My Life as a Nerd

I was rereading some of my old posts, and although I originally marketed this as the story of my childhood as a nerd, it far more effectively tells the sad and hilarious tale of a childhood full of enormous anxiety issues.

My Google Drive is full of drabbles, short pieces I’ve written and quickly abandoned before they got anywhere significant.  This one was called “My Life as a Nerd,” and I totally forgot I wrote it last summer.  I will never finish it, and I wanted someone to see it, so Here, Blog!  Enjoy.


I’ve spent my whole life being a nerd because I learned, from the very youngest of ages, that fantasy is better than reality.  It’s not like I had an oppressed, horrible life.  I grew up in a firmly middle-class family: not rich enough to fly somewhere for vacation, but rich enough to afford the newest technological gadget that interested my dad (a case could be made for inherited nerdiness).

The thing is, I was an introverted, extremely shy kid.  Life was hard for me, even when “life” just meant standing in front of the preschool to show off…

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Expressing Enneagram Four Emotions with Fiction

Sometimes when I tell people I’m an Enneagram Four who has a lot of emotions, I can see them silently doubting me.  And it’s true, in daily life (especially work life) I’m fairly even-keeled and logical.  But one day I was listening to the Prince of Egypt episode of the Good Christian Fun podcast, and I burst into tears when they played a ten-second clip of the song “Deliver Us.”

Everything became clear:  I express my emotions through fiction.

It is in books and movies and television shows that I feel comfortable feeling the anger, longing, and joy that lives inside me.  This is probably why the only time I made progress in therapy was when my therapist finally asked me, “If you had to choose one book to symbolize your life, which would it be?” and I immediately said, “WELL.”

This is also why I can be embarrassingly possessive of my favorite stories.  Here is an actual text conversation with my brother from a couple days ago illustrating how well he knows my neurotic mind:

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I infamously got pissed at my mom when we were watching the season 3 finale of LOST and I realized she hadn’t been keeping up with the show while I was at college.  “I just want to enjoy the thing you enjoy with you!” she said (as an Enneagram Two).  I made her leave, because I didn’t want someone who wasn’t emotionally invested ruining my experience.  When I recently told a friend about this, she said, “You’re awful,” and while I see that, I…would do the same thing again.

I see now that as an Enneagram Four, I very often conflate my emotions with my identity.  I’m therefore very protective of them.  I will not show someone The Fall (my favorite movie of all time) unless I am sure they will like it, because my heart cannot handle someone looking at my soul for two hours and then saying, “Eh.”

Now that I think about it a little more, I think that emotionalism is definitely present in me all the time.  But I don’t trust many people to accept, let alone enjoy, the intensity of my feelings, so I keep them inside.  It’s in stories, which are spaces inherently designed for emotion, that I feel safe enough to let everything out.  So if someone doesn’t know the nerd side of me, they will probably be surprised to hear that I’m an Enneagram Four.

Cat Fostering: Amelie and Nelly Move Out!

At 5:30 this morning, Amelie and Nelly were packed up in crates and left my house to fly to their new homes in England!  I’m so glad that they’ve been adopted, and by people who will love them for who they are.

Nelly will go to an older woman’s home who, twenty years ago, came to Greece and rescued four kittens who had been thrown into the garbage.  Now that they’ve all passed on after a long life, she wants another Greek kitten in their memory.  Amelie was a bit trickier, since she is so shy.  But a middle-aged woman chose her precisely because she wanted to create a safe space for a traumatized cat.  I’m so excited to be updated on how they’re both doing.

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I will miss them, though!  It was nice to be able to open windows (there are no screens in Greece, so I couldn’t do so without risking escaped cats) and deep clean my apartment, but it feels very strange to come home to an empty house.  They’ve been so much fun, especially these last couple weeks when they really took to each other and started bathing each other/fighting each other.

Last night, I woke up around 3:00, which set Nelly off.  I noticed a shadow lurking near the bed, so I stuck out my hand, and Amelie came over to purr and pet herself.  She then jumped on my bed, fought with Nelly for a bit, and jumped back off.  This is the most she’s ever done, so I eventually drifted off to sleep.  A while later I was awoken by a cat curling up between my feet.  Nelly had already returned to her place against my side under the covers, so it was Amelie!!  Sleeping on my bed!!  For the first time ever, and for only two hours before I had to wake up and put them in their crates.  It was very bittersweet, but I hope she regains that level of comfort with her new family as soon as possible!

I have had such a great time fostering Amelie, Nelly, and Hans Harrison (last year for nine months).  I really admire the work that Nine Lives does in Athens, and I strongly encourage anyone reading this to consider becoming a foster parent for animals who need a temporary home while waiting for forever family.  If you can’t do that, I subtly suggest that you drop a few dollars in Nine Lives‘s bucket.  I can attest to the quality of their work, and I wish them all the best as I leave Greece.

