Mentally I am here.

There’s this meme that’s been going around Twitter lately of tweets that read “mentally I am here,” captioning some sort of photo, usually setting up something humorous in nature that expresses one of the many depressing vibes of 2020. But as for me, mentally, I am here.

It was the end of August in 2013. I was on vacation down the shore with my aunt and younger brother and was just beginning to come out of the deep, post-college, “shit I’m an adult now” depression that had plagued me ever since I graduated at the end of 2012, but which had especially affected my summer.

Long days of lounging poolside in the sun with my family were followed by evenings cut loose on the boardwalk, my nightly spending money from my aunt in my pocket waiting to be spent on whatever treats or entertainment I wanted. Many 22 year olds would use this as an opportunity to get wasted, but not me.

I bought delightfully unhealthy fried sweets and played my way through the arcades, as one does at the Jersey Shore. I also spent a large amount of time just wandering through the crowds or strolling to the more residential ends of the boardwalk, looking at the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy the previous fall with a melancholy eye.

Here is an ancient video from my defunct YouTube channel that I wrote and filmed on this trip!

But the first thing I did most nights was sit in the sand as close to the sea as I could while staying dry, watching and listening to the crashing waves while the never ending carnival of the boardwalk thrummed distantly behind me.

Being by the sea has been a balm for my soul my whole life, even before I knew to call it that, and this time spent quietly thinking and dreaming and occasionally scribbling away in a little notebook, was what I needed the most. And since this was my first extended beach trip since I’d received my DSLR on Christmas in 2011 I took so. many. photos. I had a list of photo opportunities in my mind that I wanted to pursue and I checked them all off.

The weekly fireworks show.

Playing with fancy settings like shutter speed by the lights of the rides.

Snapping what I could see on a walk down the jetty.

And in a little place by the part of the inlet where people fish during the day I took a whole series of these sunset sky photos.

I don’t think I can adequately put into words the feelings of freedom and satisfaction I got from my nightly wandering. I think it possibly had a lot to do with feeling in control for the first time that year. I got to determine where I went and what I did. I didn’t have to worry about the unemployed mess my life at home was, especially because my aunt was generously giving me spending money. She didn’t care what time I came back to our motel room because I was never outrageously late and she never asked much about what I’d been up to. I think I just really relished not only being my own person, but being a person who felt like I had options and possibilities.

Seven years later and this is still one of my favorite photos of myself.

I think my mind has drifted back to this particular trip now because 2020 has been a year where I don’t feel like I have a lot of control over my life, which is a sentiment I’m sure is shared by much of the world.

I know I could revisit this location now. The town still exists, after all, and I still make day trips there to this day. But I can’t go back to the feelings I had on that trip, especially given the current pandemic. I confess, I did venture down to this town back in July, and it was an incredibly odd experience. So I suppose, in the meantime, if you need me, mentally I will be here.

Flowers (Meditations on Dating)

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It’s just after the new year when I finally make it to the salon for my quarterly haircut. It’s the coldest day of the winter so far. My hairdresser’s coworkers are gently teasing her about the massive flower arrangement she received at work that afternoon. She’s embarrassed, but excited, pink with the flush of new romance. Her joy could turn the winter to spring. I’m happy for her, and her mood is adorable and infectious, but my heart twists slightly with jealousy as I admit to her that no one has ever given me flowers. (Well, my grandma did once when I was in a play in middle school, but that doesn’t really count, does it?)

What I don’t mention is that the lack of flowers is entirely my own fault. When I was younger most of my partners were the kinds of immature guys that would never think to buy flowers, but when I sensed someone might try to buy them for me I said “don’t.” This wasn’t because I didn’t appreciate the thought or how pretty they were, but because it seemed pointless and wasteful to spend the money on something with such a short shelf life, to spend so much on something that would inevitably die. 

And yet, when I think about it I see how I have repeatedly spent so much of myself on situations with short shelf lives. If I had paid attention, I perhaps could have protected myself from being left to wilt. The past shouldn’t be changed because we are who we are because of our experiences, but who I am is so tired, especially by the thought of dating. 

My mom keeps a big ornamental grass in our backyard. Every winter she cuts it low when it dries up and every summer it grows back, full and lush. My last date was about two and a half years ago. Part of me was cut back then too, but I have not yet found the energy for regrowth.

How pointless to give time to someone, to become comfortable and open up, when they can suddenly decide you no longer fit the scheme of their garden, yank you up at the root, and chuck you out.

How wasteful to spend time grieving something you could not preserve, clinging to the memories like you’re pressing flower petals for framing only to have the blooms dry up too much and crumble to dust.

But when romance is freshly blooming, when they send you flowers at work, when they smile at you in a way that makes your heart feel so full it could blossom out of your chest, that is the point, that is the opposite of waste.

