Sunday, September 7, 2014

73: No, really. What am I Doing?

I'm 24 years old and I haven't a clue. I thought I did. I really did, actually. I wrote about it last time. But there is one other plan I want as well. I don't know which one is better, right, or more practical. Can I ever get the one I want? Can I get something else that will not make me a beggar on the streets?
I want a teaching job back in Kansas so I can make a troupe and dance at the KC Renaissance Festival every year. How shallow and silly is that? Who is that benefitting? No one but me, really. I mean, I know that it makes the patrons happy and that is good. Especially since the fest is a place people come to so they don't have to deal with Real Life on the weekends. And I don't care about that. I think ignoring life and coming out to play is a good thing. But is that something I can do of for the next 20 years of my life? Who says I have to have a job that settles me up for the next 20 years? It would be good though. Who wants to be fired and move around a lot? That's stressful. I'd like some security in my life but all my dreams don't involve that. Or a man, to be honest. Did you notice the absence of Magic Man? I did. Magic Man is a drop dead handsome guy who does adventurous things with me and has a lot of money. Or rather, enough so I don't HAVE to work but I can if I want and it would help out if I did. So, not a LOT of money. But enough for two, ambitious people.
School is freaking me out. I have no loans out yet, but that may change. Very soon. See, these fees I had not thought about have thrown off my money plan and my stipends didn't come in when I thought they would. And the scholarships I had renewed were only for undergrads, which I am not nay more. So I miss calculated. By a lot. So I'm about $1800 short and the school wants their money. I don't blame them. But I only have around...$300 maybe and the car needs: the window fixed, the door fixed (it won't open form the inside, it's all shattered), an oil change, gas (NOW!), and the alarm system looked at. Phew...
So no buying that cute hat and scarf I wanted this winter. I don't "need those things any way... I'll just wear my old one and my hat with cat-ears on it.
I didn't get a job during the summer because I spent forever setting up a Creative Writing class for homeschooled kids. Well, the parents decided last minute I was too expensive and they all bailed. Plus, the church I was trying to get a room from never, ever emailed or called me back. So no class there...Or work. I almost got a job as a manager at GameStop but I turned that down because I cannot currently make myself walk into a mall for work any more.
Sometimes I wonder about wasting my time. I also wonder why I cannot get the difference between "waist" and "waste" right. It's my biggest issue right now. I sit in my room for hours on end reading all the required texts, making notes, trying to think about applying what I'm reading, adventuring into the digital texts mentioned in the print texts and I still haven't paid the school. I owe them so much money and yet I am taking their classes. What if I can't pay it and I have to drop out and go work retail? Wasted hours--months--of my life. I should write too.
I say the same things over and over again. I write these blogs because there must be someone else out there with these issues (please...?) and because it forces me to write in a semi clear way. I have to organize my thoughts a little and try to make sense any way. So it's "writing". There. I did my bit for today.
And honestly, I took 3 days to write this post as it sat in my "drafts" bin. I suck and I need to do something about my life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

72: Cabbages and Kings!

I’m taking this moment to think about myself. What would I look like in my perfect life? Like the real, reality of what I want/dream of. This may change. It often has. It will again. When I was a teenager, I saw myself in a zoo taking care of animals, wearing khakis, being a vegetarian (hahah!). Now it’s different. Please, come into my home, it is 7am and my alarm has just gone off.
I wake up and hit the off button because I always get up when my alarm tells me to. I know I have to use every hour of every day. I stretch and smell the fresh air coming off the Montana mountains. I left my window open again. It’s September but it still gets cool in the evenings. I find that my studio cools just fine if I can cut off the AC during the night.

My studio is wide and open. Huge windows let me look over the small town and the wilderness beyond that was my first love. In the distance, I can see the road I take to get to the reservation where I teach adult classes on the weekends. I love my students though it’s a challenge and I have to watch what I say.
Putting on my slippers to protect my feet from the cold stone floor, I check my phone and see I have a missed text from that one guy who wants to “hang out”. I smile and make a mental note to reply later. He can wait.
In the kitchen, which of course has no walls and is really just a jaunt away from my bed, I flip on my Goodwill coffee maker and the radio to get some news and music from the 60s to the 80s. I grab a bag of fruit out of the fridge that I had cut up the night before and place it next to a bowl. I decide weather I want yogurt or bran cereal.
After pouring some cereal to have with my fruit, I check on my kids in the other room. Spike, my large mutt is just blinking into the light when I open the door to the only bedroom in the loft. Across from his crate, Augustine and Benedict, my ferrets, are still snoozing in their hammock. I call Spike out and rub his ears as he does a terrific downward facing dog. He’s reminding me to not forget my morning yoga.
I chat Spike’s ears off as I listen to Journey and the news and do my own meager dishes. I can’t stand a messy kitchen. By this time, it’s a quarter till 8am and I need to start my day. I stand for a few minutes in the middle of my loft—my ritual “What the hell am I supposed to be doing?” moment.
Deciding it’s still early enough, I quickly change into my black and neon workout clothes and grab Spike’s leash. I stretch a little, do some jumping jacks to warm up and then head out to jog and walk in the town and the bits of the woods I can get to in 30 minutes. Spike loves a good run, but sometimes he’s too fast for me. I have to pull him back, chastise him, and then walk to remind him he must go as fast or as slow as I do. I accidently run through a mud puddle.
Back in the loft, it’s just after 8:30am when I pull out my yoga mat and turn on some soothing music. I stretch, waking up my mind after the run and breathing deep into my brain to get it ready for what’s next. I do some weights, because I feel the need just now. Just a few reps of some ten pounders or so.
I slow down my heart and grab a bottle of water then clean up from the jog. I change into my Writer’s Clothes (no doubt baggy harem pants and a camisole) and grab anther cup of coffee and make sure I have a Red Bull in the fridge. Spike yawns and makes him way to his giant pillow bed. He has a tug toy and knows he can play with it and usually makes all the noise he wants, but to day he is being polite.
At 9:15, I go to My Space. This is the western corner of my loft where the sun cannot hit my computer screen until it is time to call it quits. I have an old wooden desk that I probably picked up out of someone’s curb trash. I have a nice chair with a back that I did spend money on. My computer is nice (Alienware for night gaming) and I have walls lines with bookshelves that start at this point of my room. This is the heart. Everything branches out from here. Under me is a giant, multicolored shag carpet that I squinch my toes in when I get to a good plot point. My desk and shelves are covered in dragons, wizards, fairies, rocket ships, Star Trek gadgets, unicorns, and Alien figurines. I also have an incense burner and more watts worth of candles than I do electric lights.
This is my space.

