Jul 30, 2015

On Pain: The Abyss Gazes Back



This has been a long time coming. Practically no one reads or writes blogs anymore, except the proud few who somehow (clickbait) make money off it, but for anyone who is reading this, thank you. And get ready: in the words of David Bowie, “I don’t know where we’re going, but I promise it won’t be boring.” (Content warning: lots of talk about chronic pain, depression, and suicide. Possibly boredom.)

I don’t like talking about my pain because, believe it or not, I don’t like to complain. I mostly like living a private life: my business is my business, and my thoughts are my thoughts. My pain is my own. Don’t get me wrong. I am happy if hesitant to invite my family, friends, and loved ones (different names for the same group of people) in to jump down the rabbit hole as far as they’re willing. The reason I don’t like to complain is I don’t like to burden others. I don’t like to bring people down. I like to be the funny guy and make people laugh, rather than tell them that (until a few weeks ago, I'll explain why) 90% of the time I sincerely wish I was dead. The whispers of kill yourself, kill yourself in my own voice and voices of others constantly creep into my thoughts everywhere I go.

For the past 17 years, I’ve lived in constant pain. Over half my life. You probably know this, but I suffered from bone cancer when I was 15. I assumed I would be in the hospital for a year, get a metal knee, and be done with it. Maybe acquire a few stories or something to make my life more interesting and help me develop into a better person. That was partially correct. However, what I didn’t realize (aside from the complications of chemotherapy and all the other fun stuff that cancer brings) was the results of cancer would plague and color my life for the worse from that point on.

After being pronounced cancer-free, my leg kept hurting. Varying between aching, stabbing, throbbing, itching, gnawing, sharp pain, dull pain, (“gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning”) but, ever constant, pain. I’ve become something of a pain connoisseur, at least as far as my leg has been concerned. I’ve been on crutches, used a cane, had numerous surgeries hoping to correct the problem, including one where they removed my hip, but the pain has always returned, like an unrelenting wolf lurking in the shadows, never satiated, striking again and again.

Another reason I haven’t liked complaining about it is the feeling that the continued pain was somehow my fault. That the surgeries didn’t work because I was somehow deficient. Or I deserved the pain. I was either being punished or prepared for unspecific greatness by an inscrutably loving God. He was surely teaching some great lesson that, once learned, would show me the great vistas of Heaven, rather than wonder if Hell could be any worse.

I’ve thought of (and tried) killing myself many times. The thought of old age has been one of dread, as I expect aging will magnify the pain eventually to the point of collapse. I constantly fear one day the pain will grow too great, and my reasons I desperately hold on to for living won’t be enough anymore.

My religious upbringing taught me to believe that God gives us trials to overcome them. That He will make weak things become strong (Ether 12:27). That He will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (2 Nephi 2:2). Nietzsche famously said “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” While I tried to believe what I was taught, the last 17 years have given me ample evidence that the scriptures and Nietzsche were wrong. Wrong, wrong, WRONG!

Because the pain hasn’t made me stronger. It’s made me bitter. It’s made me more selfish. It’s led to depression. When I say pain has colored my life, I mean it’s dulled it—all the colors turn muted. When you’ve experienced chronic pain, joy isn’t as sweet; passion is downgraded to amusement (if that).

If you’re reading this, most likely you’re in the group I mentioned above, family and friends. If you’re willing, you’re welcome to jump down the rabbit hole with me, as I act as guide in my world. Most of the time, at best, you feel malaise, ennui, and other emotions originated by the French. At worst, you feel suicidal and harbor feelings of bleak despair, festering self-loathing, and consuming bitterness at everyone who is not in constant pain. The specter of pain is always with you, telling you “You can’t enjoy this. You’re not allowed.” So you sit back and watch your son grow up without you, trying to feel gratitude that he has good aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc. who play with him when you can’t. . . because the pain is too great. So you sit on the sidelines, wanting more than anything to chase after him to tickle, tackle, and hug, wanting to hear his infectious laughter and know that it’s because of you. But either you literally can’t, or you know that if you do, the tremors of pain will erupt and you won’t be able to even move the next day without wincing or screaming in pain.