So when I see Sara, flush faced, caught up in something new, the flowers not yet wilted, I think that maybe this will be the year I try dating again. Maybe this time I’ll wind up with a field of bright blooms.

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time there was a female who felt herself to be (in the words of the immortal Ms. Spears) not a girl, not yet a woman. After all, on the cusp of 28 years old she was well past her girlhood and probably didn’t even qualify as a young woman anymore. But for a number of reasons she could not escape her family home and live a life with full adult responsibilities and therefore often felt like a child. (Although, for the record, she was very thankful that her family home was a pleasant place to live. Just wanna put that out there.)

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Additionally, there were aspects of her personality that occasionally made her feel childish. For instance, she would much rather stay in and play a video game than go out into the world and make connections that could perhaps advance her adult life. She had no long term goals besides “be happy and be able to support myself” which really was getting in the way of finding a job that would help her achieve those goals, as she had no firm direction to point herself in. When she reached her point of ultimate frustration, her body’s reaction was to cry (and then to cry more out of embarrassment for having cried).

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However, her greatest problem was that she had very little discipline. This can be traced back to her years in college. After spending high school driving herself crazy to get good grades in her full course load of high level classes, she very quickly noticed that she had enrolled in a college that was perhaps slightly too easy for her. She realized that she could do the bare minimum and still get good grades, and so that is what she did (while somehow still managing to graduate a semester early). By the time she left the mountains to return home to the land of Jersey, her discipline had fluttered away on a breeze.

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She turned her attention to various endeavors as she started her adult life, but she had lost her ability to follow through when it was not required by an employer. She took up the ukulele and wrote a handful of songs that were well received by people she knew, but when her inspiration fled, so to did her relationship with her ukulele. She bought a beautiful blue guitar and attended lessons, but when her teacher left the community center she let the guitar sit in the corner because there was no outside force compelling her to practice. There was a watercolor kit that she’d purchased after watching a few videos that had been barely touched. She couldn’t get herself to stick to an exercise regimen even though her overweight body begged her to by developing hypertension. There was a box of video games in her room that had been started, but never finished.

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Then there was the whole slew of internet videos, over 100 of them, made over the course of many years. YouTube was her most successful attempt at keeping up with a hobby long term. She occasionally took breaks for months at a time, but always returned. Until one day it hit her that she did not want to go back. There wasn’t any particular reason, she just somehow lost interest in creating online videos (although she did still spend an inordinate amount of time watching online videos instead of doing any of the things mentioned in the last two paragraphs).

If she was being really honest with herself, in most of the things she tried she grew to feel she was hopelessly mediocre and would never be good or worth notice no matter how much effort she put in, so why should she even bother?

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But just because she had given up on talking to a camera did not mean that she never wanted to talk to anyone about her more long-winded thoughts on the internet ever again. The internet can give the impression that we are meant to share everything about our lives, and while she knew that many aspects of her life were probably too dull to share, she still wanted to share some things. So she started a blog. She could have kept a physical journal, but the notion that someone might read her words and interact with her because of them excited her. She had made some quality internet friends on YouTube and thought that once she got going she might make some blogging friends as well.

She plugged away at her blog, dedicating time to make sure there would be a new post each week. While she didn’t make any new friends, she did feel herself to be free to talk about topics that she never felt alright talking about on YouTube. She finally unburdened herself regarding a few heavy stories from her life and was more open and raw about her mental health than she’d ever been before. She had friends and family to talk about these things with, but she could be clearer and take her time composing her thoughts. Somehow it was easier to write everything down instead of having to use her actual voice. It was freeing.

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But then, the inevitable happened. After taking a week off to go on a trip, her posting became more irregular and ultimately ceased entirely. Her main excuse at the time that she stopped was “it’s too hot to sit at my laptop for hours during the summer to put these posts together” and she swore she’d return in the fall. But autumn came and went and winter began and still she had not really posted anything, besides a post saying that she would be posting again soon that had actually been posted quite some time ago.

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The blog tugged at the back of her mind, but she was nervous about returning. She realized that was scared that she had nothing new left to say after all of the YouTube videos and blog posts she had already made. Nothing interesting anyway. But she wanted to write. So just after the new year started she put Google Docs on her phone so she could work on the same documents both at her desk and away from it and she started typing away. She wasn’t sure if it was any good, or if she would even be consistent about it, but she very badly wanted to be. She wanted to prove to herself that she could follow through, even if she felt like a worthless mediocrity while doing it.

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It was a new year, a new start, a new chance to do and be better. Hopefully this time something would stick.

[All images are from my collection of photos/YouTube thumbnails that I’ve taken over the years.]

Blog-a-versary!

Hello, all! It’s been a loooong while, hasn’t it?

If you thought I had given up on this blog, you thought wrong. It’s just that this summer has been A Time. By the end of it, I was referring to it as a cursed summer, because it seemed like less than ideal things were happening not only to me, but to everyone around me.