On the walls I also have maps of the lands I created and lists of characters. With these are pictures of my family, my kids, and maps of my beautiful Montana.
When I log on, I check my emails, reply to a self-publishing author I am editing for and check on my other free-lance jobs. It was hard starting out, but once I had a bulk of work done, it was easier to get hired. Plus, getting one stand along novel published and the first in a series didn’t hurt either. I also teach. I work a lot, like I always have, but I’d have it no other way. I like doing more than one thing.
I edit some web pages for clients, write an article for a fitness e-zine that I work for, and then apply for a few more free-lance jobs. After that, I go over the next weekend’s worth of lectures and classes for my adult class on the reservation. It’s a special class for adults who never learned to read or write very well. I do a lot of creative writing and novel reading in the class, but it is teaching them. Even if it is a little less academic than normal teachers. I grade the essays from last weekend and smile at some of the progress and sigh at the lack from others.
Then I get an email from my own editor talking about changes that need to be made to my second book. Some of them really grind my gears and I go back to my manuscript to read the bit mentioned. At first, I don’t like it. But the more I read her ideas, the more I realize it’s for the best. I make a note to edit my own work and reply to her that I’d give it a shot.
By this time it’s almost 11:30am and I need to move my legs. I get up and stretch, play some tug with Spike and get tea. I also feed and water Benedict and Augustine and let them out to play in their room. I shut the door so Spike doesn’t bother them. They have a cat toward and I think he gets jealous sometimes.
Now I sit down to make my own words. I open a short story first that needs to be a finished first draft and bang out some ideas, scenes, and a finishing act. I wonder for a moment why I only use the Steampunk genre when I don’t care how I write but they end up being some of my favorites. At this point, I’ve only published 2 of this genre, but I still like writing them. I shrug and think about my main character with the crazy name and her religious fanatic sidekick.
Deciding it’s all good for now, I close it out and work on my novel. As I’m writing about magic and knights, I remember a professor I had who loved nonfiction. I had two professors who loved nonfiction. I still talk to them sometimes because they believe in my writing and that’s encouraging often. I’m distracted. Dragons. He’s going to find out that his arch nemeses from child hood is the man who’s been helping him all along. Nether of them know that though. Hahah, I smile, sorry boys, shocker!
Next thing I know, Spike is whining at the door and it’s almost 1:30pm! I realize my shoulders and back and cramped! I run to the door, slip on my shoes and take Spike for a short walk as I’m starving at this point. He does his business and I head back to eat. I contemplate the meager food in my fridge and remind myself it’s for my better mental health that I chose this job. I make a sandwich with no mustard as I’m out and my next royalties check isn’t do for a few more days.
I see I have an email from a dance client asking me to do a show Friday night. I reply that of course I would and go into the bedroom that is also the workout room. I move the ferrets’s tower aside because they are snug in their hammock again and get out my dance stuff. I run through some new stuff I’d been practicing but mostly polish up old stuff. I only do that for about 40 minutes and then take ten minutes to wipe the sweat away with some WetWipes. Showers are for the evening. I live along and can do what I want.
Now it’s just after 3pm and I have to write up those changes my editor wanted. After that, I look around for more teaching jobs just in case. I want to move up to teaching more, but don’t know if it will happen. I’m always looking. But the mail brings a surprise! My check from the reservation has come and I can go shopping.
The town is small so I ride my motorcycle to the store to get groceries and check out the used bookstore. Margaret Mallory’s Highland heroes stare at me from one dusty corner and I finally cave and buy the first two. Sticking romance next to my weeks supply of wine and food in my plastic saddlebags, I motor home after stopping by the local coffee store to say hello to the few people I know. We make plans for hanging out after my show on Friday and one of them asks me if I can recommend books for her son to read. I blabbed out a great list.
Once home, it’s close enough to dinnertime that I start the veggies and slow cook the chicken that I bought. Spike morns beside me like he has done for the last two years of his life, wishing he could have the meat. I eat early, close to 6pm, and walk Spike one last time. I take him farther into the woods as I always do when I get out early enough for the sun to still be up. He loves the woods more than the sidewalks and sniffs everything. I don’t mind. My head isn’t even there. The woods are my inspiration and already there is a new story whirring inside my mind.
We get home and go into the bedroom to snuggle up and watch a movie or a few episodes of whatever I am in love with at the time. I let the ferrets out once more and Spike watches warily from his pillow as they scamper about. I play chase with them and trap them inside an old drier hose they cannot get enough of. They scurry out the other end and chide me with wide, grinning fangs as they hop around doing a strange war-dance. I miss some of the show, but I don’t mind.
Once 9pm rolls around, I put all the kids to bed. “So early!” I hear you saying. But trust me, I like my mind to be sharp when it needs to be. I plan for the next night to be gaming night rather than a movie and think about which character I want to focus on in my game. After showering and getting comfy, I curl up in bed with one of my guilty books and read until my eyes hurt. With so much screen-time, this only takes about an hour. Come 11:15 or so and I’m out of it. I put the book down, turn off the lights, lock the doors and go to bed. 
This is all a bit of nonsense really since I live in reality. But it’s time to talk of other things in real life. Enough of what is and more of what could be. Cabbages and kings.


