Monday, January 25, 2016

All Grown Up

If you looked up the word "controlling" in the dictionary, you'd find full-page pictures of my parents.

A few nights ago, I went to the gym, which has a policy against the use of cell phones. That's why I often leave my phone in my locker or in my car. I engaged in a longer workout than usual, because I was lifting weights in addition to my cardio exercises.

It takes longer to lift weights, because some muscleheads at the gym (there are jerks like this at every gym) hog all the machines. They use several machines at the same time, meaning they'll work in reps, alternating among the different machines. If you dare to sit down at one of the machines in between one of their reps, they'll be on you in a heartbeat, insisting that they're "still using" it, even though they're also using three others. If you ever see a story about a woman in a small Southern town who got kicked out of her gym for "accidentally" dropping barbells on obnoxious lunkheads, that just might describe me someday.

Anyway, when I got back to my car, I found not one, not two, but more than half a dozen missed calls and irate messages from my parents. I was worried at first that something was wrong, like maybe one of them was in the hospital or one of their dogs had gotten hurt. But once I called them and they started yelling at me, I soon realized that they were worried that something was wrong with me.

Why, you might ask? Because I didn't answer my phone at 9:30 at night.

Although I am thirty-four years old, have a full-time job (and a part-time job), have three degrees, and have not lived with my parents since I was eighteen years old, they still act like I don't know what the hell I'm doing with anything, so they believe that they still call the shots on my life.

My mother and father actually called the police in Small Town twice, because they wanted the cops to go to my apartment and make sure I was okay. The police declined to do so, and they told my mother (I kid you not), "Ma'am, I'm sure she's all right. She's probably at Walmart or the gym, because those are pretty much the only places that are open right now." (They were right, seeing as how I was at the gym.)

I was (and still am) angry that they called the police just because they couldn't reach me for more than an hour. They think that I shouldn't go out at all at night, because "it's not safe."  If I can survive Chicago, I can survive in a small town.

I live in an apartment building full of students, including some of my own students. What if they had seen the cops show up at my door? This is a small town, and everyone knows how quickly gossip travels in a small town. Even if I tried to clear things up later with the truth, some people might still hold on to their false speculations.

I could just see my face plastered all over the local evening news, and the news anchor saying something like, "A local college teacher was questioned by police and will most likely NEVER TEACH AGAIN! In other news, there are no news! And now, on to the weather!" I'm still relatively new here, and I'm anxious to make a good impression on my employers, especially because I want them to renew my contract. I can't have gossip about the cops showing up at my door spreading all over the school where I teach. I mean, seriously!

My parents have always been controlling, but ever since I turned eighteen, I started standing up to them more and more. I first rebelled by choosing a major and career that I wanted, not the ones they wanted for me. To this day, if I dare to talk about a problem I'm facing as a teacher, my mother will say, "Well, you chose that career, so..."

I didn't back down to my parents when they got mad at me this time, either. I told them that they couldn't expect me to be at their beck and call, and that I had a right to go out whenever I wanted.  I know that they truly believe that they were just looking out for me. But why are they so worried now, yet they didn't show me any sympathy when I was in the EMERGENCY ROOM last year, and acted like it was my fault that I suffered from serious health problems (which I still haven't fully recovered from)?

I'm all grown up now. I'm not going to follow their "rules" for my life. After all, what are they going to do if I refuse to obey them? Ground me and make me go to bed early without any dessert?

But one thing I'm still learning to accept is that they will never change. I heard or read somewhere that the only thing that I can change about people like them is the way I respond to them. So it's one thing if they keep trying to control my life every chance they get. That doesn't mean I have to let them. And I never will.

What about you? Have you ever struggled for control over your life, your work, or something else?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bad First Impressions

When I'm not working, there isn't a lot for me to do at night in Small Town, other than try not to cringe and scream, "SHUT UP, KNOW-NOTHINGS!" at the people on Fox News, which is always showing on the majority of the TVs at my gym, or go to Walmart and see how many Confederate flags, mullets, and/or pickup trucks I can spot in one visit (last count was twenty-seven).

That's why I was glad when a guy I met invited me to go out for drinks with him and his friends. It wasn't a date, just a friendly invitation. One thing about the people in Small Town is that they're generally pretty friendly (though I still get stared at suspiciously from time to time by random people, who can tell that I'm an outsider) and are always inviting me out to socialize with them. Coming from a big city, where strangers are more likely to rob you, attack you, or chase you down the street for no reason, this was very unsettling to me. (Even a simple "good morning" from some stranger on the street is still enough for me to grab my pepper spray or my keys, just in case.)

I have to admit, though, that even though it wasn't a date, I wouldn't have minded if it was. I won't say how I met this guy, just in case he comes across this blog and recognizes himself, but I will say I didn't meet him online. I've only socialized with him a couple times before with other people, never alone, but I know him well enough to know that I like him. I like the fact that he's attractive, smart, and just a little bit nerdy without being creepy.

