip...I hate it So. Much. I already hated it to begin with, but now that I lived for so long without being forced to deal with it, I truly can't handle all of the negativity. Why can't we just do our jobs and leave each other alone? I know that gossip is unavoidable when you work in a company or an organization that has hundreds of employees, and you are there all day long, so it feels like a small village. Most of these people spend more time with one another than they do with their own families. So I get it. I understand. I just don't care, and I do not want to participate.

4. Exhaustion
This part really hit me on my 9-hour day. All I was doing was sitting in a chair. A nice, fluffy, comfortable office chair. The work I was doing was not hard or stressful. It did not require a lot of brain power. It was literally the easiest job anyone could have... and yet I was ready to pass out by the end of the day, and I needed twice as much caffeine to even stay awake all day long.
I work at my home computer all day long, and it is normal for me to spend 9 hours sitting, but I do not get tired. I still have plenty of energy to go out and live life. I guess the key difference with working at home is that I can get up and walk around whenever I want to. I can drive to the store and come back. Get up and cook a meal. Do some chores around the house to get a little bit of light activity. Those little breaks keep me going longer throughout the day, and it makes me more productive.

5. Bad Eating Habits
Despite the fact that I prepared ahead of time, ate a healthy breakfast, and packed a really healthy lunch, I still went home after my 9-hour day wanting to eat anything, not really caring if it was healthy or not. I stuffed myself that night. It reminded me of the days when I used to work at a bank office, and I gained so much weight. When you are exhausted, it really is just so much easier to go get fast food. If you're too exhausted to shop and cook, how can you be expected to stay healthy?  I was too tired to prepare healthy snacks for the next day, and it kind of snow-balled after that, and I need to get myself back on track. It's honestly no mystery why Americans are so fat. We are too exhausted to make the right choices for our own bodies!

6. Lack of Control
Along with gossip, I listened to a lot of legitimate concerns my co-workers had...And unfortunately, my answer to those issues was, "Well, neither of us can do anything to change it."
I think and talk so much about global issues, and yet I do not even have the power to change an issue within the community where I work. I have no control over that, but with my business, I have 100% of the control. If an issues arises, I think or write out the potential solutions, and I make a decision based on my best judgement. Sometimes, I am wrong, but there is no one else to blame.
With my business, my actions are direct causes and effects. When you work with other people, the decisions of the people higher up have caused a trickle-down effect that can screw you over, and you have no power to stop it.

7. Missing Out/No Freedom
When I had to request off to go see something my younger brother had participated in, I actually felt sort of angry. I got over it really quickly, but after being free and independent for so long, my initial reaction was; what do you mean I can't just do whatever I want, whenever I want? I do not like missing out on anything, especially if it is something that is a milestone moment for my family. I helped raise my youngest brother Phil, so I really like showing up to his events whenever I possibly can. I know that it's just part of being an adult to miss out on fun, but I have been functioning as an adult for a while now without missing out on anything, so it's really hard for me to go back to the old life without feeling trapped.

The terrible thing is, I actually have it really good where I work. I like my co-workers, I like the location, the atmosphere, and the tasks I am doing...I could make an even longer list about the reasons why I love that job, and yet I still find problems with it, which is why I say I am ruined forever. I told myself, "If you got a full-time job here, this is the best you could possibly ask for in the 25-mile radius."
I know that a job is a lot like a relationship. Nothing will ever be perfect. Everything has faults. And yet I cannot imagine myself living out the rest of my life working at this place.
My business has faults too, but I can imagine myself doing it until the day I die, hopefully well into my 90's. There are some faults and stresses that you can live with, and others that you just can't. So I'm ruined. I need to be an entrepreneur.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Daily Adventures: Rock Hunting

After finishing up the last day of the semester this morning at work, I got home, and my mom said she was going back to the shore house to do some repairs. I took the opportunity to...you guessed it, collect more rocks! I took my phone with me this time, so I could actually take a couple pictures so you know what I'm dealing with.

As you can see, The Secret Beach is REALLY rocky. You do not want to be frolicking barefoot, ever. My mom said, "What you're doing is sort of a public service."
"Yeah, people should appreciate me," I replied.

There was a large pile of sand and rocks near the front entrance, probably because someone from the
township had attempted to level out the sand as much as they possibly could after Hurricane Sandy. I mostly stuck to that pile, since it was the easiest to gather rocks from. I had my bucket and a little sand-sifting shovel that worked perfectly for what I needed.