Monday, June 30, 2014

71: What To Do When There is Nothing To Do

This summer has been a real challenge for me. No jobs, no moving out like I had planned, BFFF is all married and in a new life, struggling for school money so I can get a master's degree, family is evolving and changing and we can't really keep up--the list is endless as I'm sure yours is.
All of this and I don't know what to do. I feel really stuck and trapped. Every day (well, almost every day, at least 3 or 4 times a week) I sit down at my computer and search for jobs. I bookmark the good looking ones and make a pile to return to after my great search is over. Then I go through them one at a time, apply, write cover letters, send in resumes and CVs, and sometimes if the people are really annoying, I have to write whole new samples of my work based on their guidelines ("Write two 1000-word articles from different angles about the decline of youth involvement in society". Eh?) That's a lot for applying. Do you just want to see an academic paper I wrote about literature and psychology instead? 
If only life were that kind.
This can get very disheartening after a while. Especially since, after more than 5 weeks of doing this, I've gotten one rather rude rejection (littered with typos... I hate to be that grammar Nazi, but really? Pay me to edit your rejection letters...), one email of "we're interested" but then no follow up, and a whole lot of empty inbox. That's right, of the 20+ jobs I've applied for (even some craigslist! eeh!) I've received 1.5 replies. I understand they are swamped with resumes though. But even that understanding isn't enough to sooth my grieving spirit. (And Constantine died so that doesn't help). I need a job, like so many others. 
So in the mean time, what do I do to try to ease my father's anxiety and my mothers not understanding why I'm still here in her house? A lot of things.

1. Keep up with my hobbies.
So not as much as I should be, but I did get to teach a belly dance workshop in Defiance the other month and that was good. It made me practice up, eat right, and make sure I still had my dance technique. I have another coming up in September and maybe a class at a local Zumba joint. They are all spread out so the money isn't something I can rely on, but my physicality can. I workout with these things in mind and still watch what I eat.

2. Keep writing!
It is what I want my life to be about. I get so excited about writing sometimes that I have crazy, drunk butterflies in my stomach. That's how much I love writing! I get so much energy thinking about magic systems, worlds, religions, cultures, lizard-people, and giant monsters that I shake when writing! I get so pumped about sharing a lesson and life perspective that my mind races faster than I can type. I get jittery thinking about word-play and symbolism. It's all very nerdy and exhilarating! 
Also, this gives me practice to say things different ways and realize how I speak and how my words come across to others. I also have the time to try out characters, flaws, twists, plots, and other things that I would normally have to carefully craft before finalizing. The play is super fun. 
With so much material being produced, I now have something of a stash of stories, ideas, and novels. Yeah, I have 3 novels I can toy with and edit and a small series of novelettes too. This slumps has given me time to create a horde of things I can come back to. But don't misunderstand, I polish too and finish. Yeah, I finish now! How amazing is that? Usually, I can hardly finish a story let alone a novel. So when you're stuck, keep up with your craft. Even if you think it's a waste of time and you should be out hunting for a job 24-7, take a moment to practice what you want to do!

3. Do other things.
I have one or two very specific hobbies so this doesn't mean that. My hobbies are reading (for my craft!) and dancing. I change it up with going to a Zumba class (so fun!), swimming, nature parks, or going to a movie. Later to day, my siblings and I are going to see "How to Train Your Dragon 2" just to give me some space and something else to do with my head. Movies are fine, just don't watch ones that make you feel stupid. And I love TV shows like "Supernatural" and "Heroes" but I try to not watch more than 2 episodes in one sitting.
Play a game! I love boardgames like "Catan" and "Hero Quest". Harry Potter themed "Clue" is also really fun for some reason. However...I absolutely love "League of Legends" right now too. Yes, I play video games. And I will admit right now, sometimes I spend too much time on League. Especially if I'm feeling really down about jobs.
The trick with these Other Things is to know when to stop and go back to being profitable. Train yourself and discipline yourself to know what enough is enough. 

4. PLAN!
This is my golden One Ring of power right here. I write down everything. Mostly because I cannot remember a thing and have very bad memory and pretty bad depression sometimes and if I don't see a  written task, I may not do it. Get a spiral-bound calendar that fits in your man-purse or book bag and keep it with you. I am very sad that mine has just a couple months left in it. I've had it for a year!
I write down daily what I want to do. Everything. Even Other Things and fun stuff. Not just the work and the exercise. 
To day I have things like "write/edit", "find short story ideas", "apply for bookmarked jobs", "dance exercise", "Go see dragon movie". Everything is on there that I want to do today. You will notice that League is not on there. *Sigh* 
When you do a thing, check it off! That makes me feel so accomplished. This is seriously the biggest thing on here. Plan what you do. Make time, take the time, and get things done.

