Tuesday, May 19

To My Students, Whom I Love

I am about to proffer a smattering of advice and thoughts. I know, I know. Who am I to offer advice? I’m 24-years old, look relatively like the other thousands of students with whom you are packed into the hallways like sardines, and am, truthfully, overly familiar with law and order SVU episodes & lipstick brands. I’m not an expert in much, except perhaps the exact amount of pizza & Nutella it takes to send you to bed clutching your heart and wondering, somewhat seriously, at what point you should call an ambulance.   So why, amidst my abounding imperfection, do I insist on writing this letter?  It comes down to this:

Imperfection does not negate the value of one’s words.  Imperfection is at the core of the human experience and our stories, our truths, are all worth sharing. Even the silly, imperfect ones.  So, from one imperfect soul to another, here are some of my truths:

1. To truly love, you must be willing to fail, to crumble, to cry.  Love means opening yourself up to vulnerability and walking, arms outstretched, into moments that could break you. Moments that could hurt you to your very bones and make you wonder whether you'll ever be okay again. 

Love is scary, but hiding is scarier. 

If you run from vulnerability, your life may feel safe. But it will be safe and small and numb.  Love means taking risks when you want to run.  Love means giving help when you're strong and asking for it when you're weak.

Love is being seen.

You are all worthy of love, no matter how broken and bruised you feel. You. Are. Worthy.

2. For some, high school is a beautiful time of self-discovery and growth. For most? It's a time in the trenches, a battle against oneself and the world.

If teaching's taught me anything, it's that everyone is fighting a personal war.  The beautiful, fragile souls you pass in the hallways are in an arena fighting self-doubt and loathing, fighting abandonment, fighting depression.  They’re winning some rounds, losing others. 

There are many versions of the people we pass in the hallways, and most are only given a single, incomplete narrative.  We assume, we judge, we compare, we critique.  We get it wrong.

We don't have to keep getting it wrong.

We can get it right by looking for the whole story, instead of accepting the convenient pieces being passed around. We can get it right by loving others.

Don’t love someone despite their flaws. Don’t love them anyway. Just love them. All of them. They need it and you need it.

3. There will be times in your life when your mind and soul will be too broken to recognize your value. Maybe that time is now, maybe it's coming.  In these inevitable dark moments, you may think your absences go unnoticed. You may think, even, that no one would care if you simply disappeared.

I would care. I, with every other person on whom you've left a print, an echo, would care. You have touched and taught and helped more people than you know.  We need you here.

4. Becoming the best version of yourself may be lonely.  It may require asking difficult questions and feeling isolated as you seek those answers.  But being honest with yourself is always worth whatever pain may follow. 

Ball up your fists and ask the difficult questions.

5. We’re all off-brand versions of an unrealistic ideal and hallelujah, my friends. How boring perfection would be. Perfection has never been a requirement for value, whatever people may say. I’m imperfect, you’re imperfect, and we all have things to offer.

We must be able to stand proudly with our gifts in one hand and weaknesses in the other, the good and the bad both wholly a part of our identity.

The world needs us, all of us.


Sunday, April 12


I debated whether or not to share this piece.  Like John Green says in Paper Towns, "It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined."  These words may only assist in your, "misimagining" of me, but bottling words seems to ensure misinterpretation.  And none of us can live fully if our behaviors hinge solely on what people will make of them. We have to make something of ourselves.

Writing these words has helped me and perhaps sharing them will help you.  

She could hear the words spilling across the back of the room, snaking around and into the people seated against the walls.  It was a pattern she had grown to recognize.  Mean words, whispered quietly at first, became a steady rumble and undulated towards the front of the classroom, toward her.  She pictured the words hitting her head and then clattering to the floor, only to rise again, angry and determined.  
She was a dartboard and their aim was excellent.
She willed her face to remain blank.  She did not want them to know that she heard. That she internalized every. Last. Word.  She did not want them to know that their words twisted her stomach.  She did not want them to know that their words surrounded her like a heavy coat, that they followed her out of the classroom and through the halls.  
Her pen scrawled furiously.  She had never looked more attentive, more utterly invested in the words of her teacher.
His words, of course, did not stick.
Theirs did.
After a lifetime of fighting words, the bell would ring and she would rise quickly.  Head down, she walked the halls.  The trick was to look just past people. Never at.  
When she’d reach her car she’d let out a long, shaky breath and start the ignition.  She usually made it two blocks before the tears would demand release.