You feel like a bad husband because you can’t be the strong Protector with a capital P that society, the media, your church, and fairy tales say you should be. You can’t help as much as you’d like to with the housework, with simple errands, with keeping a job. You fear that if an intruder intrudes, the best you could manage is a temporary distraction before they take away everything precious to you. It makes you angry, and you turn your anger toward your wife—not abusively, thankfully—but you’re harsh and angry when you really just want to cry. You lash out at a wife who by all accounts is the greatest woman on the planet. Beautiful as the morning and, in your eyes, the only contender for People’s Sexiest Person Alive. Kind and loving, you literally could not wish for a better mother for your children, or a better friend. Brilliant, cunning, witty, and hilarious—she challenges your perceptions and preconceived notions of perfection. You often have to stop yourself and wonder if you’re just looking at her through the rose-colored glasses of a devoted husband. But even trying your best to view her objectively, she’s divine. If you saw her on the street, you would think she is the most fascinating person you’ve ever seen, and you must do absolutely anything to get to know her.

But the pain causes you to temporarily forget all of this. You yell at your beloved wife for asking you to help with the dishes or put your children to bed. You hate yourself, so you transfer that hate to her, even though at the same time you marvel at her patience and love. You secretly fear she thinks a) she could do far better with damn near anyone else, b) you’re faking pain to get out of helping (almost never true), or c) both of the above, but pretends not to for the sake of your relationship, further proving she’s too good for you.

Continuing in your journey as me...Your selfishness and pain make you a worse person. You used to love giving service. For some twisted reason you really liked helping people move. Now you sit and make excuses when someone needs help, hating yourself for it. You can’t give blood because they don’t want your cancer blood. (Until recently). You can’t give comfort or succor because you are so starving yourself. When you try to serve in spite of the pain, the pain gets worse, punishing you for daring to think of others, daring to think you could be normal.

By now, you might be wondering about efforts to manage the pain. You try to lose weight to lessen the pain, but exercise leads to further pain, and not the good pushing-yourself kind of pain, the make-you-wish-you-were-dead kind of pain. You blame others; you blame yourself; you blame everything. You feel bad because you know others have it worse. You hate complaining because others are in more pain. There are people starving. People being tortured. Children abused by the parents supposed to love them. People murdered because of the way they were born, their race, their gender, their orientation, their beliefs. Surprisingly, this doesn’t make you feel better about your situation. Just because someone may have it worse, you only have your own experiences and your own pain reminding you that you still have it pretty bad. Because the pain is always there. Distracting you from living life. Distracting you from being happy. Distracting you from trying to feel charity for others.

What about pain meds? You try pain killers like morphine, Valium, Vicodin, codeine, and combinations thereof. Some work better than others. Most have side effects that are worse than or just as bad as the pain. Side effects including, but not limited to, hallucinations, severe itching, vertigo, memory loss, and depression. You realize you’re trading pain for side effects that aren’t worth it. You know your pain. You’re used to it. So you choose the pain: the devil you know. You make do with taking plenty of over-the-counter medications to take the edge off the pain. This means you can go to exotic places like the store, the park, the movies, places with your family where you can pretend to be normal. . .before the pain returns, as always. The ravenous wolf invariably gnaws and gnashes at your leg, reminding you that you can’t be normal, and that he will always be with you.

This has been your life for nearly two decades. You learn to accept it. Eventually, the pain becomes part of you, weaving itself into the fabric of what makes you inherently you. Dulling the once brilliantly colored tapestry of who you once were: a person happy with who they were, comfortable in their own skin. A person who loved telling jokes more than anything, delighted with the knowledge of contributing to someone else’s happiness. But you’ve grown, or shrunk depending on your point of view, into the person you are. At this point, this is all you have known, and all you think life can be.

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Maybe now you see why I’ve been hesitant to let people in, reluctant to let people know how much my pain has affected my life, my very core of who I am.

For better or worse (it’s worse), my pain has tempered who I am, even if I hate myself because of it. Because I should have risen above it, should have mastered it, should have told myself I am not my pain. But I am. Or I have been.

That’s what makes this next part so scary. My pain has defined me, even when—especially when—I haven’t wanted it to. However, there does in fact seem to be light at the end of the rabbit hole, and falling down may yet have turned out to be falling up.