5. Do things that make you feel worth while. 
I try to not watch or read anything that is *ahem* below my intelligence level. I like my leisure time to be challenging as well. Or I chose "easy" things that are not unintelligent. I do like the occasional Young Adult series of books (Looking at you, Heather Brewer) and the animated Disney flick. But those things are well-thoughtout and worth it. Do not dumb yourself down and do not get lazy. 

6. Lastly...
Do not be upset when you cannot get everything on your list or you do not hear back from those people you spent 24 hours preparing your resume, cover letter, and writing samples for. I do though, so don't worry. But telling someone else not to helps me not to. I am very down about jobs right now but I cannot let it nail me to the floor or I'll never get back up again. 
When the job-thing starts to tear you up and tell you your not worth it, stop and go look at something great you did. Don't go that Thing and be like "Nah, you suck! You didn't get me the job!" It's not the Thing's fault! And it's not yours either. The Thing is not badly done. Maybe it just wasn't right for that job. Take an idea from it and try something else. Keep producing ideas and Things. You are unique enough to make a lot of cool Things and someone will want it and you. 
Don't give up, and don't drown in depression. 

Sorry, that last one was for me, but you can take it too. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chapter 70: Grown Up Things

I'll be 25 this year. Not till the end of this year but there it is. Looming up out of the cold, Ohio Autumn comes that age. The time when some people who know scientific things say that your body stops growing and starts to, well, get old. To die. Back in the European olden days, 25 was when you were considered an old maid. If you were not married by then, you were probably pretty screwed. You were not desirable, pretty, young, fresh, and lovely any more. You are old and rather useless.
Bring this to the 21st century. You're not really old until you are well over 40. And if you dress like a rave-kid with blond hair, all cropped and short and wearing short jean skirts--well, then you can pull it off for even longer. Don't forget the fake tan and excessive exercise. You know the women I'm talking about.
Here is me. College grad, English degree, some experience, lots of written words and stories, lots of passion and desire to change the world. The grown up thing to do would be to hunt like a tigress for a job. I am, don't worry. But when something doesn't show up, I suppose the other grown up thing to would be to just settle on something else. Be a banker or something. I wish I was that grown up. I want the job I want though. However, in the mean time, I am looking for something a little closer to home. Findlay is not exactly full of jobs but I am looking. To please my poor father who put love, sweat, tears, and blood and money into my education, I am applying at the public library. We'll see how that goes.
In the mean time, this blog will be far less formal as I have started "The Moral Alien" for my fancy work. And by fancy I don't mean refined and perfect. No writing is perfect and no one will ever think so. "Alien" is for things I research and edit at least once. This is nothing any more. Just my every thought. And I think my thoughts are worth writing down. If I don't think so, who will? No one will do anything for you, so you have to get it started yourself.
For now, I have applied for a job at Riot. I wish I could get the job, but I know I won't. In the mean time, I have applied to more than 20 jobs in the last 3 weeks. For each one I have had to at least write a new sample, hand in a resume, give ten titles for future stories another such shenanigans. It gets exhausting! I get so tired after a round that I want to sleep but then I have to work out. I get fat too fast. Maybe next time I'll tell you about something more specific like my exercise regime and how I eat. I find it interesting any way.
I shall writ about everything. but for now, I will hush up :) This is an old blog but at some point, someone must have read it. And someone will. And I will always write. I have things to say and I want to say them. The gown up thing to do is not give a crap about other people. I do that in real life. Not on here. This is my space. My grown up thing is to do what I need to.
Thank you and see you next time!
Oh, and I am making a vlog video as soon as I can about being a Support on LoL. I know, I wrote about it on "Alien" but I have more to say. Someone said that Support is the easiest role. I will show you why it is not. Thank you and goodbye!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Chapter 69: Writerly Literary Things