I found some pretty blue sea glass, straight-up broken glass, and...a used condom. I stayed 4 feet away from the condom at all times. Not it. Not me. That's not my job, I thought.
Honestly, I don't blame the original owner of that condom. I mean, come on- it's a secret beach! Taking a girl to have sex on a secret beach? Talk about romantic. I just bet they would appreciate what I'm doing, because uh...I can't imagine that their night was very comfortable.

I only spent about 10 minutes there. My mom and I got to see a beautiful sunset, and I am going to put a pretty decent dent into adding gravel to my driveway. If I keep this up, the project should be done by the end of the summer.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dreams and Desires

After I graduated college, I was feeling really conflicted about what I should do next in my life. I had to make tons of charts of pro's and con's, but I still felt lost. When I have a specific goal in mind, I do it really well. If my goal is "Do well in school", I get straight A's. But if you say to me, "Well, you have these 10 options here, but no one is going to tell you which path to go on."...I end up putting my efforts all over the place, and it led to a lot of frustration.

Then, one night, a little over a year ago, I had a dream, and it gave me an epiphany that changed everything.
I think I should mention that my dreams are extremely vivid, and this one was probably the most realistic dream I have ever experienced. It was more like a future-memory.

I was in a park, and I had a daughter. She was a little over a year old...maybe 16 months? She had brown hair, and she was wearing this cute but comfortable outfit. Actually, the clothes were sort of gender-neutral, but for some reason, I just knew she was a girl.
The park had this pond, and we could see a row of evergreen trees off in the distance, across the water. It was in the morning, maybe around 9 or 10AM, and that section of the park was empty. I have never been to this place in real life, but I had this sense that we were in a city. I also felt like it was a rare moment that we had that pond to ourselves. 

My dream-daughter, who does not even have a name, was toddling over to the edge of the water. I was feeling nervous, and I was at the edge of the bench seat, ready to jump up if she needed me. I was coaching myself in my mind, Let her be independent. This is really good. She's exploring.
My daughter looked into the water, as if she was studying it, but she did not step in it. She looked up to the trees across the pond, and began yelling, "DAAAAAAAA!"

I smiled, and laughed, realizing that she is calling out to her Dad, as if she could call his name from anywhere and he would be able to hear her.
"Daddy's at work," I told her. In that moment, I had a sense like my husband was working a lot, maybe traveled a lot, but he still had a really good relationship with our daughter. I do not know who my future husband is going to be, and my dream did not show me. I just had a sense that he had a good job.

In that moment, I had this sense of contentment. I could feel in my soul that I was in a good relationship, and that I loved him very much. I also knew, in that moment, that while my husband was at work, I was making money from home with my business. In a split millisecond, I felt a sense of elated appreciation for being financially independent, and being able to be a stay-at-home mom and simultaneously run the business, because it actually made me feel more secure in having a daughter. I knew that no matter what happened in my marriage, I would always be able to provide for her.

My daughter turned around to look at me, and looked back at the pond, then back to me again. She continued, "Daaaaaa!" as if to say, Thanks mom, now that I know he's at work, I know where to direct my voice.

I smiled, shook my head, and decided there was no point in trying to explain. I decided to join in.
"DAAAAAAAADDDD!!!" I yelled.
My daughter giggled, and looked at me as if she was surprised. "DAAAA!" she yelled again.
We kept going back and forth, yelling, "DA!". If anyone passed by, I'm sure they would think I was nuts, but I didn't even care. She was laughing, as if she was beginning to realize that her Dad would not hear us, but she was having such a good time that I was trying to help in her game. She eventually stopped trying, and walked over to me, putting her arms up for me to hold her.

I picked her up, and it was so vivid, I could smell her. I could feel the weight of her body. I was holding her, and she was hugging me. Without words, I could feel how much she loved me. It was a moment of perfection, because the entire world melted away. In that moment, I realized that I did not care about anyone's opinions of me, except my daughter and my husband. It was a moment where I knew I had everything I could ever ask for. I was filled with more joy that I have ever felt in my entire life. I did not even know that joy like that was possible.

Then, I woke up.

It has been so long since I had this dream, I thought I would write about it without getting emotional, but I am welling up just thinking about it. That day, I actually cried when I woke up, because I felt like I had lost my daughter. To feel this love, and then wake up and know that she never existed, or only exists in the future, was tragic to me. I miss her. She felt so real to me.
Normally, when I think about having kids, I am terrified. I do not want them. So it was completely out of left field for me to have a dream like this. However, in those dream-circumstances, yes, I would want her. I want that husband, daughter, and career back more than anything.

After that dream, I realized that it was my subconscious telling me what I really want, and what would truly make me happy. It suddenly gave me more focus on what is important, and what choices I can make in my life that is going to bring me back to that place. I try and imagine it as a future-memory, and the choices I make have to help me get to that perfect Future Me that I imagined. Honestly, if that is my perfect dream world, I don't think I am asking for much.