She stood shivering on the cold tile, turning the knob, hotter, hotter, letting the steam build.  She rubbed her arms and glanced over her shoulder at the cloudy mirror.  Her eyes registered a girl, brown hair, tall; her eyes registered a girl, but registering is one thing and seeing is another.  
Stepping into the stream of hot water, she sucked in her breath and turned to let the water envelop her. She tilted her face up, and the water hit her eyelids, her nose, her mouth.  Her breathing started to quicken. Soon small sobs escaped and she slid against the wall, down to the shower floor.  Pouring water muffled her cries and she sat there, knees against her chest, as the minutes passed.
Mixed with soapy water were the tears of a girl who felt unknown.  
She wasn’t sure when the unknowing started exactly.  Was it with the whispers, the darting eyes?   Or with the I love you despites. I love you anyways.  
Despite. Anyway. Words that break the unbroken. Words that negate the, “I love you”s.
The whispers, she thought. They came from the mouths of strangers and acquaintances. They came from the lips of people about whom she cared very little.  And yet.  There was something in the whispers that chipped away at the her of her.  The whispers said I don’t know you and never will.
She was a symbol no one understood.  She was a word whose definition had been forgotten.  
When the water started to cool, she reached her hand above her head and turned the knob.  She grabbed a towel and, moving from a closed space to an open one, wondered at the ability to feel choked by thoughts rather than spaces.  She was suffocating in the open air.

On a Saturday night in mid July, she locked the store doors and walked toward her car.  The sputter of nearby sprinklers soothed her and she paused outside her red ford.  She inhaled the warm night air and felt herself fill up with summer.  She turned slowly around, looking at the empty parking lot and surrounding verdure.
Listening to an instinct she mostly ignored in her adult state, she slipped off her sandals and walked to where the asphalt met grass.  She stepped onto the wet blades and stood still, looking up at the stars.  
She thought of the customers she had helped hours before.  The difference between the people who saw her for the first time and who saw her for the hundredth.  
People who met her as she was now, noticed her smile and quick laugh. They noticed her bright eyes and willingness to help.  The people who had known her then saw only the broken edges they imagined she had. They saw cracks that didn’t exist and smiled sadly at her.  They had to believe she was broken because she had shed the things they loved. If she wasn’t broken, maybe they were.
The sad smiles had replaced mean words and she didn’t know that she liked them any better.
She thought she could live with them, though.  She could live with their sad smiles because her smile had gained a bit of light.
With a sigh, she turned from the grass and walked barefoot to her car.

She sat on her mother’s bed and smiled through teary eyes.
“I’m only sad,” her mother was saying, “...because I know that the world may not treat you kindly.  I am only sad because the world doesn’t know how proud they should be of you.”
“I know,” the girl whispered. “I know.”
She felt something inside of her shift slightly.  She had known that questioning the world could be lonely.  She was learning that questioning the world could feel good, too.

She lay on her side, listening to the rustle of the wind through the open window and to the gentle snores of her husband.  She thought about her life and the beliefs her experiences had challenged.  She thought about the well-meaning sadness emanating from people who thought they knew best.
Mostly she thought about the unfettered way she now walked through the world.  
She thought about the way her guilt and anxiety had eased to make space for love and laugher.
She knew then that her mind was her own.

And with that, she became me and I stepped into myself once again.


Monday, January 19


[A decidedly unremarkable picture to start us off]

Is it normal to love your job so much you get stomachaches because you can't stop thinking about it?
And is it weird to be grateful for those stomachaches?
And will I consider this all a big metaphor about parenthood someday?

The thing about my job is this:
What makes me a better teacher makes me a better human.
Amen, hallelujah.

Perhaps I will return with more words another day.


Saturday, November 29


This post is brought to you by an inexplicable Marie Calendar's pie in the oven, a pair of very comfortable spandex capris, and something verging on boredom (a winning Saturday night combo, if I may say so myself)(and I may).

The pie is inexplicable because shouldn't I be sick of pie by now?  And also I'm home alone.

While we're discussing my health, the last month has been quite the back and forth.  Bursts of spin classes and vitamins followed swiftly by pizza and mini candy bars.