A few weeks ago, I asked a Facebook group I’m in if they knew of any chronic pain support groups in Utah County. Although I had resigned myself to a life of pain, I thought joining a club of fellow sufferers could make the suffering more bearable. The Facebook group didn’t know of any pain support groups, but a few recommended the Utah Valley Pain Management Clinic in Orem. My life couldn’t be any bleaker; I figured what did I have to lose?

(Note: Tracie would like everyone to know she’s been telling me for years and years to go to a pain management clinic.)

Not knowing what to expect, I set up an appointment. The doctor asked lots of questions, and I filled out lots of paperwork. Then, he did lots of tests and inspections on me and eventually prescribed a new medication. “This isn’t an opiate,” the doctor said, “It’s called Neurotonin, or generically as Gabapentin. It helps with nerve pain. It’s an anti-seizure medication.” I figure what the hell. Give it a try. But then he says something that makes me cry, cracking the dam of emotional pain that has been building up for years. “But if this doesn’t work, we have many more things we can try to make you feel better. We will keep trying until you do.” I’ve only wanted to kiss a man twice in my life. Once was Freddie Mercury because, Freddie Mercury. The other was when this doctor promised me he’d help me feel better. I didn’t kiss him, but I started crying and thanked him.

This was about four weeks ago. I’ve steadily increased my dose of Gabapentin as prescribed, and the pain has slowly decreased to the point of near non-existence.

Sometime last week, Tracie asked why I’ve been so happy lately. Simultaneously, we both realized it. How dark our life has been because of this ominous shadow of pain, a cave of bleak depression and helplessness affecting both our lives. But here’s the thing: I barely feel any pain in my leg now. We went to the local discount arcade (Nickel City) a week ago, and not ONCE did I complain about wanting to leave.

This was huge. For the first time in years so long I can’t even remember, I had fun outside of my home without pain bringing me down, preventing me from enjoying myself fully. Instead of needing to sit down in a lonely corner, instead of watching my wife and son enjoy themselves without me, instead of wondering if they’d be better off if I weren’t there, I had fun with my family!

I hope so much it continues, and as cliché as it is, I feel like I have a new lease on life. I think I have a chance to be normal, a chance to be happy, a chance to help others without the pain restricting me. This exhilarates—and terrifies—me.

Terrified because, what if the pain comes back? The wolf is not gone. In the shadows, he silently stalks back and forth. I can sense him pacing in the corner of my eye, watching intently when I take my medicine, eager to attack if I ever forget. I’m not ignorant enough to think the pain is gone forever, that my problems are magically fixed. The medication doesn’t remove the pain; it shields the transmission between my leg and my brain whenever my leg hollers, “Hey brain, I hurt!” (He’s probably sick of shouting it. I know I’m sick of hearing it.)

As I sit here writing my first blog entry in over a year, my leg is still aching and throbbing a little. Nowhere near the pain experienced before I started taking Gabapentin. But it’s still there. And of course I know that life is a certain small percent what happens to you and a much larger percent how you let it affect you, but I’m still hesitant to be fully happy. The pain has ALWAYS returned, with a vengeance. What makes this time any different? I’ve been the victim of my own leg, the prisoner in my own body so long, I fear the escape. And, to quote Jim Butcher, “I'd hate to find out that the universe really wasn't conspiring against me. It would jerk the rug out from under my persecution complex.”

But whether the pain returns or not, for now I choose to be happy. Now is all I have. Because if I can truly be happy—if I can be the husband, the father, the friend, the service-giving person I’ve wanted to be—that’s all I want. To not have my leg cage me. I’m so happy at this moment, but afraid. Because for the first time in 17 long years, I’m stepping out of the cave, away from the darkness of pain I’ve known so well and become such an integral part of me. And this scares me. I’ve identified as a person who lives with chronic pain for so long, it’s who I’ve been over half my life. Even though words can’t express my joy at being free of this Sisyphean boulder, in a weird way, I’m mourning the loss of that Austin. Not only that, but I’m afraid that I actually am just a horrible person who’s been using his pain to mask the horrible person he is. It’s made me selfish for so long; I’m not entirely sure how to be charitable again, or how to be this new Austin.

But I’m excited to find out, and I will do my damnedest to improve, to make others happy, and to be happy myself. Whether this is my new life, or a temporary reprieve, I look forward to a brighter future. I’m stepping out of the cave, leaping out of the darkness. The wolf is there, but I won’t let him catch me.




