travel

The Guts to Get Out by Deidra Dallas

I meant to post this on Saturday, but then this happened:

All is mostly well. Several homes were lost (not mine, just to be clear), the baseball field is destroyed, and there was some damage to the track and a whole bunch of junk blown around. No serious injuries and no deaths, so we escaped relatively unscathed. Still scary and life changing for people near and dear to me though.

So because of that, graduation got moved to Sunday and then the older brother flew back home Sunday and then best friend and I decided to be healthy and do some exercising and then I had to watch the Game of Thrones finale so the Internet wouldn’t ruin it for me and then I sang at the junior high awards assembly and then… well, a few days late is better than I’ve been doing, so I’m gonna take it.

But anyway, read this knowing it should have been posted Saturday.


Today is the day I had the guts to get out.

Today marks the official one year anniversary of resigning my position as a teacher. Or to quote my best friend’s mother-in-law, today is the day I had the guts to get out. It has been a year that has felt simultaneously as if it contained about 15 years in one and also as if it was maybe just the longest month of my life. Everything has changed and yet nothing feels different. It is an extraordinarily exhilarating and confusing feeling.

I have been asked by many people if I regret leaving. I always laugh and cut them off before they can even finish the question. No. Never.

There have been moments I have missed it. Watching the kids I’ve known since they were little bitty perform in their last ever musical or One Act Play, I shed a few tears, I’ll admit. (I’m sorry, daughter of mine, for sobbing on your shoulder that one time, and thank you for letting me.) However, I do not regret my decision to leave.

Over the last year, I have changed more than just my profession, though, and so I thought I’d share some other things that have changed or that I’ve learned about myself in the last 12 months because who doesn’t love a list?

Top 12 Things that Have Changed in the Last 12 Months

  1. I can admit that I was depressed (sometimes still am because depression doesn’t just go away) and that I have at least a mild case of anxiety. It has lessened since I removed myself from situations that caused it to flare up.

  2. I am not angry as often. I am not stressed. I can breathe freely. Seriously -- I don’t hyperventilate anymore and I haven’t had a panic attack in months.

  3. I am not afraid to be with my own thoughts anymore. I no longer need to drown myself out with Netflix. I can read (something I hadn’t done in awhile) or, more importantly, I can just sit and think. There is power in just sitting and thinking.

  4. I don’t drink as much as I used to, and I eat better. My body is not 100% yet, but it’s getting there. I knew that mental and physical health were tied together, but I never really knew until now because now I actually want to take care of myself -- I have a craving for it.

  5. I’ve stopped involving myself in drama and with dramatic people because I don’t need the distraction of their lives anymore. (I also don’t see teenagers on a daily basis, which helps, love them as I do. And I deleted Snapchat. I highly recommend deleting Snapchat.)

  6. I’ve learned and am still learning to say “No,” even to my own family, which is hard. So incredibly hard. But I’m done with obligation, and it is definitely okay to say no.

  7. I cry more easily because I’m not bottling everything up anymore. Movies, TV shows, books, plays -- they make me sob. In public. A lot.

  8. I love traveling alone. I also like traveling with my dad and with my older brother and with the rest of our family. Traveling is no longer an escape from life, it is a driving force in my life. I am working towards visiting all 50 states. I’m over halfway there.

  9. I don’t want children. Maybe I will again someday, but to quote the older brother -- I just got free again; why would I want to change that? I love being an aunt, and I’m good with just that role.

  10. I love being alone. I am sick of people (including myself) trying to stop me from being alone. I do not need someone to complete me whether that’s a partner or children. I am not a whole person only when I have become a wife and a mother. I am a whole person right now.  

  11. I am better at things than I give myself credit. I don’t give myself nearly enough credit, still. Luckily, I have a best friend who tells people I am working on a novel when I gloss over that fact. Feels funny still to say “I am a writer,” especially since I don’t yet have any proof. But then again, it’s not really about proving it to anyone besides myself.

  12. I feel more like myself than I have in over 10 years.

Yeah, that last one was kind of sappy and I do despise sap, but I really needed a 12th one to make the whole idea here work, soooooo…

I am a whole person right now.

As Lin-Manuel's Washington Would Say "Pick Up a Pen..." by Deidra Dallas

I am returning from a two week jaunt on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The average temperature this time of year is about 20 degrees Fahrenheit (on warm days) and there was roughly five inches of snow on the ground when I arrived. Most people, both those that I know and those that I met while on PEI, thought I was crazy.