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Pictures in this post are all from a walk in a wooded place in my area last fall that I never used for anything!

For instance, just as I was beginning to feel confident in my new position, I had to cover our calendar for a week because of a near death in someone’s family, which always puts me in a bad headspace. (Why are people so fucking rude??)

My doctor put me on a low dose of a diuretic at the end of July because my blood pressure finally went from borderline bad to actually bad. Needless to say this made me feel like shit mentally, but I didn’t have time to worry about that because the day after that appointment, one of my close friends experienced a major medical emergency.

Thankfully they survived it, and while they could’ve suffered major losses of mental or bodily function, they did not. They were home by the end of August, but that month was full of a lot of hospital visits and anxiety and trying to take my mind off of that anxiety by driving through the desert in GTA Online. (My friend is doing relatively well most days now, although they still have a lot of healing to do at home.)

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A relatively minor gripe, all things considered, is that we had kind of crummy weather on a lot of the weekends, so I couldn’t get down the shore at all.

However, the biggest thing that always keeps me away from computers after work in the summer is the heat. Even in my YouTube days, I was always less active in the summer. I’ve spent the past two summers getting by with just a big fan in my room, without putting an air conditioner into the window. The only thing I want to do when I get home on a hot summer day is sit myself right in front of the fan doing something that requires minimal energy (like reading or, again, video games) until it is time to flop my whole body down in front of the fan so I can go to sleep. The cord for the fan isn’t long enough to reach that close to my desk, and if I plug another thing into the ancient powerstrip at my feet, I’m sure it will catch on fire, lol. As a result of all of that, sitting at my desk is too sweaty to tolerate during the summer.

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But! Now that the weather is cooling down and life is becoming calm, I am ready to make my return. I’m not ready for a full return just yet — I want to prep at least two blog posts first, to give me a head start on a regular schedule. You can look forward to posts about Flame Con! The New York Renaissance Faire! Portland, Maine! And much more!

However, I noticed that my first blog-a-versary just passed, so I wanted to throw up a quick post to say hey, let y’all know why I dropped off the map, and to thank you if you’re still willing to read my stuff after I disappeared without warning.

Throughout my life I’ve tried to keep many different diaries, and then blogs once the internet came along. I always lost interest in them very shortly, but I’m somehow still interested in writing here after a whole year has passed, and I intend to keep on doing so for quite awhile.

See you soon (for real!),
Krys

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Summer Has Arrived

At the end of the day when I enter the lobby of the building where I work, I can feel some of the heat while I’m still a couple of yards from the revolving door. I push through, freeing myself from my air conditioned office prison, and for the first minute or so the heat is a refreshing contrast. But by the time I’ve crossed the courtyard and properly entered the parking lot, I’m wilting. Halfway across the asphalt that separates me and my car, I feel sweat pooling on my forehead, on my upper lip, under my arms.

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All of the photos in this post are from more pleasant summer times than the sticky week I’m currently enduring. Here’s the first Dippin Dots I ever had, taken at Six Flags in 2009.

I make it to the car and haul myself inside, desperately turning the key in the ignition as quickly as possible so I can roll down the windows. I feel blood rushing to my face and the sensation of all my pores opening up like I’ve just steamed them for a skincare treatment. The breeze from driving with the windows open calms my heat borne agitation (the AC is reserved for only the hottest of days, or when it rains).

I get home, and do I get to go inside where it’s cooler? Not yet — I have the task of pulling the rest of the family cars into our long narrow driveway once mine (the last to leave in the morning) is properly situated at in the back of the property. My brother’s car is black, with a black vinyl interior. Even if he remembers to crack the windows and park in the shade, I feel like I am sitting in hell.

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Here’s a weird baby head that was on one of the carousel horses in Dorney Park. This was the second carousel, way in the back of the park, that played hilariously out of tune music. Taken 2010.

Once that’s done, I go inside and eat dinner before going up to my room and cranking on my big boxfan. Last summer I successfully shunned the window air conditioner on the floor of the spare room that has my name on it, as it dries me up inside and out, usually giving me a cold. Hopefully this year I shall remain strong again. I’m usually wearing long pants or a cardigan in the interest of being office appropriate, and I curse them as I peel the sweaty cloth from my body. I flop down on my bed in my undergarments and let the cool air of the fan blow over my sticky skin.

Yes, I hate being cold. But I hate the heat even more. When it’s cold you can put on a sweater or grab another blanket. But when it’s hot, you can remove all of your garments and still be miserable, and I am absolutely not about that life.

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A beautiful view from the fortress of Wulzberg in Germany. Taken in 2012.

A New Job, Sort Of

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I’ve been able to personalize my new work area a little bit more than my old one!