I realized I wasn’t breathing when my vision started to go grey and I felt myself tipping off the back of my old stool that sat in front of my first ever new laptop. I had had the stool for ten years. Before it sat in front of my vary old Casio where I made music. The laptop was a Mac, new and purple. The thing on the screen that had caused such dizziness and shock was an email from school. Well, two emails from school. The first said something like “Congratulations, you are invited to the Symposium of Scholarship and Creativity” and then went on to tell me the program. That meant honors in English.
For years, my dad has reminded how expensive my orthodoction was. He told me about my Spec Ops brother who had his school and house bought for him by the US Air Force. He told me about my other brothers and how they both got many offers from private colleges for full-ride scholarships. They all went on to do great things. Then there was me. Not even out of high school and had a record amount of dental bills and medical issues with joints, breathing, and brain activity. That’s why I remembered to breath when I saw the email: don’t disappoint dad now! He said that if I was going to graduate, I had to do it with honors. Or not at all. Everyone else before had.
The second email was about graduation. I have no idea what it said now. All I know was that it was about graduation and it was talking to me. I’ve lived in 3 states and gone to for colleges in the last 3 years and have been in college for six. I never thought graduation would come. But it has. And this has been a fantastic year. Last semester was better. I wrote a novel, a novelette, 3 short stories, and plotted an entire series.
This semester, I struggled to get twenty-five pages out. Fortunately, I told myself, “It’s only twenty-five. Last time, you could do that in three days without editing. A week with.” I kept remember my first class in Cap Stone. “I reall really want to be a writer,” I had said like a high school freshman.
I had to remind myself of that kid to get any writing this semester. My parents think that science and math are the be-all end-all of the universe. I had to take statistics this semester. I wish I could just blame the four hours a day I spent studying on that for my lack of writing this semester. I say lack, but I did get two short stories and twenty-seven pages of some kind of supernatural novelette written. The point was that it wasn’t the amount of last semester and that’s what I wanted. But I had to get a B+ in stats. That is not happening.
I had to remind myself of my much younger-last-semester-self because I wasn’t writing. I was working hours on a class that doesn’t matter. I was crying at night over formulas I will never see again. I don’t know how many there are, but I have learned thirty new ones just this semester. I can tell you the probability that someone will kick a field goal this year. But that will not help Glenn, my paladin-knight from a long novel, claim the dragon-throne for his own and show the world how the lines between power and corruption are thin. No, instead that formula stopped Glenn from even existing in my head for some time.
Like all bipolar, depressed kids, I went for an escape but didn’t have the brainpower to write it away. I couldn’t even read. So I played online games. But there, in the battlenet chatrooms I was guilt tripped again. Some user had the audacity to call themselves Claredy-catgirl99. Clare is another character of mine. It was as though writing was calling me beyond the isolation room I had sent it off to.
I was distracted by gaming nonsense and mathematical nonsense. More than learning cool writing techniques (and that when I write non-fiction I apparently demean men) I learned to prioritize. Again. I learned that back in grade school, but I had to relearn. Rather than stay up to all hours screaming at my calculator as I typed in wrong integers again, or instead of logging on to League of Legends, I started to write again. It was very, very hard.
I had a run-in with someone from my parents church who told me about how great religion was so I wrote about them. Religion then become an automaton in a steampunk story where God was represented by the a grandfather clock. The Man ran away in the end and it was all very sad, but it may be my favorite story. It was very literary and I tried a lot of techniques in it. Trying to write like a writer really got me back into writing.
That was all it took though. I know writing and I are destined to be together now. A little nudge and I was hammering away till 2am rather than crying until 2am. I wrote more on my Golmasiah series in which Hypria discovers new islands and tries to combat hunger with magic. I found myself tying that post-colonialism and poverty in the world today. It is a rather odd commentary, I admit, but one I was very interested in tackling. It also helped me tackle the age-old question of “why don’t wizards just make magic food?” Because it goes really wrong. Like eating food that’s been touched by large amounts of radiation.
I also had to learn to not hold onto everything I wrote. I’ve been learning that for years but this strange, supernatural thriller I have going on may be the cherry. When I started writing it, it wasn’t supernatural. I didn’t know what it was. A travel narrative maybe. But then it got weird when the main character ended up at a crossroads. I think I was writing the story as an analogy of itself. It may still be. I don’t know. But that is the twenty-seven pages I got out this semester. I doubt I’ll keep it. But it was practice. I used to say that I only when inspiration strikes. That can’t be true for me any more. If I want to be a writer, I need to write—anything!—every day. Practice. How will I know if I am saying something the wrong way if I haven’t tried it? I say, write all the time and makes mistakes all the time so I know, all the time, what not to do. And what to practice.
If I write everyday, there is a chance that I will write a description or scene twenty times in a month. Maybe in different stories but similar scenes. One will be better than the other nineteen. That means there is a .052 chance that I write something good once a month if I write every day. Oh, look there, Statistics! Maybe it’s not worthless after all?

That chance isn’t that big, but it’s bigger than the next person who only writes when inspired. That means that they write far less and have far less of a chance of getting it right. This semester was a struggle, but I learned what it takes to keep writing. And if I want to be a writer, I must keep writing. Every day.       

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chapter 68: Victor Frankenstein and I: Speculation on the Mad Scientist's Madness and Myself