You have escaped the cage. Your wings are stretched out. Now fly.

—Rumi

May 10, 2014

Am I going to die? Bird of prey, flying high: take me on your flight.



A few days ago I dreamed I was dying. Terminal. Of a disease Unknown but Certain. Three days left.

I don't remember saying goodbye to anyone or crying, or trying to do just one last thing on the bucket list or whining and cursing at how it's unfair and "not yet, please." I don't remember trying to say I love you one more time, which I hope, when actual the time comes I am able to, even though my entire life I pray has been nothing if not a long and sometimes rambling love letter to my sweet One. The last few months Death has preoccupied my waking thoughts, dreaming about it was only natural. What rattled my Cage was what became Important to me, at the dream worlds' end.

I wanted the stories I'd not written to be written. Not the stories I have written to be read, but the stories not yet written, to be conceived at last. I gathered friends and those I admired and gave them all I knew of that story's world and the dying wish to give life to the story I dared not realize. These stories were Not a conceptual thing, existing only in the dreaming, tales of sealing wax and cabbages and kings. (Well, maybe one). I have at least a dozen stories swirling around in my head in divergent stages of development that I for varied reasons have been too afraid to write. Or at least not ready to. I want to do them justice, and I still feel like my talent and skill or lack thereof rather are too meager and mediocre to write them the way they should be written; in the voice they must be heard.

I realize that's just low self-esteem bull crap self-deception stuffed lies. No one is the writer they want to be, that's what rewrites and revisions are for. But still, it's dulled and dimmed my creativity, the fear of not being up to the task the Muse has assigned me.

From the start, deciphering a dream is futile. When trying to make sense of nonsense you lose nearly everything that made the nonsense valuable. But, if human nature is to dream, I think it is just as much human nature to try to make sense from it. Or at least take what you can from it. I doubt it's about a desire to be immortal, though it very well could be. I think it's more about taking what you've been given and to share it with others. Or maybe it's just my mind telling me' it's getting crowded in here with all these ideas' and I need to release the pressure out on pages and screen.

So, in tribute to my vivid dream which I choose to take as a message from my unconscious to start writing again, I'm going to start writing again.

Not necessarily on the blog, but not necessarily not on the blog. I will start small of course, a few words a day perhaps, or transcribing a story I wrote 5 years ago so I can consider submitting it somewhere or even just showing others I love and others I don't a story I love and a story I don't but a story I wrote, while I still have time and life and passion to do so.

Apr 16, 2014

Catching Up

 
That stupid last post gave me the desire to blog again, and I realize quite a lot has happened since I last wrote.

Perhaps biggest news, I graduated college. Only took me 13 years after I started to get a Bachelor's degree. While my designing has grown and improved, my writing, journaling and blogging have suffered. Blogging is kind of old news now, at least blogspot is. I blame Facebook, my brother in law, and my friend Jacob in Hawaii. This is because 1) Facebook has taken over what my blogging used to be, me either posting things that interested me, or news about me. 2) My brother in law's fault because I wrote to him all through his mission, and so my news and journalistic/what's happening to Austin got used up there, and 3) same goes for Jacob, anything interesting or noteworthy I feel I have to say gets said to him. Isn't he the lucky one?

So what do I have left? A desire to express, to communicate, and just to get thoughts and feelings out. I've been suffering off and on with depression for a very long time, more acutely lately, but at the moment none. I feel great. It's weird, to have periods like days, weeks, or hours or minutes where all I want to do is curl up and die, or contemplate and attempt various ways of different magnitudes of success and pain to do just that. It goes between I'm worthless and don't deserve to live to I must have done something wrong or there's something inherently wrong with/about me, and my wife and son would be better off either without me or with anyone else.

But I didn't post this to talk about my depression, just what's been going on the past year or so since I blogged more regularly.

I currently work at a company in Salt Lake City, right across from the airport, where we design products for various other (almost exclusively) outdoor companies. Often my job is extremely exciting and interesting and a creatives dream come true, but seemingly just as often it is constricting and degenerates into slapping camouflage and a company logo on whatever product I'm working on, be it a flask, barstool, towel, notebook, or you name it we probably do it. There are many pros and cons of working there, often it feels like more cons than pros, but if nothing else, it is providing me with massive experience and growth, which is a gift in and of itself.