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog for awhile, then you’ll know that for over a year now, since March 2017, I have been desperately wanting a new job. When I asked the universe to help me out with that, I was incredibly specific that I wanted one at another business, but apparently all it had to give me at this point in time was a new position at my current place of employment.

I work at a law firm. I’d been the receptionist for the past four years (my anniversary is the start of May), but two weeks ago I moved up in the ranks and became a proper legal secretary!

How this came to pass is a story full of panic and cautious optimism. About a month ago now, I came into work one morning and was getting settled at my desk when my coworkers A and T rushed over to my desk. This was odd, and I immediately felt a slight sense of alarm.

“We have news!” they said.

“What happened?” I asked warily.

“L gave her notice this morning, she got a new job!”

I was incredibly jealous (Why wasn’t I getting to escape?) but I also felt happy for her — I knew she’d been very unhappy at work for a long time, largely because of one of the attorneys she was assigned to, a woman I’ll call C.

I could go into a looooot of detail about how awful C is, but for the sake of looking at least slightly professional to any future employers who might come across this blog, I’ll keep it to this: she is nice to your face, but is an incredibly demanding extreme perfectionist, to the point of toxicity. When I went to congratulate L on her new job, she confided in me that she’d been having frequent panic attacks because of C, and that C was pretty much the entire reason she was leaving. (Fun Fact: in the past four years the only people that have left our firm have worked with C.)

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A closer look at my figures! Everything except the mermaid and Morgan from P5 had been previously tucked in a corner of my old reception desk that no one could really see.

A legal recruiter I’d met with earlier in the spring had told me that my resume was a little awkward for her to market because I’ve been in a firm for years, have a good admin background, but had no experience with dedicated legal secretary paperwork. L’s vacancy would be a good opportunity for me to get more skills so I could get out. But….C. C was the entire reason that I didn’t immediately run to F and ask for the job.

I’ve been working with C often myself — she’s been frequently giving me different types of work ever since I started with the firm, because she decided early on that I was smart and capable enough to work with her. So I’m extremely familiar with how she is, and I knew that if I worked for her, I’d be shortly having frequent panic attacks myself.

I consulted with my office manager and the other secretaries and they all agreed that there was no way I could take C and F, especially considering I hadn’t been a full-on legal secretary before. But my office manager floated an idea with F and our other boss E: “Krys can’t possibly take on two partners, so why doesn’t she take F and…I don’t know, maybe G?”

G is super nice, and easy to work with. F is also pretty easy to work with, and while he does put out a lot of work, he’s not overly picky about how it gets done the way C is. It’s a long complicated story, but we were able to swap some of the attorneys around between the secretaries so I could have F and G. They’re also in the process of hiring a new attorney, and my assumption is whoever they hire will get assigned to me as well, just to keep all the numbers even between the secretaries.

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The trinkets I keep under my monitor — a tiny lucky cat from a Neko Atsume blind box and a squishy Aggretsuko that a friend recently brought me from Japan.

Being a legal secretary is somehow not that different than some of the work C was having me do, but there’s just a lot more of it. Also, large portions of my day are spent typing F’s long dictations, to the point where sometimes the thoughts in my head are in his voice, lol. I find myself feeling more tired at the end of the day than I did when I was receptionist, probably because there were more lulls at the front desk than I get now. But I feel more satisfied about work, and the day goes by faster because I’m more occupied.

Plus, C has largely gotten off my back, which my office manager predicted! She was still giving me a lot of work for the first few days (which caused me a fair bit of anxiety because I just wanted to be rid of her so badly and it hit me that it will never happen as long as I work here!). But I’ve made it clear with my actions that she’s less of a priority to me now (aka, I’m taking longer to do her stuff because I’m doing work that F and G asked for first). Supposedly I’ll be getting a raise as well, but I still need to talk money with F. I’m honestly not expecting to get the figure I have in mind because they don’t really pay any of us what we’re really worth, but any money is good money.

So I guess I’ll be staying at this office for another eight to twelve months before I start looking for a new job again, just to be sure I have the skills firmly under my belt. I didn’t mean to wind up in the legal field now, but since I’ve wound up here, I’m going to start making the most of it. My career future feels brighter than it has in a long time!

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(My final piece of cubicle decor are these two prints! The Journey one up top is by Etherelle — I bought it at Anime Boston and had it up on my whiteboard at home before bringing it to my new desk. You can buy a larger version of it here — they don’t seem to sell the postcard size on their site. The lower one is the Pokemon Swablu and Altaria,  done by Cryptovolans. You can buy it here.)

 

Getting AdSense Money?

Once upon a time, oh so long ago, I used to be very into making YouTube videos. I started in 2009 and uploaded at least once a month or so up until this past September. (I’m not saying I’ll never make a video again, but this blog has kind of replaced my channel.) I’ve had my YouTube account since the year the site opened, and by the time I actually began creating my own videos advertisements were becoming more prevalent on the site, but you had to be specially invited into the Partner program in order to collect any of that revenue yourself. I had quickly realized that probably I wasn’t going to have massive YouTube fame ever, so I wasn’t too fussed by being cut off from this program.