For the past year, if I ever began to feel defeated with my business, and I ask myself, "Am I doing the right thing? Should I look for a new job?", I just had to think about that dream, and it set me right back on track. Because of that dream, I now know what my personal definition of success is, and I know what I need to do to get there. I am actually really stubborn about it, and I will fight to keep trying until I reach my goals. I can see the end result of what I am fighting for. It no longer matters whether any other person on this planet understands that about me or not, because it's my truth.

I wish this entry had a more general application. All I can say is, if you want your own epiphany dream, maybe sleep more? Meditate? Drink green juice? If you really focus on the question, "What Will Truly Make Me Happy?" the answer will come.

Maybe I Was Wrong?

Is it sad that I am completely shocked that the right thing is actually happening? The 6 police who were involved with Freddie Grey's death are actually being charged with manslaughter. One is actually being charged with second-degree murder. So there will possibly be justice for Freddie Grey?
Yesterday, I wrote that things are not going to get better, but maybe they will...At least, it's a step in the right direction. I am currently watching Vice's live stream of what's going on in Baltimore's streets, and the police force is more than excessive right now.

If these police officers are convinced, it may actually change something. All it takes is one case like this to set precedent, at least in Maryland.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

This world needs healing

This blog doesn't have a consistent theme. It's really just about me, and things that interest me. Last week, I wrote out a whole blog post about my future, my plans, and all of that, and then there was an Earthquake in Nepal. A tiny little baby, stuck under the rubble for 20 hours, was discovered alive, but orphaned. Then, the Baltimore riots began happening. People are angry, and they have a right to be...but their anger turned into blind rage and violence. So, ignoring current events to write an entry that is very "me me me" didn't seem right. At least not yet.

My Dad keeps telling me that something big is going to happen in 2016. Something is going to happen that is going to completely change our society as we know it. He is a big conspiracy theorist, so I always blow it off, and sometimes I yell at him if he talks about it for too long, because I don't want to live my daily life with gloom and doom on my mind. I am already cynical enough as it is. I don't want to live my life without any hope whatsoever that things are going to get better.

However, I hate to say it, but lately, I feel like it just won't. Not any time soon, anyway. Even if there was some small victory, like putting cameras or microphones on police officers, that is only solving one issue in the grand scheme of things. Racism is alive and well, even though we are an entire generation after the 1960 Civil Rights Movement. When I was learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in school, and we learned about the Civil Rights Movement, it seemed like this moment of "That was then, and this is now. Things are different now." I don't see it that way anymore. Yes, maybe things are better, but they are not where they need to be.

When I think about the world and how many problems there are, I realize that there will never be any single person, no matter how rich or powerful they may be, who can swoop down like Superman and save the day. If a Miss America candidate stands at the microphone and says, "I want World Peace," then it means she doesn't read enough. Wanting to fix the world is, I now realize, a naive notion reserved for students and 20-somethings.

However, an individual has the power to make a difference in their own community. Maybe it is only a difference in one person's life. Maybe it is just making a positive difference in one town or city. If every single person on this planet had the goal of: "I want to make this world a better place", then, with our combined powers, it would be.  

Personally, I spent all of 2014 doing nothing with my life except working hard and building my business, and I honestly felt pretty empty. I have always been involved in some form of community service for years, and to have a year without it just felt like, "What the Hell am I doing with myself?" One of the happiest days of 2014 was the one and only day I actually did community service.

It was my fourth Thanksgiving helping the Key Club with their annual lunch. I had participated when I was a High Schooler, but I spent the past few years going as an adult chaperone with my younger brother Phil. Many of the people who we serve food to at this lunch are addicts, and their families disowned them. Some of them live in shelters. Many of the people in the room had special needs, or were so elderly that everyone in their life had passed away. If it was not for the Key Club Thanksgiving Lunch, they would spend the holiday alone. I smiled so much that day, and felt so much love an appreciation coming from these complete strangers who would have otherwise been alone on Thanksgiving. At the end of every lunch I have served, I always feel incredibly blessed, because I get to go home to my own family. For all of our issues and quirks, I still have a family who wants me home for dinner.

Sorry, I guess I turned this entry into another form of "me me me", but I only bring it up as an example of how I think people are upset, angry, and empty a lot of the time, but maybe if they experienced the joy of helping others, the world at large would be better. If people actually enjoyed helping one another to find comfort and happiness, rather than only focusing on themselves, I think we could get closer to solving the issues at hand. At least, that's just my opinion.