Of course, whenever I'm around a guy I'm attracted to, one of two things will happen: 1) I clam up and act like I'm indifferent to him, or 2) I do or say something completely stupid, which will usually make him cringe inwardly and suddenly lose my phone number.

Unfortunately, when I went out with this guy and his friends, the second thing happened, despite the fact that I drank soda, not alcohol. If I drink alcohol I will: 1) fall into a crowd of people ; 2) start talking extremely loudly and stupidly; or 3) start singing and encourage other people to sing with me (all of this has happened).

We were talking about online dating at one point, and then all of a sudden it was like my brain floated out of my body, leaving my mouth unrestrained.

My mouth: And then my mother called me and said that I'm 34 and my biological clock is ticking, and...
My brain: Oh, my God! Stop talking stop talking stop talking!

My mouth: On the other hand, I would like to have at least one or two kids, hopefully soon, and...
My brain:  What are you doing? You might as well tattoo the word "IDIOT" on your forehead!

My mouth: I would like to get married someday, but I'm not sure if I could stay faithful to someone for the rest of my life, because...

I've been on enough dates to know that you NEVER talk about marriage or babies on the first date, because that's enough to make any guy run in the opposite direction. And the thing is, this wasn't even a date, like I said. But I was nervous, shy, and I hadn't been on a date in months, and unfortunately my brain could not get my hand to slap myself in the face to stop myself from talking.

I'm worried that I've totally ruined any chance I might have had with this guy, especially because it's been a few days and I haven't heard from him. But I will get to socialize with him and his friends, who, despite my babbling, invited me to hang out with them again soon. Hopefully I'll make a better impression the next time, though I'm not sure if it'll be enough to make up for what I said before.

What about you? Have you ever made a bad first impression on someone? Were you able to overcome it, and if so, how? 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

I Wish Karma Was Real

A few weeks ago, I was driving along the highway when I caught sight of a large dog walking in the grass by the road.

I stopped my car by the side of the road and approached the dog slowly. Fortunately, it didn't growl at me or try to bite me. Instead, it seemed timid and frightened. I couldn't just leave the dog there, because I knew that the image of it wandering alone by the highway would haunt me forever. It made me think of last year, when I saw an already-injured bird die after it was run over by a car. I screamed when it happened, and then I cried because I didn't save it. I had to make up for that now.

I managed to coax the dog into the backseat of my car. The dog smelled so bad that I had to open my windows, even though it was cold. She (I think it was a girl) was wet and muddy, and a small, selfish part of me lamented over the fact that my brand-new, sparkling clean car seats were now dirty. It seemed like the dog had been outside for days. I stopped by a convenience store and bought a cup of water and a bag of chips for the dog. Judging by the way the dog gobbled down almost all the chips, it seemed like she hadn't eaten for a few days either.

The dog didn't have a collar or any tags, and there were no houses near the place where I found her. It made me think that some evil monster had dumped the dog by the highway.

I wanted to take the dog home with me, but my building doesn't allow dogs. It doesn't seem fair that my neighbors, who scatter cigarette butts and trash all over the parking lot and wake me up at 2 A.M. with their parties, are allowed to live there, but dogs are not.

I took the dog to an animal shelter nearby. They were very nice and assured me that they would take good care of her. I asked if she would be euthanized eventually, but they said they hadn't had to euthanize any of the animals in more than a year (the nearest no-kill shelter was more than an hour away; the dog was getting antsy in my backseat, and I wasn't even sure if they would take her). I was sorry to say good-bye to the dog, but I left hoping and praying that she would find a good home.

The whole situation made me feel sad and angry. I felt sad that I couldn't adopt the dog myself. I felt angry at the scum that abandoned her. I also felt angry at all the drivers that had passed the dog (she was very large, so it would have been impossible to miss her) without stopping.

It made me wish that karma was real and that eventually whoever left that beautiful dog by the side of the road would get what he or she deserved. But sometimes I wonder if karma is real. Not long after I helped that dog, I came down with the flu, which meant I spent almost half of my Christmas vacation in bed. I had all these plans for my time off, too. (That's also partly why I haven't blogged in a month.)

It made me think of how I tried to help people before. Once I helped push an old man in his wheelchair across the street, but then he got mad at me because I wouldn't stay and "socialize" with him. I used to bring doughnuts to a homeless person, until he got mad and demanded that I bring him sandwiches instead. I offered to help an old woman struggling to go down the stairs with her cane, but she screamed at me and threatened to hit me with the cane.

I don't wish bad things on any of those people, but situations like those make me wonder if being a good person is worth it. It's not like I hope to get something out of helping people (although a "thank you" would be nice once in a while), but sometimes it seems like good things only happen to the most selfish and inconsiderate people in the world (like one person who shall remain nameless, but whose name rhymes with "chump".)

What about you? Do you think karma is real? Did your attempt to help someone else ever backfire?