But then around 2012 I spotted a notice that had popped up in the video manager area of the site — my good conduct had earned me the right to hook my account up to the big monetization machine. I waffled a little bit before deciding to take the plunge and sign on. Why not? Who knew what would happen? It took me a year and a half to reach the payment threshold of $100. It was a nice accomplishment, but, again, I didn’t tie the worth of my work to the numbers it brought it. What mattered to me what that I was enjoying myself and maybe getting to connect to a few people, which I did get to do in greater numbers than ever before the following year! (#TeamCake!)

And then, in the spring of 2014, as I slowly drew close to the payment threshold for only the second time, I received an alarming message. My AdSense had been disabled for “invalid click activity.” I could file an appeal to try to save myself, but I only got the one appeal and if it was denied then that was that — banned from using AdSense for life. I had one video that was about hairstyling My Little Pony toys that had gotten many times more views than any other of my videos, and I assumed that this was the problem. I included any information in my appeal that I thought would help me, but ultimately I was rejected. And so I did what any good YouTuber would do and made an angry rant video.

I’m actually quite fond of this video. It really makes me laugh, even four years later! And I think I bring up some valid points about the whole process. For instance, they never even fully specified, in any detail, what I was supposed to have done to make the “invalid click activity” happen. (My research at the time told me there’s a whole variety of things that fall under this umbrella, from clicking your own ads, to using robots to do it for you en masse.) Google claimed the opaqueness is because they don’t want people to know how they figure out when misbehavior is happening. I thought (and think) that it’s so people have a harder time defending themselves so they can share money with fewer people.

(And, to go on a tangent, honestly that whole “we’re demonetizing all the small creators” thing they pulled this winter only serves to back up this opinion of mine, although I also feel that situation is related to their consistent lack of punishment when it comes to the massive fuckups that some of the massive personalities have made in the past couple of years. If they’d just properly discipline the PDPs and LgPls of the site, maybe advertisers wouldn’t be running away and Google wouldn’t have to steal from the poor to feed the rich. Taking away a person’s YouTube Red program, but still letting them have ads is NOT A REAL PENALTY. Anyway, tangent done.)

But if they were more specific perhaps I could have put together a stronger appeal because I was totally innocent. (Additional fun fact: as soon as you receive the, “You’re getting demonetized, try to appeal,” email, you’re locked out of the AdSense website, which might also hold helpful information for your appeal.) I am a huge square who is constantly worried about whether I’m behaving in all aspects of my life. I did nothing at all to deserve a permanent ban from what is probably the biggest advertising service on the internet. My numbers were the same consistently low numbers that they had always been. I don’t know how I got caught in the “invalid click activity” net, but I did, and I’m still slightly bitter about it.

If you actually take the time to watch the video I’ve included here, you might notice that I throw out the idea, “Hmm, isn’t it a little bit suspicious that they’ve disabled my AdSense shortly before they’re going to have to pay me?” And apparently I’m not the only person that’s ever thought that. I was recently cleaning up my various email inboxes, including checking the spam folders to make sure nothing important had wound up there by mistake. And in the spam box of the email for my YouTube account was an email telling me about a class action settlement, that I might be able to collect a little bit of money from!

The lawsuit is captioned Free Range Content, Inc. v. Google LLC. and to pull a quote from the settlement agreement, the most basic description of the complaint is: “Plaintiffs alleged that Google terminated AdSense publishers from the AdSense program and improperly withheld unpaid amounts in those publishers’ AdSense account.” They also alleged that Google would do these terminations shortly before money was due to be paid. At some point during the proceedings, the lawsuit became a class action situation, which is how I received a message about potentially receiving a piece of the $11,000,000 of settlement money. (The terms of the settlement still have to be approved by the court, as per this FAQ.)

I naturally did some research, because it sounded kind of fake. But after coming across several different articles corroborating the information, I submitted a Confirmation of Claim form to try and get my piece of the pie. I’m not certain that I’ll get all $90ish that was in my AdSense at the time Google disabled me, as there are going to be different payment groups that will receive different percentages of their balance depending on several factors. Since I work at a law firm, I’d like to point out settlement obviously does not mean Google is admitting fault. In fact, the settlement agreement I linked above specifically states that Google has denied wrongdoing.

But it’s still a good feeling for me that a lawsuit and settlement has happened at all! Even if I don’t get any money, I feel vindicated knowing that, yes, perhaps Google misbehaved in regards to me and others, and they are now going to pay up because of it.

