Why I’m a Wapsi Girl:
First, a story. While I was in graduate school, one of my favorite professors distributed a list of lessons she’d learned from each of us, giving us each one word starting with a letter from the alphabet (26 students… 26 letters… you get the idea). I found myself jealous of a few of them: articulate, creativity, genius, etc. I was frustrated, since I knew I could have done better work had I not been bogged down with constant migraines, mysterious physical symptoms that would lead to spinal surgery a year later, and emotional struggles from finding myself living alone (and away from my undergrad college friends) for the first time. Silly of me, I know, and I shrugged it off as I should. But when I got to the word she’d assigned to me, my eyes welled up with grateful tears.
She had recognized that I was doing the best I could under the circumstances, and that I seemed to be a life’s storms’ magnet–not a slacker, as I foolishly worried people might think I was. She went on to describe how I kept working at learning to teach writing and become a better writer even when the migraines nearly drove me to give up. She said she really admired my strength and endurance.
Let’s face it–I didn’t feel all that strong, and I don’t feel it now, either, when life has gotten even more hectic. But… I am strong. In my 28 years, I’ve seen a lot of trials. I’ve had seventeen surgeries (mostly craniofacial, thanks to being born with Nager Syndrome), fourteen years of speech therapy (and the standard inability fit in during secondary school thanks to my speech impediment), lost my mom when she was 26 and I was only nine, battled weekly migraines (sometimes daily for long periods of time) since adolescence, lost several other loved ones, and I still managed to come out of all of it with an MA in creative writing and a faith that’s carried me through all these rough patches.
Today, I’m an adjunct writing instructor at a local community college. Full-time positions seem to be few and far between, so there’s still a certain amount of struggle happening–pinching pennies, trying to find another part-time job I can handle with my migraines and surprisingly heavy workload for a part-time position, and trying to get a freelance art business off the ground in hopes that it might eventually become a full-time gig (I like teaching–don’t get me wrong, but it’s not my only (or greatest) passion, either). Just within the past six months, I lost yet another loved one to cancer and smoking. I’ve watched my elderly [grand]parents (who adopted me before my mom passed away) start to decline–Dad was just diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He’s on oxygen now. In November, I was rear-ended on my way to work, and my car slid across the other eastbound traffic lane into the concrete bridge barrier on the other side, totaling my car, and I’m still healing from the whiplash and the concussion (Have you ever tried to lecture about writing and English with memory lapses? Good times.), and the migraines are pretty much an everyday occurrence now. My hours have been reduced at work, and as I’m single and a homeowner, my stress levels have gone sky high.
Still through it all, I keep laughing, just as my mom did through her seven years of quadriplegia following spinal cord cancer. There’s still beauty in the world, and friends and family still help hold me up. I have an amazing dog, Sassy, who keeps me laughing with her smarts and silliness, and I still get giddy-excited over a new art or writing project. And I love coming across characters in books and, of course, comics, with whom I can relate. When I came across that tiny, busty character that is Monica, in many ways, it was like looking in a mirror. I’m tiny, busty (but with slow metabolism, sadly), and a total nerd girl. I, too, have demons, though, less corporeal, who try to tell me it’s not worth it… give it up. They try to tell me that the reason I’ve been single for 28 years is because there’s something wrong with me… and more crap like that. But, like Monica’s demons, my demons only have power if I give it to them.
So, I’m a Wapsi girl. Like Monica, Shelly (who shares a name with my beloved late mother!), and the gang, life keeps throwing curveballs, often when I least expect it. I get frustrated, discouraged, and angry with the universe sometimes. I don’t always manage to achieve every single thing I mean to achieve, but I also know that failing is part of being human… as is learning from those failures. The trick is to keep moving forward. I don’t know where the road leads, but it doesn’t end here, in this valley. As long as I can laugh, paint, sing, or write, I can continue to find hope and keep my faith in the magic.