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Faith without Doubt is Not Faith

A few days ago I had two conversations that helped me see what has changed in my spiritual life recently.  In the first conversation, I spoke with a young woman who has just moved to Greece and has decided to try to get a visa to stay.  I had to bite my tongue in order not to douse her excitement with “yeah, I thought that too” cynicism.  Later, I spoke with a woman who spent the summer in the same situation I did, waiting for a visa that didn’t work out.  It was hugely encouraging to not feel alone, to vent and laugh together over our mutual frustrations.

In the midst of these conversations, I realized that this visa process cost me my spiritual naivety.  Because my initial student visa was easy to get, I assumed that everything would work out for me if I kept living in Greece.  God wanted me here, so paperwork couldn’t get in the way, right?  Yes, it could.  Now, as I look ahead to a job that hinges upon 1) fundraising and 2) a visa, I find myself incredibly lethargic.  Where I once met these obstacles with excitement, now I’m exhausted.

But what hit me was this:  faith is not the absence of doubt, it’s believing in the midst of doubt (in much the same way courage is not the absence of fear, it’s acting in the midst of fear).  After all, it doesn’t take much faith to naively assume everything will work out for me.  To see my plans fail and then to attempt something similar…that takes a different kind of faith.  Something deeper, and less flashy, and more painful, but something that rests upon a more desperate hope and trust.  God took my life in an unexpected direction before…do I trust him enough to try something risky once again?

The older I get, the more I realize that my relationship with God is far more boring than anything I originally experienced.  This year I’ve felt pretty emotionally distanced from him.  But I think there’s something really beautiful about every little connection we’ve had, because I don’t take them for granted any more.  I’m no longer seeking youth group conferences of ecstatic emotionalism.  I just want a quiet, heavy moment of assurance that I am loved and that God has a plan for me.  I had one of those during my conversations, and it helped me to choose faith, in the midst of doubt, once more.

 

Looking Back on 2017

2017 was nothing like I thought it would be!  I spent six months in Greece, broken into two three-month segments by six months spent in the United States.  In real time, I found a lot of this year stressful because the future seemed so unknown.  But looking back, I can see that the unknown held a lot of wonderful experiences.

I was promoted to a higher level of management at the NGO where I volunteer in Athens.  When I found myself back in the States, I was hired by the library where I worked five years ago.  Many of my coworkers are still there, and it felt like a happy reunion.  I also got to spend a lot of time with family and friends from my hometown, people who know my eccentricities deeply and love me anyway.  I’m finishing the year in Athens, surrounded by my Found Family in Greece, grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to live here.

But what’s a Looking Back without remembering all the places I was able to travel during the past year?

  • January:  I started the year in Seattle, celebrating the New Year with my brother and snowshoeing for the first time.  Mid-month, I flew back to Athens for three months.
  • February:  Luciana, Olga and I spent a weekend in Bucharest, Romania enjoying the snow we never get in Athens.
  • March:  Our organization spent a weekend retreat in Kleitoria, in northern Pelopponese, where we explored caves and ate fish we chose from a tank.  I also went to Thessaloniki with Anthi and Rosie to experience Greece’s second city and eat loads of bougatsa.
  • April:  I flew home to the States in April, and soon thereafter I went to Vancouver for two weeks of training with our parent organization.  When that finished, I spent another weekend in Seattle with my brother before flying home to Illinois.
  • May:  Thinking my time in the States was short, I drove down to Dallas and Austin to reconnect with a lot of my favorite people from my time at DTS.  Later in the month I joined my grandparents on their vacation to Wisconsin Dells, which was a lovely opportunity to spend time with them.
  • June, July: I started working for the library, and ironically, I didn’t travel during the summer.
  • August:  My mom and I flew out to Portland, where we met up with my brother and his partner to roadtrip up the coast to Seattle.
  • September:  I drove out to Rockville, Maryland for a long weekend with one of my closest friends exploring quaint coastal towns and eating a lot of great food.
  • October:  I flew back to Greece for a final three months in Athens.
  • November:  When visitors came to our organization, we orchestrated an outing to Corinth, which I hadn’t been to since 2007.  I later went to Evvia for Luciana’s birthday and was astonished to see autumnal leaves in Greece.
  • December:  Anthi, Rosie and I traveled together again for a long weekend in Rome, satisfying one of my top travel desires.

Guys, I’m developing an unsustainable habit of needing to travel somewhere at least once per month.  This will someday be a problem, but for now I’m super grateful for cheap plane tickets, a good car, and friends who let me stay with them for free!

2017 doesn’t fit into any neat “This Happened” box, and instead I’m left with a lot of disparate but lovely memories.  I’ll take it.