An image for you: around Halloween, I found myself working late and tossing back fun-size candy bars (side note: who in the H-E-double hockey sticks thought they could get away with such a misleading label?).  After finishing a large stack of grading (applause, please) I tossed a rather heavy bundle of paper into the nearby trash and poof--wrappers swirled and eddied, evidence of my Halloween gluttony.

Furthermore, I purchased Nutella a few weeks back which shall henceforth be known as a study in self-discipline.  The findings were humbling.

And, oh!  Before we abandon What Regan Ate and How She Feels About It, I went to the dentist a month or so back and attempted some associative psychology (probably not a real thing, as I'm pretty sure I coined the term.  Wait, no, google tells me it exists...er, ignore me).  While my dentist was drilling away at my cavities (which I conveniently forgot to mention were the result of one of my health schemes where I replace real dessert with suckers) I told myself repeatedly: this horrible drilling sensation?  This is what eating ice cream feels like.  Ice cream equals pain.  Ice cream is bad.
It's possible I didn't use enough Pavlov-ian bells or something, because I still find immense joy in a bowl of ice cream.

Let's give a round of applause to parenthetical asides and an internet era that encourages rambling.


I had some jokes and deep existential musings to share with you tonight, but now that seems like a rather abrupt shift in tone, no?

I pinky promise I think about more than food.  And yet, at the risk of putting the nail in my food-coffin, I have a picture of pie to take us away.

My honors students are reading The Help, thus chocolate pie day.

Fun fact: some of my students were deeply apprehensive about eating the pie.  I heard numerous mutterings of the like, "I think, legally, she can't put you know what in the pie."  And a few of my infamous worriers hovered at the back of the pie line, carefully observing the facial expressions of those brave pie-eating pioneers.


Saturday, November 1

For obvious reasons, Conlin was Jesus for Halloween.  It's possible he got a bit carried away because he repeatedly sent me pictures of him in stoic poses with captions of the like: "Repent ye sinner."  I was Heisenberg from Breaking Bad which led to a possibly offensive moment where Conlin, er, Jesus blessed me to, you know, save Heisenberg's soul.  So happy Halloween from our politically incorrect family to yours.

On that note...(man, I really didn't set myself up for a smooth segue, did I?), I decided to revisit my dusty corner of the internet because I love writing and sometimes forget how much good it does my soul (even the rambling bits) and because my students have been not-so-subtly hinting that I should write more.

Speaking of which: one of my students informed me it is her life's goal to be mentioned on my blog and because I'm so rarely in a position to help people with life goals, I must snag this opportunity.  Hi, Bailey.  While I'm at it: Destiny and AJ, hi to you as well.

Okay, back to...whatever this is. (Next time I try to write while experiencing a sugar crash, someone hide my computer and, in a sing-song voice, dissuade my attempts, lead me by the hand to the couch, and hand me some saltines).

Anyway.  Here is a thought I had whilst passing out candy: I feel a fundamental disconnect with the children who rummage through the normal candy bars, find a frootie tootie at the bottom, and take that.  I mean, the chances of those kids growing up to experience well-adjusted adulthood are pretty slim, right?  As I see it, their behavior speaks of a flimsy character.

In addition to passing out candy, Halloween ambiance was created by making soup, listening to 50 cent, and reading (sometimes simultaneously, sometimes not).  And while I thoroughly enjoyed my high school experience, I must say that tonight has underlined what a relief it is not to be in high school trying to figure out which party to attend in celebration of a holiday I like from a distance but am panicked by up close.  Parties were a source of general loneliness for me in high school, for reasons mostly linked to me being a closeted introvert.  I just remember watching people interact and feeling like there was some sort of code I wasn't given.  I'm supposed to giggle when?  My hands are supposed to be doing what while I talk?  Eye connect, no eye contact, someone pass me the party manual quick.

...this post is spiraling quickly and while thematic, cohesive blog posts are not my current strength, recognizing when to jump ship is.  So I'm going to hit, "publish" and back slowly away from the screen before I start playing therapist to my own adolescent experiences.  Until next time.

(Seriously, sorry about this post.)


Thursday, August 21

Oh, School.