We all love those crazy psychologists, right? Sometimes, the only way I can explain how I feel is to point to some of them and use their bizarro thoughts as my own. Plus, a lot of people won't believe you unless you point to some old, dead guy and say he thought of it first. Now, I'm not diagnosed officially because the therapist I go to can't do that. But after reading "The Modern Prometheus" for probably the billionth time, I thought, "Dang, Vic, I love you because you are so bipolar." I understand Victor so well. Enough, of this though. Let's talk science and get all academic.  
Erik Erikson developed simple-to-use psychological Stages of Growth that show us what ages human beings go through certain stages (seriously, you can google0image search the thing). Mother’s always say, “Oh, don’t mind him, he’s a teenager.” Erikson provided some answers as to what is going on behind those children’s eyes as they grow. Using Erkison’s theory, we can explore the minds and motives behind what literary characters do and say.
Using Erikson’s scale of growth (point out those smart ones!), we’ll examine Merry Shelley’s title character Victor Frankenstein. Victor is interesting because he shows signs of having more than one problem (I love a man with issues...). He is moody, hates socializing, likes to be in control of other people, and is so driven at some points that he forgets about his family and friends and drives at education mercilessly. Some of these symptoms, as we will later discuss, are signs of depression, bipolar disorder, and possibly show him as a sociopath (a high-function one at that!). What could cause him to be the way he is? Does he have a savior complex or womb-envy (lol, but seriously, people, this is a thing)? Why is he so driven and seemingly sociopathic? Does he have feelings or not? Erik Erikson’s theories and stages of growth can be used to analyze this fictional character’s life and actions to see what could possibly be troubling him and causing him to reach so far as to create life. Ever get that feeling? "Hmmm, I need a pal, let's make one!" Yeah, me too.
The first thing that must be examined is that Victor talks very little of growing up in the book. He doesn’t mention too much in chapter one about his life. Instead he focuses on his parent’s life. He seems to be intellectualizing his parent’s biography to tell you why he doesn’t wish to speak about his life. But this is important to understanding Victor; his parents have a great effect on his development. His father had a friend who went into debt, bankruptcy, then hid to avoid the consequences of his actions (Shelley 27). Frankenstein Sr. found out the friend and brought him back and he died leaving his young daughter to the care of Mr. Frankenstein. Victor says that his father “is one of the most distinguished of that republic” and that he had “filled several public stations with honour and reputation” (Shelley 27). From this, a psychologist could infer that Mr. Frankenstein was a man of high standing and important in his community. He is used to being looked up to admired and asked for help. He is perhaps even the savior of others under him. God-like-savior-alert!
An example of his “savior” behavior can be seen when he marries his friend’s daughter Caroline. This could be signs of a messiah complex or what is called a grandiose complex (Diamond). He feels the need to save because that is what he has been doing for some time in his offices of power. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  These feelings of grandeur can come from and be aggravated by a bipolar complex, which is where the person has feelings of ups and downs that change at a normally rapid pace. Caroline’s father probably had developed bipolar disorder after he was saved by Mr. Frankenstein. Victor says that his grief would rise and fall until he was sick in bed and eventually it consumed and killed him (Shelley 28). Well, dang.
Now Mr. Frankenstein feels he must take care of this woman. “Perhaps during former years he had suffered the late-discovered unworthiness of one beloved, and so was disposed to set a greater value on tried worth… [Caroline’s] health and even the tranquility of her hitherto constant spirit, had been shaken by what she had gone through” (Shelley 28-29). Mr. Frankenstein felt he had to earn her love. These feelings of worthlessness are common in bipolar disorder and in some savior complex’s. They feel they must work extra hard to get the approval and love of those around them. Hmm, sounds familiar. Where a savior complex will puff one up and make them think themselves a god-like being, bipolar disorder will pull in the other direction and make him think that he’s not good enough. So he must worship her and pamper to her. But she is already feeling so depressed. What to do?
Perhaps, Frankenstein Sr. didn’t have full out bipolar disorder, but he did have a savior complex and Victor’s mother was now ripe for depression to set in. Caroline could have easily developed depression too from the trauma of the life they must have lived while her father was running around avoiding debt and the law. This could have planted the seeds for her own depression or bipolar disorder which leads to her own savior complex and saving of Elizabeth (Victor's later wife) later. These are the people Victor is surrounded by. Notice we haven't even gotten to Vic yet? Yeah, that's how far back scientists and those psychologist like to look. 
To alleviate the utter darkness in the Frankenstein home, Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein start to travel (Shelley 29). No, really, it says that they were so down in the dumps they had to go on vacation. Amidst all of this, Victor is born away from home and is the brunt for all their mixed up emotions as he is an only child for some time (Shelley 29). He is now of course in Erikson’s stage of Trust versus Mistrust. During his first years, they still traveled and he says, “it was in their hands to direct happiness or misery, according as they fulfilled their duties towards me” (Shelley 29). Bummer! The words that stand out apart from happiness are the directing of misery he speaks of. Is there a possibility that his parents were not always as sane as they should have been towards baby Victor? He may have had reason to mistrust his parents and begin to isolate himself from them.
With two bipolar parents now saddled with a child, the chances of Victor being ignored or even abused are high. This means that during his sensitive stages all the way through Erikson’s Autonomy versus Shame to Initiative versus Guilt phase (three to five years of age), he was the only thing around to receive the brunt of his father and mother’s mood swings and their outlandish behavior. The evidence later of his own mental disorders could be signs that he has repressed bad memories of his parents. From here, Victor will inherit his own disorder. According to the Ohio State University Medical Center, depression and bipolar disorder can run in the family. From this point on, Victor will begin his own downward spiral of disorders. He will displace his rage at his parents onto someone he can own and possess. Controlling others will help him cope, he thinks. So, like, get a dog or something, right?   
Over and over it says that his parents were good and gave and gave. That is how his father came to marry his mother Caroline. When they go back to Italy they visit the houses of the poor all the time: “Their benevolent disposition often made them enter the cottages of the poor. This to my mother was more than duty; it was necessity, a passion” (Shelley 29). This shows that they have that guilt complex also common in bipolar disorders. They feel guilty for what they have so they visit the poor all the time. Dr. Susan Whitebourne of the University of Massachusetts links it back to Freud: “The psychodynamic theory of Freud proposes that we build defense mechanisms to protect us from the guilt we would experience if we knew just how awful our awful desires really were.  Specifically, Freud linked the feeling of guilt” (Whitebourne). His mother had suffered her traumatized past and was now displacing her grief onto the poor.
In this poor neighborhood, Caroline Frankenstein comes across a little English girl named Elizabeth who she decides to take under her wing while Mr. Frankenstein is out of town on business. Caroline’s savior complex and guilt come in again when she sees little Elizabeth in such poverty. “…but it would be unfair to her to keep her in poverty and want, when Providence afforded her such powerful protection” (Shelley 30). She's totally Batman. 
When Caroline brings Elizabeth home, she says to Victor “I have a pretty present for my Victor—tomorrow he shall have it” and he replies, “I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literally, and looked upon Elizabeth as mine…since till death she was to be mine only.” (Shelly 31). Possessive much, dude? At the end of chapter one (yeah, still chapter one!), Victor is in full possession of Elizabeth and is being influenced for Erikson’s next stage of Industry versus Inferiority. His mother gave him something to possess and he has now started to morph into his controlling-womb-envying-savior-complex self. He has been given something (Elizabeth) since he was five years old to be master of and he is used to this high throne of authority, which could lead to his creation of the monster and his later projection of anger on the creature when it defies him and makes himself the master putting Victor in a place inferior to the monster.   