Cat Fostering: Amelie and Nelly

In my previous post about fostering, I ended by saying that Nine Lives, a cat shelter in Athens, Greece, was going to send me a kitten to help Amelie feel more comfortable after being rescued from a pack of dogs.  I showed a picture of a kitten who…did not come!  He ended up having some diseases that could have spread to Amelie, so instead  Nelly joined our temporary family.

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But first, an update on Amelie!  A woman from Nine Lives came to the house to take care of her while I was gone for a weekend vacation, and when I came back she was a totally different cat.  It was as though the fear of another stranger made my return a desperate, “Thank God, a familiar face!”  She started letting me sit beside her on the couch, and she was making so much progress I was a little scared that the introduction of a kitten would set her back.

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When Nelly first arrived, Amelie reverted to hiding under coffee tables and footstools.  I resented Nelly for that, which was unfair because she was relentlessly cute.  She’s a total kitten: playful and curious and slightly dumb.  And SO cute and cuddly.  She follows me around, burrows into the covers when I sleep, and falls asleep next to me like this.

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After a while, though, Amelie realized that she is a full-sized cat.  Instead of letting a kitten bully her around, she stood up for herself and asserted her dominance.  I was very proud that she came to this realization because of food.  Nelly tried to eat Amelie’s food, at which point Amelie slapped the kitten in the face and never had a problem again.

They still don’t cuddle with each other, but they will chase each other between rooms, and Nelly likes to sneak up on Amelie and try to catch her tail.  Somehow, all of this HAS made Amelie more comfortable, since she will now go into every room, and when I’m away for a while, she’ll actually follow me around and watch me from various doorways.  Most adorably, she will sit beside the couch and meow until I sit there, since she has apparently learned that that is where she will be petted.

Both Amelie and Nelly need to be adopted by mid-January, and at the rate they’re going, they will probably do well either separately or together!  If you or someone you know lives in Greece and wants two very cute cats, drop a line to Nine Lives and let them know!  If you can’t adopt cats, I still suggest you go to Nine Lives and leave a donation.  I love what they do, and I’m happy to do what I can to support them and the stray cats of Athens that they care for.

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Cat Fostering: Meet Amelie!

One of the first things I did when I returned to Athens was visit Hans Harrison, the cat I fostered for 9 months, in his forever home.  I sent pictures of him to Nine Lives, the cat shelter that had given him to me, and within hours I’d gotten a reply, “Do you want to foster another?”  I explained that I would only be in Greece for three months this time, but the offer was repeated.  A week later, Amelie was brought to my house!

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Amelie was part of a cat colony that Nine Lives checks in on from time to time.  She was taken to a vet a couple weeks ago when she developed an abscess on her back paw.  Soon after she was returned to the streets, a pack of dogs attacked the colony, killing several.  Knowing that the dogs would return to a successful hunting ground, Nine Lives rescued the remaining cats, Amelie included.  She stayed with two USian university students for a week before returning to the vet for a second abscess on her other back paw.  The next day, she came to me.

Clearly, she has been through a lot in the last couple weeks!  This is her first time living indoors with a human, and she has been very skittish.  She has made a home under my desk, first hiding under my footrest and then settling into a bucket with a rug.  At the slightest change in environment, she hides under the footrest and stares at me with wide eyes.

I’m used to floppy, friendly cats, so this would have been discouraging but for one thing.  Whenever I pet her, she goes mad with purring and leaning into my touch.  She’s simultaneously desperate for affection but scared of literally everything.  She’s an anxious introvert, and I can totally understand that.

It’s been slow going, but there have been small steps of progress in the last week!  She will come out from under the desk during the night (though she rarely leaves the room, even though the door has been open for days), and last night I heard her playing with the catnip toy I left her.  She also comes out of hiding to eat and use the litter box.

Last night, we had a major breakthrough when I came home, sat beside her bucket, and she came out to sit next to me!  This morning, she went further, crawling out of her bucket and then up into my lap for cuddles!  She’s also becoming blasé to my movements around the room, sleeping through noises she now considers normal instead of immediately darting for cover.

I’ve had Amelie for only five days, but it’s taking longer than I expected for her to settle in and feel safe.  Still, she’s such a sweetie, and if you’re reading this from Greece, I’m confident that in two months she’ll be ready to cuddle in a forever home!  She could be yours!


STAY POSTED:  Nine Lives and I have decided that Amelie needs a friend!  There is a kitten from her cat colony who is small enough to not intimidate her, but who is playful enough to hopefully help her feel more confident in her new home.  He cannot join us yet, since Amelie is not yet vaccinated due to being on antibiotics for her abscesses.  Once that is done, this little guy should be joining us!

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