Mother’s Day is Complicated

When I was in elementary school, Mother’s Day was a bit complicated for me, because I didn’t live with my biological parents. My two brothers and I had lived with one of our aunts since right around the time I started school. Up until she adopted us when I was in 4th Grade, I had to periodically field questions from the other kids about why I lived with my aunt. My stock response was, “I don’t want to talk about it.” This was partly because being asked made me uncomfortable, but mostly I just didn’t know what to say. No one in my family talked about it, at least not where I could hear, so I had no idea what had happened.

In middle school I managed to shape my vague early childhood memories into a hunch, and then a few years later, when my younger brother started asking our mom questions (he’d been an infant when we left our biological parents), she sat us down and told us that our biological parents had been neglecting us due to drug addiction. Child Protective Services were alerted, and we were removed from their custody.

Sometime in the past few years my aunt (not the one that adopted me, a different one) has told me a story from around the time that we were taken away. She was at court, at a hearing concerning the custody matter, and when they were leaving my biological father said to her, “I’m gonna get my kids back.” And she replied, “I hope you do.” But that was the last time she saw him.

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My biological father’s van.

I understand that addiction is a powerful master, but also, how do you prioritize a substance over your three small children to the point that they get taken away from you? How do you not pivot instantly to sobriety and make every possible effort to get them back? It’s not that I’m saying my biological parents never made the effort at all (I have no way of knowing this, obviously), but also the aunt that wound up adopting us waited several years before beginning the adoption process. She even told me once that the judge asked her why she waited so long, and reason was the adults in our family had the assumption and hope that my biological parents would get their shit together and come back, but it eventually became clear that just…was not going to happen, so she began the adoption proceedings.

I definitely feel constantly fortunate that my life turned out the way that it did, considering how terribly things could have gone when my brothers and I were removed from our parents’ home. So many children in similar situations get split up from any siblings they have, and in some situations never see any member of their family again, or at the very least not for a long time. However, my brothers and I were raised and looked after by members of our father’s family (mainly by a couple of aunts, an uncle, and our Oma). Our mother’s mother (called Grandma) also lived just a few streets away and we saw her, and other members of both sides of our family, throughout the year. I don’t think I ever felt unloved during my childhood and, again, I know I’m lucky for that.

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Carving pumpkins at Oma’s house!

I did periodically wonder what had happened to my biological parents, especially after my mom told us exactly why we had come to live with her, but it was a pretty vague feeling. I didn’t really pursue it. No one, on either side of the family, really ever brought up our parents. It felt like such a taboo subject, something I wasn’t allowed to talk about. It still feels that way now — we never talk about them. I’m sure I could ask for stories, but it just feels weird.

In 2010, around the time that my Oma died, an uncle of mine somehow came across the information that my biological father had died some years back of an overdose. This news didn’t upset me — it was just a source of closure, a feeling of, “oh, ok, so that’s what happened, alright.” I hardly remember the man, how could I possibly mourn him?

But then, at the start of 2012, I unexpectedly found out the fate of my biological mother. I was home between college semesters, and Grandma was over for a visit. My Grandpa had been ill from cancer for some time, and by 2012, he had been given only a few more months to live. Grandma told me and whichever brother of mine was there (I forget which one, whoops) that in a month or so she and Grandpa would be having a last hurrah sort of anniversary party.

Then Grandma said, “And, by the way, you should know, D might there.”

D is my biological mother.

Our collective reaction was a flat, yet surprised, sort of, “oh, ok.” Grandma went on, “We wouldn’t seat you guys at the same table or anything. We usually wouldn’t have all of you at the same event, but it’s not possible this time. She’s doing pretty good these days, but sometimes I just wanna shake her.”

So in a very short span of time, a massive heap of mind blowing information had been dumped in my lap. Not only was the my biological mother alive, but Grandma knew how to contact her. Not only that, but it sounded like she’d been in contact with D and spending time with D for quite a long period of time. And never. said. anything.

On the one hand, this makes sense to me — D is Grandma’s daughter, it’s natural that they would be in contact. On the other, why had Grandma been so silent about this?

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Grandma and Grandpa took me to Disney World when I was in kindergarten. Grandpa often spoke of the trip fondly right up until he died.

When my brothers and I later talked through the situation later with our mom, she was dumbfounded as well, but also mentioned that at the time of the adoption, when our parents signed the paperwork giving up their rights to us, some restrictions were put in place for the duration of our minority. The way my mom put it is that nobody was going to stop anyone from seeing each anyone, but the adults taking care of us were firm that our parents had to be clean for any meeting to take place.

This goes a small way to explain why Grandma would keep mum, as my younger brother was only 15 at this point. But also it doesn’t explain it — being forbidden to see someone is not the same as being forbidden to talk about them. My mom didn’t say that Grandma had been asked to never discuss D, and my mom is the sort of woman who would’ve told us if that was the case. So my best assumption is that Grandma may have been trying to protect my brothers and I, trying to keep our lives as peaceful as possible.