My reaction to the first days of school is basically exclamation points and italics.  Of the good variety.  I am deliriously excited about all things school and I think my excitement is grounded in logical reasons and is not an inexplicable reaction to no sleep and birth control.

To begin, my students are so great I suspect there was some sort of foul play during registration but have decided not to ask questions.  I am just going to scoop up my lovely students and carry on.  Thus far there has been a positively delightful vibe in every. single. class.  People of the world, this is a miracle of the highest order!  We've laughed, read, written, discussed.  It's been dreamy.  And I know, I know...there's still time for them to turn on me.  But I'm just going to let my inner optimist have this one.

And, as if having an all-star roster of students wasn't enough, I moved into a brand new classroom that is everything I could have hoped for.  It's functional, airy, literally feet away from a bathroom and drinking fountain, and has massive windows.  I have the corner room and when I saw the bathroom's proximity an illogical part of my thought, the admin know.  About my obnoxious peeing habit.  And then I remembered that they're probably too busy to track the teachers' collective bathroom habits and chalked the location up to good fortune.

This is the part where I realize my luck is getting a bit out of hand.  Because there's more.  Last year some of my students and I tossed around the idea of starting a creative writing club.  That dream stuck with me throughout the summer and I found myself crafting make believe logos and writing prompts, all whilst not being sure whether their interest was legitimate.  But, lo and behold, a herd of my fabulous former students swarmed my classroom during lunch on the first day of school, making sure I was still on board.  Um.  On board with my dream job getting even better?  Check.  Anyway, as it turns out, there's a lot of red tape involved in starting a club.  So, I gathered the paperwork and we had an impromptu meeting today.  Once everyone was settled, I sifted through the forms, mentioning the various things required.  There was a slight pause and a few girls exchanged glances.  "So...we kind of figured this all out last night.  We got together because we were too excited to wait."  Without prodding, they had crafted a name, a logo, possible meeting times and activities; they'd talked to someone about making shirts.

And that's when I realized my secret teacher talent: sitting back and letting awesome students do awesome things.  I literally had to contribute next to nothing, and yet the meeting was beyond productive.

Did I mention that one of my best friends from high school (currently living in Iowa) made a surprise visit during this already phenomenal meeting?  Because that also happened.  And she came bearing peanut butter M&Ms.  I mean, today was weirdly good.

Furthermore, I have six TAs, which is sort of magical (for me, at least.  They're busy realizing being a TA is less glamour, more grunt work).  And, off-topic except for the common theme of awesomeness, there's talk of a faculty powderpuff league.  And, less off-topic, I'm still coaching basketball.

All this is to say, I almost crashed driving home today because I was busy smiling to myself like a goof and choreographing (in my head) a flash mob dance the basketball team could do to We Are Done, which makes zero sense but makes me happy for some reason.

So I think it's safe to say that things are good.


Tuesday, August 5

The Weeks of Recaptured Sanity

This summer has been a lot of things, most of them beautiful, some of them hard.  I participated in the Central Utah Writing Project, I taught summer school, I coached, I drafted new curriculum- a conglomeration that made me extraordinarily happy and extraordinarily tired and extraordinarily [fill in the blank, I'm sure it works].

All this is to say: until July 18th, I was feeling very er.  Busier, tireder, joyfuler than usual.  My days were amped to a precarious degree and I've learned [over and over] that even good things, without some dilution, can be too much.  I am of the, "sign up for everything and even things not on the list" variety.  I want to do everything and, until I try, wholeheartedly believe I am capable of doing everything.  But the thing about spreading yourself thin is that things you love, and likely need, don't always make the cut.

And so it went until I awoke on July 18th with a resounding nothing scheduled.  And while I usually equate a lack of schedule with a lack of ambition, I found myself gulping in my newfound freedom with relish.  My days had suddenly become malleable.  And so I went about recapturing my sanity.

As it turns out, my sanity hides in spin classes and trips to the grocery store.  It camps out in books and ice chips.  It lounges about in Wyoming.  Sometimes, to my husband's chagrin, it stays up at night pelting Conlin with life-altering questions, such as, "Wait, but...do you like peanut butter?  What about strawberries?  If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would you eat?"

I found my sanity and with it the ability to breath deeply, eat fruit on the porch, turn pages of a book slowly and then really, really fast.

I have found my sanity just in time to lose it again.