My son Morgan is almost 5 now, I couldn't be happier with him or love him more, except I know from experience I will love him more tomorrow, just how it goes. He's still behind developmentally, but constantly growing and improving, I just hope more than practically anything he'll continue in that direction. We got news today at his IEP that he'll be in Special Ed, which made me cry. Even though I knew he would, he's quite behind, I just hope he'll continue to grow and improve, and not regress when surrounded by kids that are more behind than he is. It's odd that getting bad news, even when it's inevitable/not a surprise at all, can still stab the heart like it does. It's never easy to hear that someone you love so much and think of as pretty much the most awesome person in the world is deficient in some way. But, he's always my Moby, and I wouldn't change him, but that doesn't mean I don't hope he grows and improves. He is getting so much better at using the potty, which is one of the biggest reliefs (heh) I've experienced as a parent.

In November I designed another 30 book covers (closer to 40 covers) for NaNoWriMo's 30 Covers in 30 Days challenge, I even got to design a cover for NaNoWriMo's project itself, which was a huge honor and one of the highlights of 2013. I'm planning to make this an annual thing as long as I can find 30 people who want me to design a cover for them, although I'm thinking this year doing it in either October or November, so I can participate in NaNoWriMo the way Baty intended, and write a novel in November.

I miss writing and feel at least a portion of my depression is linked to not having the creative outlet of writing. Even tho my very job is nothing but creative outlets as far as designing and visual creativity goes, writing is something that is a part of me whether I want it to be or not (and I do), and I need to feed that portion of my soul or it threatens to poison the whole tree of me or something. I'm not making much sense, but I'm just trying to get everything out while I have the desire and have made the time to write.

What else? I've been reading about the same, which is almost nothing at all, but I have been listening to a lot, apparently there are a lot of probably less than legal copies of audiobooks on youtube, I've listened to American Gods for the third time and the Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn for the second time, as well as books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, that are as illuminating as they are inspiring. I've become something of a Hitchens if not disciple, admirer, listening to a great number of his debates and speeches and interviews also on youtube, and saddened that he died so recently and I never had an opportunity to meet him, tho what I'd say heaven knows.

Speaking of meeting celebrities, last summer we went to the Salt Lake Comic Con (we being Tracie, me, and my mommy). It was a lot of fun if insanely crowded. The only famous person we met was Nicholas Brendan who played Xander on Buffy. We opted not to go this year, as there are only about 4 people we'd like to meet (James Marsters, Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion, and Billy Dee Williams) and I don't think there's a human being alive that I want to wait in an hour plus line in order to say "Hi, I like you when you act in that one or two roles. Bye."

When I'm not feeling depressed or fulfilling family or work obligations, I'm either going to the bathroom, sleeping, or playing the Star Wars MMO The Old Republic. It is so fun it's crazy, but then I love Star Wars. Tracie asked me what I want for my birthday, I said cake, intimacy (sex) and Star Wars, which I realized could also be the title of my autobiography, if you add mediocre poetry.

Another impetus for wanting to start writing again was this wonderful short video I can't recommend enough, I've already shared it with several of you who won't be reading this, here it is again/for the first time, inspiring words from Jorge Luis Borges:

Best minute and 39 seconds you'll spend today.

Possibilities



The last time I was this excited, was about a year ago when I got two job offers on the same day. I'm so excited I'm blogging again for crying out loud.

I feel so many possibilities today like I can fly, which is a big feeling for a guy with one leg.

First of all, an old friend/mentor/confidante/professor contacted me today. We used to try to go to lunch once a month, then he got cancer and I haven't heard back from him for about 6 months, fearing the worst. He sounds like he's cancer free, (largely because he says so) which I can tell you from personal experience is an awesome feeling. We're planning to go eat this weekend, which is also awesome, not least of which because it's my birthday, the first time Easter has fallen on my birthday for 11 years, if I recall correctly.

Secondly, another old friend/roommate/game buddy/BFF contacted me to tell me his work is hiring. While I greatly enjoy my current job, I've been feeling a bit in a creative and professional rut as well as a growing urge to leave Utah for different pastures, and though I haven't even applied, let alone been called for an interview or offered a job or any of that, it's a great feeling to feel like I have a chance for change. We'll see how that goes. I do plan to start blogging again, even if I'm guessing about 3-5 people will read this, give or take 3-5.