Victor grows up over the next chapter where we can see his lust for control takes on the guise of knowledge. In Chapter II, he leaves Elizabeth behind when he wants more intellectual things: “Elizabeth was of a calmer and more concentrated disposition; but with all my ardour, I was capable of a more intense application, and was more deeply smitten with the thirst for knowledge” (Shelley 32). By this point, he would probably be in Erikson’s Stage of Industry VS. Inferiority and getting to move into Identity versus Role Confusing. He wants knowledge over Elizabeth’s companionship especially since he probably can no longer control her every move. She is inferior and he must now find out who he is.
He turns to the ultimate complex device for knowledge and dominance over: Nature. He sees nature as a challenge that must be accepted. It holds secretes and he must uncover them or he will not be seen as “smart”—as Erikson would say, he would feel inferior. He is indeed in this stage because his brother is born “seven years in junior” and his parents become more depressed and give up on their wondering life, which may have been escapism and now they have to be tied down (Shelley 32). Things just get worse from there on out. His parent’s live in seclusion in the country now. And it was in his temper to avoid a crowd. He is anti-social as we will see in the later chapters when he goes to school.
We can see examples of his anti-social self in contrast with his best friend Henry Celrval. Henry is the opposite of Victor in that he loved stories of knights, tales of enchantment and he also loved danger for danger’s sake (Shelley 32, 33). This could infer that Henry is very outgoing and outspoken. Just the right person to get on Victor's nerves.   
On the other hand, Victor’s temper, he says, was sometimes violent. In a large, revealing chunk of text, Victor confesses, “My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned, not towards childish pursuits, but to an eager desire to learn” (Shelley 33). This could be his reaction to his thoughts and feelings that come with bipolar disorder. He doesn’t know how to deal with them and all his parents do is spoil him, which is not what he wants. He says he was violent and vehement and yet those feelings were turned towards knowledge. This could show where he is angry that he doesn’t understand himself and his feelings. So he feels the need to learn about them. But it isn’t simple things like politics and government that attracted his pursuits, no those things would be too simple for high-functioning Victor. He wants to learn “the secrets of heaven and earth” (Shelley 33).  
From a high flying temper and violence, Victor then plummets into what psychologist say is the depression side of bipolar disorder. “I might have become sullen in my study, rough through the ardour of my nature, but that she was there to subdue me to a semblance of her own gentleness”; simply, he raves, is angry, violent and then falls into sullen moods where he is probably locked away in his room being moody and only Elizabeth can sooth him and sometimes Henry as well (Shelley 33).
Another example of Victor’s strong anti-social behavior can be seen on the next pages when they go to a party where he also discovers the books that will set him on fire for his passions of the ultimate knowledge and even a search for the Elixir of Life and immortality.
When Victor is thirteen years old and approaching another phase of Erikson’s growth chart: Identity versus Role Confusion is in full swing as Victor makes contact with books that will inspire his studies. The family goes to Thonon, a resort in France, and is confined to an inn there due to the weather. This upsets Victor no doubt because of his antisocial tendencies and so he does what any knowledge-craving boy his age would have done: he sits down with a book to read and avoid the people. Victor reads a book by Cornelius Agrippa and “a new light seemed to dawn upon my mind” (Shelley 34). Victor runs to his father, excited about his finding only to be brushed off by his father. When a depressed person gets brushed aside, they either let go or retaliate with a fierceness that cannot be guessed (Wexner). Trust me, I know...Victor did the later.
“If instead of this remark, my father had taken the pains to explain to me that the principles of Agrippa had been entirely exploded…I should certainly have thrown Agrippa aside” (Shelley 34).  If his father had explained it, perhaps Victor would not have delved so deeply and largely into the well of unknown sciences and gone on to other studies. But his father suffers from the same disorders as Victor and could not be bothered to give an explanation to his young, energetic son. Perhaps Victor was more frightening when excited about scientific things his father had no idea how to handle and thus Frankenstein Sr. had no other defense mechanism but to try to shut Victor down.
Victor hits fifteen and is still in Erikson’s Identity Vs. Role Confusion stage while he eats away at the hunger for knowledge. He is high-functioning and never satisfied at this point. The quest for knowledge had inflated his head even more as he pursued higher levels of writings: “they appeared to me treasures known to few besides myself…Those of his successors in each branch of natural philosophy with whom I was acquainted appeared, even to me boy’s apprehensions, as tyros engaged in the same pursuit” (Shelley 35). Here Victor is saying that he is the only one who knows about this great knowledge. No one else could know, especially no one else his age. And now, he has studied so long that the writings of other great scientists are like novices compared to what he knows. But sadly, he was left to struggle with a child’s blindness (Shelly 35). He has no one there with him as is often the case with manic depressive people, which only adds to the aggravation of the condition (Wexner). Victor’s symptoms and behaviors have gone on too long untreated just as his parents have and which he has been exposed to while floating in this delusion of grandeur.
He moves to pursue things greater than this physical life; “the elixir of life; but soon the latter soon obtained my undivided attention. Wealth was in inferior object; but what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame” (Shelley 36). This coupled with his next pursuit of trying to contact ghosts and devils which he eagerly sought shows his descent into madness. When one begins to rave and delve too deeply into things usually seen in society’s eyes as odd and not normal, one is normally described as mad. They begin “reasoning with insufficient data or rigidly defending the wrong theory” (Daw). Thus, all Victor needs is one more push and he will be over the proverbial edge.
 When the lightning storm strikes at the end of chapter two, Victor then moves on to school in Ingolstadt. He is about to enter into the young adult phase for Erikson and Intimacy Vs. Isolation and it is ironically the last stage of his life. His mother dies no doubt causing a massive trauma to young Victor. He is delicately on the verge of pure insanity at this point as he is in need of intimacy more than ever. His mother has died and he is young and unbalanced according to Erikson. He must mingle with people if he is to survive. But he does not. When Victor is in the Intimacy Vs Isolation Stage of Erikson’s theory, he shuts himself away instead of spending time with Henry and making friends at school with his mates. He has no one “worthy of my consideration” (Shelley 37). Boy, do I know that feeling.
Henry sees the signs which are evident when he tries to pursued his own father to allow him to accompany Victor to school (Shelley 39). Victor’s determination is seen just before this when he insists that even though his mother is dead, he still had duties to attend to and perform (Shelley 39). Finally, Victor states, “I threw myself in to the chaise that was to convey me away… I was now alone” (Shelley 40). He has reached the height of what he desired: He is alone and in a realm of smart-things and people where he can run rampant with his experiments. He is depressed, swinging from manic and back, never learned to control himself, and suffers from grandeur and a savior complex. There is nothing left but for him to do the ultimate act and creat life. He met a professor who would, unknowingly give him all he needed to finish off his mad desires:
“He then took me into his laboratory and explained to me the uses of his various machines, instructing me as to what I ought to procure and promising me the use of his own when I should have advanced far enough in the science not to derange their mechanism. He also gave me the list of books which I had requested, and I took my leave. Thus ended a day memorable to me; it decided my future destiny.”
From here, Victor goes on to gather dead bodies and try his best to create life. This last act of his nearly sane mind could have been his ultimate hate: it would seem the only thing Victor could not do is create life. He tried to call to the dead, attempted the elixir of life, learned all he could about science and yet there was nothing that would make him a god. His nature was nurtured into a high level of savior complex and fed anger by his bipolar disorder causing him to think he had no other goal than to creat life.
           Whatever trauma his parents may have caused him in his childhood he has shut out, but it has led to his pursuit of perfection and ultimate control over his and other’s lives. His youth shows that he sought solitude and projected his anger onto others, particularly Elizabeth and Henry. Victor sought control and got it but his high-functioning, nearly sociopathic mind was not satisfied until he had reached so far that he fell over the edge.

A fun Biblio incase you wanna check it out for yourself:

Daw, Jennifer. "Why and How Normal People Go Mad." Http:// American
Psychological Association, Nov. 2002. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.
Dr. Daw discusses in a brief essay the reasons that can cause people, normal and productive, to drop off the edge into clinical insanity. She describes the descent as one that can be triggered by many things but mostly as blows to one’s self esteem. She warns against false madness cues and discusses in brief biological reasons for madness. 
Diamond, Stephen, Dr. "Messiahs of Evil (Part Three)." Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers,
            20 May 2008. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
Dr. Diamond discusses a theory about how fanatic religious leaders from all over the globe could possibly have had a messiah complex. He informs the reader of the definition of a true messaiah complex and likens it to delusions of grandeur. He also provides research in Jung and Erikson’s theories.
Erikson, Erik. "Erikson's Psychosocial Stages Summary Chart." Erikson's Psychosocial Stages
Summary Chart. Ed. Kendra Cherry, Dr., Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
A summary chart of Erikson’s theories with hyperlined examples and further discussion. For the essay, simple the names and order were taken from this chart.
Martin, Chris. The Scientist. Coldplay. Rec. 2001. Ken Nelson, 2002. MP3.
The song about a man who loves but cannot identify the feeling as it cannot be explained by science so he considers giving up or just going without it. Title was used as well as the line “pulling the puzzle apart” to symbolize Victor’s diagnosis as bipolar.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus. New York: Barnes
and Nobel, 2003. Print. Barnes and Nobel Classics.
An annotated version of the original classic with essays and historical clips in the back of the book for further study.
Wexner Medical Center. "Manic Depression / Bipolar Disorder." Wexner Medical Center. Ohio
State University, Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
The University of Ohio’s medical page for students who think they may be, or no someone who may be, suffering from depression or bipolar disorder. It gives symptoms, cures, and therapies. It also discusses in depth how such illnesses can be passed or spread through prolonged exposure.
Whitebourne, Susuan, Dr. "The Definitive Guide to Guilt." Psychology Today. Sussex
Publishers, 11 Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.
Dr. Whitebourne gives a different look at guilt in this short essay. Rather than explain how people manipulate a person, she explains what people plagued with guilt do. She explains how people afflicted with guilt live their lives and how they see tasks before them as essential to curing their guilt. She also likens it to the psychodynamic theory of Freud.