The Long Update

•May 27, 2013 • 3 Comments

“My goodness,” I thought to myself as I logged on to WordPress this evening. “It’s been so long since I updated that the site’s forgotten my login!” 

Sweet mother, I am sorry, blog family. It has been a heck of a semester. If my first semester at LCNE was a pleasant cruise with good music and good food and lovely cabinmates and we all sailed into port and exchanged numbers and made plans to see each other again, then my second semester was like the stranded Carnival cruiseship with the human excrement in the hallways and on the decks and everyone just a second away from knifing one another and bad feelings all around. It was painful to get through it. I can’t pin an exact reason down, honestly. The start of actual mortuary classes on my part, the stress of everyone in the program and my apartment, and the looming graduation of my wonderful roommate probably all played a part. (Yes, Megan, WE ARE DESOLATE WITHOUT YOU. Why did you do this to us?! You’re not allowed to grow up without us.)

I survived the semester, and, more importantly: I survived my first year at mortuary school. 

What a trip.

May marks the one year anniversary of my landmark decision to switch majors and dramatically change my life. I know everyone is (presumably) sick and tired of my introspective weirdo posts, so I’m going to just keep this short. 

I recently decided that, since May happened to be the month last year that I made a dramatic choice, this year I would take a step back and evaluate my choices, for better or worse. This is a product of all that human services training; we all had to get down to the nitty gritty of our lives and really look at ourselves, even the parts we didn’t like. I know some of you may have noticed that my Twitter feed has trickled down to almost nothing (for me, at least), and it’ll probably stay that way. I’m trying this new thing where I stay off most social media. (Come on, guys, I’m 23. You know I have a Twitter and tumblr and a Facebook and a Google+ and a lot of other accounts I probably forgot about.) I’m an adult! I’m an active participant in my own life! Summer is REALLY BORING WITHOUT A JOB. Don’t question the relevance of that last sentence; when nothing is happening to you, there’s nothing to mindlessly update about. The only exception will be this blog, which I will actually attempt to update more

I’m aware that this blog has become less of a “mortuary student” blog and more of a “oh man oh geez college is HORRIBLE” blog. But that’s kind of the point. I mean. College is stressful and time consuming and utterly soul crushing, but it’s rewarding too. It’s totally awesome that everyone who reads this is interested in what it takes to be a mortician, but it’s also really rad that people who go to, say, art school or major in finance can read this and relate and roll their eyes and be like, “Oh man my professors totally do that too.” And that, in and of itself, is kind of a big revelation. Like yeah I go to school for something ostensibly weird, but it’s really just. School

There’s a phenomena that occurs when you go to school for mortuary science. Up at school, talking about death, embalmings, types of mortuary wax, and whacky medical examiner’s office stories is expected. No one bats an eye. But get off campus and it becomes a huge deal. My friends and I scared a group of children at a Dairy Queen talking about dead people because we had no concept of it being taboo. And that’s where most of the previous paragraph up there comes in. Death is actually a thing that happens. Mortuary science is a thing that people go to school for. We’re people too. (Albeit most of us are a little stranger than the average human specimen, but that’s neither here nor there.) College is college and yes, MOS as a major is tough. I think what I’m trying to get at here is that we really need some death positivity up in society. I remember when it was all cool and fun to be like “YEAH I GO TO SCHOOL TO PLAY WITH DEAD BODIES” and watch the myriad of reactions from the people I told. But now I try not to even bring it up. The gasps and the “WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE BLOOD” and the “So you’ve actually touched a dead person” stuff got old quick. I still want to talk about what I do (you guys know that, I love talking about this stuff) but it’s not the coolest thing in the world anymore.

I have no idea where I was going with this entire post. I’m strung out on too much BBQ. 

I’m going to bid you all adieu before I type myself into a corner.

Ain’t we got fun?

•May 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

No definitely not. It’s finals week, are you nuts?

Ahem. 

I completed my first final of the week today. It was brutal. For studying, my roommate and I went through half of the questions in the compend on Restorative Art. (For the record, “half the questions” means 500.) In honor of my completion of the class, I figured I’d share with those of you who don’t follow me on twitter my completed facial sculpt.

It’s pretty bad.

I mean. His mouth is really small.

Whatever.

Image

He turned out too skinny and his ears are crooked. But man, I spent a lot of time spraying that wig only to chop half of it off..

I’ll have another update with more substance as soon as I finish finals. Phi Theta Kappa induction this Thursday! Most excited. Until then, kids, I have a lot of microbiology to be studying. Sigh.

Required Reading

•March 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This semester has been extremely boring. With the exception of the bumps at the beginning, it’s petered out into a relatively predictable schedule, so aside from my twitter activity (are you following me? twitter.com/mementomorissa) there’s not much to even suggest that I’m still alive. I am! I promise. But in the interest of posting something constructive, I’ve decided to dig through my Kindle archive and suggest some books for those of you interested in the funeral biz.

First up: The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford. Yes, she is extremely critical of the way death is handled in the United States, and the funeral industry in general. However, I’m of the opinion that it’s important to see the other side and learn why, exactly, people mistrust the funeral biz. An interesting read, and one you’ll spend at least two classes discussing if you take Psychosocial and Ethical Issues of Death. 

Mortuary Confidential by Todd Harra and Ken McKenzie. An honest anthology of some of the craziest, most interesting, and indeed heart wrenching stories from people involved in the funeral service industry. An absolute must read for anyone interested in getting into the field. 

Stiff by Mary Roach. Corpses. What’s up with them? The curious stories of the various uses for the human body after death. The author only briefly goes into what’s done in the embalming room, but a phenomenal read nonetheless.

Curtains by Jim Jokinen. Another honest portrayal of the funeral industry, this time in Canada. This book talks about green burials, burial alternatives, and the every day dramas of working in a family run funeral home. Nearly everyone on campus in the mortuary program as read this book, which says something about its influence.

Finally: Rest In Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses by Bess Lovejoy. This one is an absolutely frivolous plug for a wonderful lady with a great writing style and a book that’s full of weirdness and wonderful stories. I actually preordered this one and I’m still working on finishing it. (It came in just in time for midterms. Bess, please inform your publishers of their poor timing.) 

This is by no means a complete list of what you should be reading (and really, if you want to get a jump on things, just read the restorative art textbook until your eyeballs bleed, which is basically the only way to pass that class), but a few of my favorites. 

Have a lovely holiday, for those who celebrate Easter and Passover, and for the rest of you, have a wonderful relaxing weekend! As for me, back to that “research paper on the black death” grind. :]

Marissa

A Cliffhanger

•March 20, 2013 • 5 Comments

Or: The Story of How I’m Two Credits Away From a Human Services Degree.

I did not finish getting my associates in human services. For a number of reasons, honestly, but ultimately it came down to this: I failed my ethics class because I didn’t like showing up, and by the time I knew that I failed it, I was already scheduled to start taking classes here at Lincoln in the fall. I didn’t particularly want to pursue any more degrees in the field of human services (despite University of Bridgeport offering me a hefty scholarship), so I let it go. Sure, I was upset at first. Who wouldn’t be? I already had my cap and gown! I didn’t even walk at high school graduation, I really, really wanted to make this walk for college. 

A stupid three credit ethics class is sitting there, mocking me. It was the dumbest course! LITERALLY the only thing we did for the entire semester was go over why it’s bad to sleep with your clients and play bingo games about morality. I wish I was even remotely kidding. If I had to pick someone sticking bamboo slivers under my fingernails or ever, ever having to take that class again, I would gladly pick the slivers.

But: here’s the thing. I would really like to have two degrees under my belt. I’ve carefully budgeted and balanced my classes for next semester so that I only have three. THREE. Any they’re only on Tuesday and Thursday! Do you know what this means? I have ALL of Monday, Wednesday and Friday to finish up that three credit course online and have my associates in human services one semester before I’m ready to get another one. Two degrees in the span of less than a year? I’d be pretty proud. 

I feel like I’m in a pretty unique position here. I’m rocketing through the required classes for my MOS degree. I could have had a four class load this semester and been fine to graduate spring ’14. … providing I pass seminar. THAT’S NEITHER HERE NOR THERE. 

I think I’m going to do it. I do like learning, as much as I hated that ethics class. I kind of rambled tonight. Sorry guys. I got all nostalgic for that feeling of being mostly done with something. 

BEST WEEK EVAR?!

•February 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Yes. Yes it is.

I’ve been working my tuchus off the past few weeks and I finally have some positive things to share with everyone! YES!

So last week in micro lab, while I was staining B. cereus cells (don’t worry, I made approximately 2,000 puns in the span of about ten minutes) and scraping plaque off my teeth to also stain (I freaked out and asked my teacher if I could leave to brush my teeth upon viewing the insane amount of diplococcal and streptobacillus bacteria floating around in my mouth), my pathology teacher emailed to inform me that he had nominated me for an emerging leader initiative hosted by the school. My first reaction was “I’m not interested in joining your super-secret boyband haha” and then it was “OMG WAIT WHAT.”  My pathology teacher reminds me of the eleventh Doctor; all dancing around and putting his face on walls and NEEDLESSLY SHOUTING AT US for emphasis on things that don’t seem important. He is, without a doubt, the largest resource of good advice and academic help that I have ever had the privilege to encounter. I absolutely adore him and I’m absolutely gobsmacked that he nominated me for this recognition. It’s a sort of formal sit-down lunch with the president for excellent students that show exemplary leadership qualities. I take this as a large compliment and am currently allowing it to inflate my ego beyond the bounds of what’s probably considered acceptable.

But wait! Much like Jeff Winger’s, my own ego will probably hit critical mass any day now (though I doubt I’ll wreck a bar mitvah, honestly) because: I’ve also been invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa international honor’s society. OH SNAP. For a $65 fee, I get a membership card (which I plan on whipping out and rubbing in the faces of any person or persons who ever told me I wouldn’t amount to anything), a fancy seal on my diploma, and a posh cord to wear during graduation. Please just imagine me making a completely inappropriate pterodactyl screech and rolling around unceremoniously on my bed weeping. 

In somewhat less exciting news, I’m picking my classes for next semester sometime in the next week and applying for jobs at a few funeral homes. Less than two weeks to spring break, kids! AND I CANNOT WAIT.

Best to all,

Marissa

Burnout.

•February 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

It happened.

I hit a brick wall, mentally.

For most of my stint as a human services student, I spent no less than thirty classroom hours discussing burnout. High burnout rates, ironically enough, plague many in my new chosen field, but no one ever stopped to talk about student burnout. Burnout, for those unaware, is when you reach a point of vicarious traumatization or hit a level of stress that your body can’t tolerate and you feel frustrated and discouraged, you can’t sleep, everything seems like a chore. I got that way about a year ago, when I decided to switch my life goals and come here to Lincoln and become a funeral director. The stress was literally making me blow blood vessels in my eyes from trying to force myself to do something that made me unhappy.

Let me tell you the story of the past twenty four hours: I took a three hour nap from six to nine last night and stayed up going over notes until two or three in the morning. I fell asleep around 3:30 and was awoken by the fire alarm at 5AM. I didn’t get back to sleep until about nine this morning. I woke up two hours later and felt a familiar uncomfortable bubble in my gut (and it wasn’t food poisoning). My anxiety tends to manifest itself as a hivey feeling that makes me itch around in my skin and feel like I’m on ice skates and my feet are going to fly up from underneath me at any minute. I honestly haven’t felt it in so long that I didn’t even know what was wrong with me until I had some caffeine to clear the fog in my brain. I was anxious. Anxious about a lot of things. Anxious about my grades, about the class load, about my whacked sleep schedule, about missing my friends and my dog and anxious about failing to live up to the standards I set for myself. Clearly I am given to fits of the dramatic, so I gave myself a minute to see if it went away. It did not.

I went to see one of the student advisors who has made it abundantly clear that she’s always there to have a chat with. She bolstered my confidence, put a band-aid on my booboo as it were, and built me back up. I have to say that this stress and anxiety took me completely off guard. I felt blindsided by my own mental state. I feel much better now, really. But for a second there I was back to thinking about packing up my car and making a break for the Louisiana border.

But I talked to someone when I started feeling like that. That’s the lesson, really. Sometimes you really need someone to burst that anxiety bubble with positive talk. Ms. P reminded me that no one and nothing is worth abandoning my goals over, and that I have the capacity to do whatever I put my mind to. So I want to remind you guys that you (yes you!) can do the same. You can do anything you put your mind to if you dedicate and apply yourself to it.

Hang in there, kids, even if it seems tough.

Marissa

Bullying.

•January 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I wanted my first post of the semester to be something inspiring and upbeat, about pretty pink and blue thoughts and all the hope and promise that a fresh slate brings, but sadly, recent events have spurred me to instead talk about something somewhat less than nice. 

On our first day of Psychosocial and Ethical Issues of Death, Doctor Warren brought up an excellent point about bullying and harassment: It doesn’t end in grammar school. It can happen at all levels of schooling, and indeed, above and beyond up into the professional world, into adult personal life. And it leaves marks.

It seems these days that everyone is touting a “zero tolerance” policy on bullying and harassment, but it also seems like enough is never enough. Social media has brought on an entirely new level of cruelty. Rumors can spread faster than wildfire, all with a simple click, and it breaks my heart.

From what you’ve gleaned of me from my posts and my twitter account (if you follow me), I’m sure that you’ve assumed a few things about me. I’m a dedicated student, a compassionate and loyal friend, and a confident, well adjusted person. What is not so apparent, however, is the no-nonsense attitude I could only have gotten from an Italian mom from Brooklyn.

My mom, bless her, taught me a lot of things. I was by no means an easy child to raise, given to fits of melancholy and creative outbursts and a whole heap of crippling laziness, but rudeness and deliberate cruelty were not tolerated in my house. There’s this thing my grandpa always said, this little mantra my mom always said to me when I told her to not bother complaining to a major company about an off-tasting bag of cookies or some such thing, and it resonated. “Know your rights, and do anything in your power to keep those rights.”

This, I think, helped mold me into the outspoken young woman I am today. If I happen to catch someone gossiping, sniping, or being generally malicious towards someone I know, I can never keep my mouth shut, even if its just a very loud throat clearing and a pointed look. If someone says something about me behind my back, I can shrug it off. If they say it to my face, I have no problem laughing and asking why they even began to consider it their business. 

I understand that it’s not so easy for most people to deal with this kind of nonsense, and I consider myself lucky. But, my lovelies, if you are dealing with bullying and harassment, please, I beg you: keep your head high. Keep going. It may seem like the end of the world right now, and it will certainly feel that way, but it is most definitely not. Don’t let the gossip drag you down and turn you into something that you’re not. You are not weak, you are not a victim. You have the capacity in you for many, many good things, and the best of your life is always ahead of you if you have the courage to keep putting your feet one in front of the other. Get help if you need it and do everything you can to live a good life. There is nothing more insulting to bullies and naysayers and negative people than an overwhelmingly positive attitude. Write down nice things that happen to you in a notebook so you can look at them when you feel down. Call a friend. Hug a pillow. “This too shall pass.” Know that you’re not alone and, if you’ll pardon the tired phrase, things will get better. And remember that if I could, I would be there wiping your nose with my sleeve and giving you a giant hug, because you matter. And you are somebody.

I hope that everyone tries to treat others with the utmost respect and courtesy. Try to be kind to everyone you meet. We all carry monsters on our backs, some big and scary and some small and annoying, but they’re there and they can feel like they weigh a million pounds sometimes. But we still have to drag them around. 

Until next time,

Marissa

PS: “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” Vonnegut.

PPS: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Churchill.