Thirdly, and I doubt anyone but me will care about this, but it's my freaking blog anyway, but it looks like I'll soon be getting the new gaming group together for a Star Wars campaign. Tabletop gaming geeks will (better) agree, there are few things more exciting than the possibilities of a new campaign/game with friends.

I'm realizing that I'm happiest when I have opportunities and possibilities, before reality sets in and the new career opportunity becomes the new job I have to work really hard at, or the lunch with my favorite teacher either ends, or is boring and we lose things to talk about after 15 minutes before our food arrives, or the players quit the game before I get a chance to get it rolling, or before it begins, but not before I spend all the time preparing and planning the game.

Thank goodness for possibilities, what would the world look like if they lived up to their expectations?

Oct 10, 2013

If I could ask Neil one question



More than anybody else alive, I would love to meet Neil Gaiman. Be in the same room, shake his hand, watch him autograph my collection of everything he's ever written, fantasize about us becoming friends.

If he came to my hometown or somewhere within driving distance of my residence, perhaps to accept an award, he has so many, or to appear at a convention or writer's workshop, that is where I would go. And he, after a brilliant reading from one of his illuminating works, sits down with a microphone and answers questions of the audience. No one appreciates his fans quite like Neil.

I wonder what would I ask him? My first impulse would be to ask something really deep and impressive about one of his characters, or a microscopic detail in one of his stories, to show him what a passionate admirer I am. Something like 'why does Shadow ask Wednesday's raven to say "Nevermore" when Shadow doesn't seem like the type of person to read Poe?' Even though I don't really care about the answer, I care about him seeing me as a true fan, not a pretender. One who has read all of Sandman and owns a dvd copy of the BBC production of Neverwhere. But others are likely asking him similarly esoteric questions with likely the same reasoning.

If I could ask him anything, my second impulse would be to ask him to lunch or dinner sometime. Not to court the Dream King or something like that, but to hang out, get to know one another, become friends. To show him how similar we are, how my writing and thinking was so like his before I even discovered it. Though after a bit of reflection I think asking a question like that is somewhat cheating. Much like wishing for more wishes from a great brass-skinned genie who plans to twist your wishes anyway before they're made. Also, I realize asking a question like that in a great crowd like this would only invite light laughter, a smile or two, as if I were joking, and then he'd move on to another question.

Finally I think of the perfect question, one I really would want to know, not one to display my devotion, and not one that he's likely been asked a hundred times before or one I could learn by reading his blog (which I do) or watch videos of other interviews and Q&A's with him (also do.) But I think a really meaningful question, better than "how do you become a successful writer?" or "how did you meet your wife Amanda?" or "what's your favorite food?" I would ask Neil Gaiman "When is the happiest you've ever been?"

But I would be one hand in a sea of many, and he wouldn't see me. He answers questions about Doctor Who and which is his favorite character. He answers why he chose to live in Minnesota (everyone knows that) and answers what some of his favorite books are, and questions about Sandman sequels. He smiles at us all, grateful and graceful to his throes of admirers, but never hears me. I sit down, and wonder what Neil would say and how he would answer, while I imagine how happy I'd be if he would have answered.


Apr 22, 2013

Marsyas

I recently completed my chapbook (small collection of poems) for my poetry class.

Because my printer is awesome and because some people expressed interest, I have about 70 extra copies I need to get rid of/have available for your reading pleasure/horror.

If you're interested, (and I didn't screw things up too much) enter your address and click the button below to order it through PayPal, as selling it on Amazon or other sites means I have to buy an ISBN, about $125 which I don't have or want to spend. The price ($8) is mostly to cover the cost of shipping and printing, hope you enjoy!

Austin



Address

Mar 12, 2013

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello


 Well, I have some news.

After 3 years and 4 months of working at SecurityMetrics, I am leaving this Friday. It has been my favorite job (as well as longest) with some of the best & most talented people I've ever met, but I felt it's time to move on.

A large part of this is because I've been offered a job as a graphic designer at Wavetronix, and a new internship at InsideOut Development. I start next week, and while it's fairly nerve-wracking to leave what's been my home away from home for the last three years, I'm looking forward to the new adventure as well as working somewhere I can actually use my college degree!