I was so conflicted and hung up about this newfound information that when I went back to school for the spring semester and started taking the playwriting class I’d enrolled in, I based my big semester long project on the situation. But Grandpa got too sick, so the party never happened, and I had to invent what happened when the biological children and mother met for the first time in 15 years.

But then, in the spring of 2017, my great-grandma died. I only met her a few times when I was young, so my only motivation for attending the service was to support Grandma. However, I dreaded the event because I had a pretty strong hunch that D would be there. The service was scheduled for a couple of weeks after Great-grandma’s death, and I spent the entire time in a state of steadily mounting anxiety. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so anxious in my life as when I left work to pick up my younger brother and go to the funeral home.

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Breakfast time in the first house we lived in with our aunt (the one who was later our mom).

When we entered we went to sign in at the guestbook. My eyes were drawn to D’s name like a magnet. I noticed she was still using my and my brothers’ last name, and I felt a sort of dull rage at what I perceived to be the audacity of the act. My mind raced, “How fucking dare she keep our name? She abandoned us. She had a new kid. She doesn’t deserve to keep the name. She should go back to her maiden name.” (Naturally, I said none of this at the time, but did rant about it to my younger brother after we left.)

We entered the main room and were immediately approached by a group of our cousins, who we hadn’t seen since we were small. But as I chatted with them, my eyes kept darting over to D, recognizing her from the few photos I’d seen of her. She was standing in the back of the room with teenage boy and a man. My younger brother is social with one of D’s brothers, and through him he had found out that D had had another son a little over a decade ago. I figured the boy and the man were her son and his father. I had been stunned when my brother told us about our half-sibling, and it was weird to look at the boy and know we shared the same blood.

Conversely, D had to have known who we were, had to have heard people say our names, seen us embrace Grandma, and yet she kept to the back of the room. Realizing she was going to give us space did nothing to lessen my anxiety, and I settled into a seat near the front of the room, allowed myself to be drawn into meaningless small talk by a couple of Grandma’s friends that I knew.

I did my best to pretend that my heart was not about to burst out of my chest from how hard it was beating. Being in the same room as my biological mother for the first time in 20 years was an incredible emotional strain, even though we never exchanged words, or even made eye contact. Just knowing she was there, seeing her in the flesh, was a suffocating sensation. That was my mother there, and yet, at the same time, the woman was not my fucking mother at all.

One of the most important things I’ve come to recognize in my 27 years is that that some of the best families in the world are found ones, not blood ones. Yes, my mom is technically a blood relation of mine, but she didn’t start out as my mom — she became my mom through circumstance. She’s the one who has been there for me through all of the best and worst parts of my life. She’s the one who encouraged me to read books and play music, the one who taught me patience, who gave me my love of nature and the slower side of life. So much of what and who I am has developed the way it has because of her. She may not be the one who gave birth to me, but I consider her to be the only mom I have.

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Judging from my size, I’d say this is probably from the first Krystmas.

My younger brother and I left as soon after the service as was polite. I had parked us a little ways down the street from the funeral home, so we wouldn’t get caught up in the parking lot when we wanted to leave. As soon as we were a safe distance away from everyone, I burst into frantic tears. The service was on Friday and I was an emotional wreck for basically the whole weekend, but found comfort with my other found families (ie: my friends, and my then-boyfriend).

I still don’t really feel okay about the whole D situation. All I know is that I don’t want to see her again if I can avoid it.

So this whole long story is to say that Mother’s Day can still be a bit of a complicated day for me. And I know it can be tough day for other people too. There are all kinds of reasons for people to struggle with Mother’s Day, whether they’re estranged from their mother, their mother has died, or for some other reason. If Mother’s Day is a rough day for you, I’m here for you. Just try to focus on other, more positive forces in your life until the day passes by. You’ll be fine, and so will I.

Much love,
Krys

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Why, yes, I did use my early childhood photos as a way to add some levity to all this heavy shit because I’m uncomfortable with these emotions. Thank you for noticing!

 

Romeo, oh, Romeo!

This is Romeo.

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He is my aunt’s cat. She adopted him over five years ago from a local shelter. (I’m not sure exactly how many, since I was still in college while she did it.) He chose her before she chose him. She’d been to the shelter a few times to check out the cats, and finally came the day when she was going to make her final decision. When she set down her cat carrier on the floor, Romeo ran right inside, and that’s how she knew it was meant to be.

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He is a big boy, weighing in at around 20 pounds. He’s a little tubby, but even if he wasn’t he would still be a large cat. Not sure if this picture shows his proper scale, but I just want you to know this lad is an absolute unit. That vest was actually made for a small dog.