Why are you going up there this time of year? Do you realize how cold it is??

You’re going for TWO weeks by YOURSELF???????

Yes, I generally told people, I’m going to go experience real winter since we don’t have that in Texas. I’m going to see snow.

Partly.

Also, and the part of me that hates being a tourist loathes this, but a bigger reason was going back to the land of Anne of Green Gables. I have been there before in the summer. It’s a different experience in the winter, and I wanted that.

Partly.

And I wanted to spend my birthday traveling and doing just exactly what I wanted to do on my birthday without doing anything that anybody else wanted me to do.

Partly.

But, really, if I’m being honest, I needed to get away from everything I was responsible for so that I could write. Only my very closest friends and family knew this was my ultimate goal. In fact, I didn’t have to tell them, they just knew.

“So…” Mom started after I told her I was making the trip (and we had hashed out the temperature issues). “You’re going to write, right?”

I don’t like talking about my writing. It makes me feel like a fraud.

I hesitantly replied in the affirmative.

I don’t like talking about my writing. It makes me feel like a fraud. I started off in life with all of these goals regarding writing. My whole life was, in fact, centered around writing. I wrote constantly throughout elementary junior high, and high school. I was a creative writing major at Texas Tech. And then I had what, at the time, I considered to be a major setback in that I didn’t get into the grad school of my choosing and so therefore, I rationalized, couldn’t pursue those goals anymore.

Which is pretty damned ridiculous, but when you’re 20 you do a lot of pretty damned ridiculous things.

So, I quit. I didn’t mean to; it wasn’t a conscience choice, but I allowed other things in my life to take priority and gradually, I stopped writing altogether. I somehow didn’t kill it, though. It survived in a small part of my brain and nagged at me constantly. I didn’t always hear it, but the whine was always present. I learned to ignore it over time because, well, it’s easier that way. I came up with excuses. All the standards: I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m sad.

And here’s something else I don’t like talking about: I have been incredibly sad.

It started roughly around the time I didn’t get into my grad school of choice and continued through terrible relationships I felt trapped in and career choices I felt forced into making but couldn’t see a way out of. 

Then, a year and a half ago, my grandma died.

We’d known for years this day was coming, so it didn’t come as a shock when it happened. Or it shouldn’t have. But it still shocked my system. This woman – who had a litany of faults that sometimes made her unbearable to be around, just so it’s clear I don’t hero worship her – shaped so much of who I have become, and I didn’t even realize it. Until I was writing her eulogy.

This woman taught me independence and spunk and not giving a shit about other people’s opinions of what they think you should be. I learned to love reading and theatre and travel watching her. (She also taught me not to be hateful and bitter and racist, but not because she wasn’t those things, so I don’t want to dwell there.)

And the moment that she left us and I had to write a eulogy for my last living grandparent, it broke me. Or rather, it broke the barrier I had built to drown out the whine that kept nagging at me to write, write, write, write, write.

It didn’t happen overnight because depression (ah, you scary, scary word) doesn’t work that way. But eventually, I clawed my way back to my original life’s goals. Wrote my way out, as it were. (BTW, if you haven’t yet, go listen to Hamilton. You’re welcome.)

I am no longer defined by the arbitrary failure of not being accepted into grad school 11 years ago.

I am no longer defined by the shitty relationships I subjected myself to.

I am no longer defined by a career that I hated.

I defy all of those things and instead proudly announce that over the last two weeks on beautiful PEI, I wrote over 20,000 words (equal to what I’ve done in the last four months at home) and am almost halfway through a novel. My newest goal is to finish a draft by the end of May.

Write hard and clear about what hurts.
— Ernest Hemingway

I am still not comfortable talking about it (so please don’t ask me unless I bring it up – like, I don’t want to talk about what it’s about yet), but I am taking baby steps.

I am also following the advice of Hemingway: Write hard and clear about what hurts.

That’s my phone background so I’m reminded every day. My lock screen says “Everything that you’re going through is preparing you for what you asked for.” Again, as a reminder of my purpose, my goals.

Maybe that’s a warning for those who may not be prepared for what I will be talking about, what I’ve gone through. Maybe that’s just life. But I don’t really care anymore. I’m done explaining myself to anyone besides myself.

I’m writing.

I’m writing.

I’m writing.

Damn. That feels so good to say.

Pick up a pen, start writing.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton