Life Counselor #5

(Reed’s Song of the Day: Should I Stay or Should I Go, by the Clash)

Not-So-NaNoWriMo word count: 23,651 words

 

I knew him… not well. I knew who he was. Tom. (SHOOT ME)

Okay, I know that’s not quite a fair quote to start you off with. Could be anyone on staff. But you know I’m talking about you, my constant encouragement to keep writing this stupid book about mental illness. The only person from O-staff I keep in good contact with (Sorry, Zack, Brianna, Aya).

I’ve been avoiding writing about you for a while. Well, I’ve been avoiding writing about most people for a while. It’s too damn hard to try to do this stuff, even when I’m not tired and hungry. But hey, life’s full of hard shit, right? And that’s actually a perfect segue into what I want to talk about.

You taught me more than I think you’ll allow me to give you credit for. You showed me a story so full of horrible shit that it still makes me shudder to think (and write) about. You taught me how evil the world can be to certain people who don’t deserve it, but just as importantly, you taught me that somehow, those people can bounce back. And you might not feel like you’re bouncing back, but compared to how I would be if I’d had your experiences… I admire you every day.

You taught me things that now have a permanent place inked onto my body. You taught me that sometimes, the best response is to just stop mothering and listen instead. You taught me that I don’t have to know the right answer all the time. That sometimes an arm around the shoulder is better than a billion blubbering words.

You taught me that life can be so much more serious than I pretend it is. You reminded me how goddamn lucky I am to have the familial relationships I do.

And honestly, you’re one of the main reasons I no longer think of feminism as a curse word. You’ve shown me what it means to care about social justice issues, and why every single person in this world should care about them just as much. Many of my friends would thank you for that, if they knew who you were.

You showed me how quickly a person can take up such a large portion of my heart.

And I’m not going to lie, you have taught me so much about mental health and how to best support people who are having difficulties. Every day when I interact with the people around me, I should be thanking you mentally for your patience in letting me understand these things on my own time and my own terms. For that especially, I want to thank you.

I’m determined to capture your character in a book someday – not this trash I’m writing right now, but in a book where you can really, truly blossom on the page as you have in my life.

I need you to know something. I’m not ever going to get tired of you. There will never be a moment in my life where I won’t want to be there for you. I love you, I enjoy talking to you, and I don’t ever want you to feel like you’re alone. If you’re having a bad day, please – just reach out to me. I want to be there to support you.

I’ve talked to you before about how I view the two types of people with mental illness. I want you to know that I always see you as the kind of person who keeps on struggling, even when it’s almost too much to bear. I have such respect for you for continuing to pick up that burden and carry it every day. I’ll continue to try to help you with it as much as I possibly can.

Thank you for sharing the disgusting, overworked, overemotional, wonderful journey of an O-staff summer with me. I’m so glad to have you as a friend.

Yours,

REEEEEDY

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Thanksgiving

(Reed’s song for the day: Stand By Me, by Ben E. King)

Not-So-NaNoWriMo word count: 20,184 words

Paraphrased from something I wrote a long time ago and actually thought was pretty decent.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. I’ll see you next week.

************

Thank you.

Thank you for the tears. Thank you for the anger. Thank you for the nights spent wondering, or just sleepless. Thank you for the moments of timeless pain I thought wouldn’t end.

Thank you for the times I had my head bent over a toilet, for the times I was too sick to go to school or work. Thank you for the unique misery of teenage years, and the growing pains that came with becoming a man.

Thank you for every fight I’ve ever had with a family member, every time we accidentally wounded each other with our words. Thank you for every time I’ve taken something too far.

Thank you for that time when I beat up my neighbor for calling my best friend fat.

Thank you for every moment I was ever confused about my path forward. Thank you for every question I got wrong on an exam, every time I opened my mouth and promptly sounded like an idiot for speaking.

Thank you for my immaturity and all the lessons it’s brought raining down on me. Thank you for my naive black-and-white attitude, my bullshit arrogance, and my hyperemotionality.

Thank you for every rejection I’ve ever faced, every literary agent who’s ever turned down one of my manuscripts, every girl who’s ever laughed at my intentions.

Thank you for every time I’ve ever judged, assumed, or allowed the nature of my privilege to darken somebody else’s path.

Thank you for terrible moments I can be too ashamed of to speak about with most people. Thank you for every impromptu therapy session a friend has conducted when I think about those moments.

Thank you for the bad, because without it I wouldn’t know the good.

All the rejections led to my soul mate. All the immaturity led to my discovery of a new philosophy that guides me through these dark times. All the darkness led to optimism.

Thank you for allowing me to learn from my mistakes, moreso now than ever before.

Thank you for the presidency that has kept me grounded and reminded me of where we must move in the coming years.

Thank you for the dying world that inspires me to act on its behalf.

Thank you for the people in my life who are struggling with mental and physical illnesses, because in their steadfast resolve I find my own hope.

Thank you for the bad, because without it I wouldn’t know the good.

Yours, gratefully,

-R.R. Buck

 

Not-So-NaNoWriMo Update #3

(Reed’s song of the day: Bob, by NOFX)

Not-So-NaNoWriMo word count: 17,771 words

Inspirational writing quote of the day (altered slightly to be more gender-inclusive):

“Any person who keeps working is not a failure. They may not be a great writer, but if they apply the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, they’ll eventually make some kind of career for themselves as a writer.”
– Ray Bradbury

Well, I’ve fallen below my goal for word count at this point. And I’ll be honest, I thought it was going to happen at some point in the month. I’m pretty lazy, and sometimes if I get thrown off track, it’s hard for me to get back on. Plus 40,000 words in one month is something I haven’t done since junior year of college.

But I never expected the thing to keep me from writing to be a pulled muscle.

This has been a seriously strange week for me. My best guess right now is that I pulled a muscle in my neck while climbing the UCLA rock wall last week. I had little twinges of pain in it all week, especially after I slept on it wrong, but nothing too bad.

Smash cut to Monday morning, about 5am. I’ve been experiencing some pretty discomforting levels of pain the previous night, but I’m thinking a good night of sleep will make things better.

At 5am I wake up and I can’t move my neck in any direction without intense pain. I thrash around for about an hour, trying to muffle these little grunts of pain I’m making, until I realize this isn’t going away. At that point I message work and let them know I won’t be coming in – which sucks because I had been planning an event for the past month or so and it was held on that day (yesterday).

Then I down two Advil and wait for something resembling relief.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, since I had to take Monday off, I was thinking it would be the perfect time to get out like 3,000 words, since I had nothing better to do. But no matter what angle I tried to keep my computer at, or my neck at, it was always searing pain going through me when I typed.

I know, right? Of all the things… a pulled muscle.

And as if this hasn’t been enough, yesterday I started getting sick.

DUDE, WHAT THE HELL, RIGHT?!

So it’s been quite the week, and it’s already Tuesday. I have to go back to work on Wednesday (well, assuming I’m in some state of alive on Wednesday) so I’m trying to conserve strength. The only thing I was capable of doing yesterday was lying perfectly still in bed with pillows behind my back, playing Super Mario Odyssey for eight hours.

It speaks to my better health that I was able to get down about 2500 words today – not quite enough to be back on track, but a good start – and also write this post. But seriously, as soon as my neck let up, it was as if the sickness was like, “OKAY, IT’S GO TIME.”

So I’m gonna lie here and hope against hope that I get rid of this by tomorrow, or work is going to be very, very unpleasant.

Yours, feelin’ eighty-six,

-R.R. Buck

Not-So-NaNoWriMo Update #2

(Reed’s song of the day: Riot Girl, by Zebrahead)

Not-So-NaNoWriMo word count: 13,589 words

Inspirational writing quote of the day:

“I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.” – Edgar Rice Burroughs

Holy hell has it been a long week.

And I have the day off tomorrow, but somehow it’s like all the work from a 5-day week went into four days instead. Let’s see a breakdown of things that happened for me at work this week:

  1. I had three back-to-back instruction sessions on a day when I wasn’t scheduled to teach (culminating in 4.5 hours of extra work with about 5 minutes for lunch in the middle)
  2. I’ve been taking lead on an event project for the library the past two weeks and this week was “crunch week”, so I’ve been helping coordinate a bunch of different activities from trying to get volunteers to help staff, to printing, folding, and collating materials for the event
  3. We’ve been severely understaffed this week, so there have been extra shifts in our research consultation station I had to take because there wasn’t anyone else able to
  4. And finally, my coworker and work mom is having health problems which prevented her from coming into work and worried me to no end.

Somehow, I’ve been maintaining my schedule – even time to exercise and see Lindsay, despite her having midterms this week too. But there’s one moment that really stood out to me and made me proud.

It wasn’t earlier this week, when I was getting between 1200 and 1600 words down on Monday and Tuesday. It wasn’t today, when for some reason I got in a writing frenzy and nailed down 2000 when I only intended a little bit.

It was actually Wednesday, when I could barely get in 500 words.

After yesterday (the back-to-back-to-back instruction session day), I was so exhausted that I really just wanted to go home and fall asleep reading. The very last thing I wanted to do was write, and I was sorely tempted to just pass it up altogether. I was even more convinced by the fact that I was ahead of my writing goal (still am, I should be at 12,000 words as of today), so it really wouldn’t hurt to take the day off.

Instead, I got on my computer and I wrote. And holy shit were those 550 words bad.

But I did it. And I think that’s what NaNoWriMo is kind of all about. It’s like digging deep in that last few hundred meters of a marathon; it’s about spending all the energy you have left, and then some, to just push a little harder. Even though I started off my first day of my Not-So-NaNoWriMo by writing 3300 words in one day, I felt more accomplished yesterday than I did that day.

To anyone who’s struggling with NaNoWriMo, or just with writing in general – I know it sucks, and I know you’re tired and don’t want to do it. I know it’s too early in the month to be this upset over writing, and I know you feel it anyway.

Do it, dude. Just go for it. Even getting down a hundred words is better than writing nothing for the day.

Even getting down six is better.

So do it. Just write it out. I believe in you.

Yours, now going to fall asleep reading a book,

-R.R. Buck

Streed of Consciousness [Part 8 – Careers]

(Reed’s song of the day: Why Don’t You Get a Job, by The Offspring)

Not-So-NaNoWriMo word count: 10,975 words

This isn’t gonna be a very long one – I have had a pretty busy day, and I’m in for two even busier days tomorrow and Thursday.

Still, I had some new insights recently that I’d like to share with anyone who wants to keep up with my life.

I’m at a point in my life where it looks like I should be starting to choose a career. Or at least something vaguely resembling a career. I’ve had jobs now since the beginning of college, but they’ve really just been ways of paying the rent, not really anything substantial.

Of course, right up until I graduated, I thought my career path was going to be graduate school, a PhD, and a professorship somewhere at a research university. I’m really fortunate that several close people in my life told me (as politely and gently as they could) that they didn’t really see me doing academia. They proved to know me a lot better than I know myself, and I turned away from it at the last minute.

So now I’m here, and I’m thinking that communications might be a career for me. But I’ve not even truly been able to explore that path – well, not as much as I’d like – here at the library. Which begs the question, what have I been doing with all my time? What do I actually have experience doing, enjoy doing, and yet haven’t considered as a career?

Well, for one, the library. Although I’ve been doing a plethora of different loosely connected projects for the UCLA Library, I feel like my role is getting more defined with each quarter I spend here. And the other day, at a meeting, a coworker and friend of mine suggested that he, at the very least, wants me to stay on as a more permanent member of the Library staff – which surprised me, because I always thought they weren’t interested in having me even as a full-time employee.

I hadn’t really considered the idea of working for the Library, but honestly, staying near my favorite campus in the world, near all of my friends and Lindsay, it might not be that bad of a life. I’d even have the ability to apply out to other libraries if I needed to move.

Another one was brought up by a different coworker, and I hadn’t even really thought of it as a career before she said it – that of a campus ambassador. I’ve done quite a bit of outreach now for the UCLA Library and for UCLA in general, from being a New Student Advisor (an orientation counselor) to giving tours to donors to serving as a liaison to certain academic departments on campus. I love public speaking and inspiring people about programs I know to be awesome.

It would be pretty cool to go around to high schools and try to encourage people to apply to college. I don’t even know how I would get started in a career like that, but it’d be pretty cool.

Third, there’s teaching. I sort of accidentally, sort of purposefully, found myself teaching a lot more this quarter for the library than I ever have before. (In fact, part of my busy day tomorrow is three different instruction sessions for English classes.) I’ve always had a passion for teaching, and I guess previously I thought professorship was the only route I could take to get there. But now, well… I could do it for the library. Or I could get a master’s and teach at a community college. Or hell, even AP psych – the course that inspired me to become a neuroscience major.

I don’t know. I guess that’s the problem, right? I don’t know what I want to do. But for once, it’s nice to have options, instead of just sinking in this unsure quagmire.

Fourth and finally, I have my creative writing. The thing that’s stuck with me since I was twelve. I suppose I could become a published novelist, being able to work from home and spend time with my kids while doing something I love for a living.

OH, RIGHT. I SUCK AT WRITING.

Ah, well. Maybe in a few decades, after I’ve written more words than I even want to count. For right now, I’ll see about choosing a path I’m already established in, where I clearly have talent. And maybe writing will fall into place a little bit later.

Well, this turned out to be longer than I wanted or expected, and my stomach is yelling at me to shut up and get some dinner. So I think I’ll be off.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, or even my Not-So-NaNoWriMo, here’s to inspired writing and shitty first drafts. You’ve got this.

Peace out, everyone.

Yours, professionally,

-R.R. Buck

Not-So-NaNoWriMo Update #1

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: I Want to Break Free, by Queen)

Not-So-NaNoWriMo word count: 4,420 words

Inspirational writing quote of the post: “If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.”
– Somerset Maugham

So the past two days have been kind of fun.

Yesterday was my day off work, which usually I take as a sign from fate that I deserve to collapse and do nothing all day. Ordinarily, I would enjoy that – especially a few weeks ago when things were getting intense.

Instead, yesterday I got up, read for several hours, went to lab, went to the store, and wrote for several hours. That was my nine-to-five, after which I cooked dinner for Lindsay and I and spent two and a half hours at the rock climbing wall at the UCLA gym. The productivity was off the charts, at least for me.

(It’s creepy to think some people actually live their lives that productively.)

Out of the two and a half to three hours I was writing, I got about 3100 words out. Pretty slow pacing for me, but hey. I had to take breaks, but it surprised me how much I was actually able to write all at once.

If you haven’t seen what I’m doing, do yourself a favor and read my Not-So-NaNoWriMo post. And then do yourself an even bigger favor and give it a shot with me. You’ve only lost one and a half days, and I’m giving you some super relaxed guidelines. There’s no better time to do it; life will never be clearer in the future, no matter how much you tell yourself it will be.

Time to shut up and write.

If you need some more inspiration, check out a few of my other feel-good posts from when I’ve been down on myself. Here, here, here, here, here, here. That oughtta be enough.

Now get to it.

Yours, productive af,

-R.R. Buck

Halloween and Fantasy

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: This is Halloween, from The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Not-So-NaNoWriMo word count: 0 words

 

You know what I love?

Halloween.

I’m sitting writing this at work, wearing my full Renaissance nobleman’s outfit, drawing stares from a few people around me. I’m going to pretend it’s because I look dapper (and I do).

Earlier today, I had the privilege of giving a tour of the library (which I do pretty often for work) not as Reed Buck, failed writer extraordinaire, but as Alaskar, Lord of Libraries. Which basically means me in a posh British accent leading two freshmen around the library describing rooms and services. They put up with me, but it was one of the more entertaining tours I’ve given.

Halloween might be one of my favorite holidays. It definitely was as a kid. The mixture of unrelenting streams of candy plus being able to stay out late and run around with my friends and family was just too incredible for a child of my hyperactivity to conceive of. One of my first moments of freedom in childhood was the first year my parents let us go out alone trick-or-treating.

Now, I’m learning to love Halloween for a completely different reason. (Okay, well the candy too, but that’s now reserved for November 1, which I’ve dubbed “Clearance Day”.) My new reason to love Halloween is fantasy.

Many times when I reflect on me as a kid, and honestly me now, I think about how eccentric I am. I played with toys until I was 18, devising more and more fantastical scenarios, more and more convoluted plots, as I aged. Whereas most kids “grow up”, I just grew more invested, finding new themes and depth to add to my creative endeavors. Even now, I play Dungeons and Dragons and write fantasy novels because I love that process of imagination and play.

And that’s what Halloween is coming to represent for me. Here’s a day where (ideally) no one is judged and people can be whomever they want. Nerdy guys can pretend to be Prince Charming or Captain America; women can wear sexier outfits without being called “sluts”. It’s like the one day a year where everyone is given a free pass to be as weird, childish, freaky, frightening, or indulgent as they want.

Coming from a childhood where I felt like I was the only one who was really being myself, it’s pretty awesome to be able to see straight-laced friends crossdressing for a Rocky Horror themed party, or to be able to wear my D&D outfit in public for an entire day.

I know some people associate Halloween with candy, or with terror, or with the smell of fake fog. Some people associate it with really horrible memories, others with a sense of loss that their religious beliefs prevent them from joining. I know there’s a whole bad side to the holiday I’m kind of refusing to acknowledge.

But to me, Halloween is the annual day where everyone is just as weird and out there as me. And I freaking love that.

So get your costumes on, spookyfolk, and let’s get strange tonight.

Yours, LORD OF LIBRARIES,

-R.R. Buck