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Romeo is not really a lap cat, the above picture is the closest he’s ever gotten to sitting in my lap. This is not to say that he’s not affectionate. He is a very sweet, loving boy, and a very sociable cat. Sometimes all you have to do to set him off purring loudly is walk into the same room as him and say something in a friendly voice. He loves to be scratched, and to be brushed (which is good, because he’s a very shed-y cat). But what he loves more than anything is food! He gets food twice a day, and treats once, and as my aunt puts it, “he knows how to tell time.” He gets his snack at 8PM, and when the time comes, he’ll walk into whichever room you’re in and just look at you until you get up and give it to him.

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He and I have gotten properly acquainted in the past couple of years because my aunt has started to travel more. The first time I housesat/babysat Romeo was when my aunt and younger brother went to Germany for the 900th anniversary of the village where she grew up. Why was I not invited? I will never know (I do have some guesses), but living alone in my aunt’s apartment for the week and a half they were gone was a nice consolation prize, and a tantalizing taste of what my proper dream adult could be like. I’ve also stayed with Romeo on a few other occasions since then, when my aunt has gone on trips with a seniors group in the area.

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I’m always very glad to babysit him and spend time with him. It makes me feel like I have my own cat again, and I’m sure he loves the company since my aunt is half-retired and he’s probably used to having her around a lot. He makes me laugh a lot, like when he hangs out in the doorway of whatever room I’m in at 9 or 10PM because he thinks it’s bedtime, or like the most recent time I babysat him, when I walked out of the kitchen while I was making dinner to find him sitting on the sofa somewhat like a person. It was so funny, I just had to snap the picture above.

So you’ve caught me, this whole blog post was just an excuse to post some highly excellent cat pictures. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it even if you’re a dog person instead!

–Krys

 

 

27

Somehow it never really feels like the year has actually started until my birthday comes around at the end of January. And I mean the very end – I was born 1/31/1991, which sort of rolls off the tongue in a fun way. Just for kicks, here’s my birth announcement — I randomly found it in my house years ago and took it for myself, lol.

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I’m still feeling residual anxiety and hopelessness from 2017, but I’ve already talked at length about that so I won’t rehash it. You can, however, read about it here, if you’re feeling so inclined.

So after putting aside the notion of writing more about how shitty 26 was, I was trying to think of a direction for talking about starting 27. And then somehow my brain looked back 10 years to Krys-at-17. What was she up to? How does her life compare to mine now?

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Age 17. Driving a Duck on my first ever visit to Boston (an overnight trip with the school band).

The answer is, as much as I didn’t hate high school, I definitely wouldn’t want to relive my junior year. For instance, Junior Krys had a boyfriend who didn’t respect her boundaries and neither the voice to convince him to stop nor the confidence to just leave him. She spent a lot of time worrying about getting top grades in her full slate of high level classes, while her mother told her, “as long as you pass it doesn’t matter.” Driving gave her extreme anxiety so she didn’t get her license when she turned 17 and as a result didn’t have much of a social life outside of school.

When I think back to that school year I don’t remember being a constantly unhappy little cloud moping about (for instance, I did get to go on the cool overnight school trip pictured above), but I do vaguely remember writing on my Xanga blog about taking a mental health day. How many 17 year olds in 2008 even knew what a mental health day was?

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Actual picture taken with my webcam on my 22nd birthday. Was trying to show my whole outfit without cutting off my head, and somehow thought this pose was okay, lol.

And then I thought back just five years, to Krys-at-22. It was the start of 2013. She’d graduated from college just before Christmas, was beginning her search for her first adult job, and was nervous, but cautiously optimistic about what life would be like going forward.

2013 turned out to be one of the worst years of my entire fucking life. I was plagued by multiple forms of rejection, plunged into a very deep depression, and spent most of the year unemployed. It was only in September when I got part time work helping kids not so different from Krys-at-17 prepare for the SATs that I started to feel alright again. So, no, I would not want to go back five years’ time either.

So while, yes, I’m not starting out 27 with things in my life exactly the way I’d like them to be, I’m glad for the life experience I’ve gained. I’ve managed to survive all of the garbage of my life so far (including things I haven’t covered in blog form yet, obviously), and while I’m probably not the absolute strongest person I know, I’m not a weakling anymore either.

If someone isn’t treating me well and I’m in a position to get them out of my life (ie: not at my job), I do it (although usually silently, because I’m still usually not strong enough to tell people off). I’ve been shown multiple times that a lot of times I can get by in life with minimum effort, and that I don’t have to worry about being perfect so much. When rejection of any kind happens (by jobs, men, etc.) it’s because it wasn’t meant to be in the first place (although that doesn’t mean it doesn’t always sting a little). Driving is one of my absolute favorite things.

And if life is disappointing me now, that just means I’ve got better things ahead, right? (Hopefully?) (Soon?) (Please?)

Anyway, wherever you are, Reader, I hope you’re having the best week you can! Hang in there. ❤

–Krys