Saturday, September 19, 2009

Social Disorganization...and allergies? (a work in conspiracy theory)

I am working on a paper with a theoretical framework of social disorganization theory. This theory revolves around your social world (i.e. your neighborhood) influencing behavior. In my studies, I often reflect on how these theories are relevant in my own life--sometimes in an academic, sociological sort of way and sometimes in a ridiculous dorky type of way...which is where this blog comes in. :)

While working on this paper recently, I have thought about the idea that my neighbors might intervene on my behalf should some crime start to take place in my quiet, suburban neighborhood. I think they would--I KNOW some would. But then my mind wanders...are my neighbors really out to get me?!?

I have terrible allergies and the beginning of the fall season here has reminded me just how miserable they can make me. There are lots of trees in my yard, sometimes I forget my allergy medicine, and blah blah blah that I have blamed it on. Today I actually woke up without much reminder of my insane hay fever, allergic rhinitis, alleged eustachian tube dysfunction, officially diagnosed enlarged turbinates, and post-nasal drip. It was a good morning.

K and I went outside to play with some sidewalk chalk. It is the first day in I don't know how long that the sun was shining and it was not raining. Our outside adventure was relatively pleasant and allergy symptom-free. Then, my neighbor started mowing his yard. I could literally see the allergens coming my way--but at that point, I made no connection, just thought it was a bit dusty.

I was talking to another neighbor when I nearly passed out from my violent dry hacking cough. My eyes filled with water yet felt painful and dry all at the same time. My nose felt like it swelled shut almost in a second. As I attempted to explain my allergies to my neighbor, she made me feel more comfortable and less like the nerd with the nose spray at summer camp by telling me she had the same problem. I quickly tried to clean up and politely explain to K that we had to go in because mommy couldn't breathe.

I made it. But my day has taken a downward turn. My intentions were to work out after we came in and then get a project for class tomorrow completed. But now I can't shake the cough and I can't breathe...No good workout and who knows if I will find the motivation to work ahead. Is this some sort of conspiracy? Probably not. I have the greatest neighbors. But it could be possible that these people are trying to squelch my academic career and fitness goals with pollen, mold spores, and grass. Again, probably not but I do love conspiracy theories (hello, Kennedys!) and I have talked to people about how there should be a book series comprised of exaggerated characters that live in my neighborhood. Maybe it's just that this is the first time I have been away from a military town in so long that "normalcy" of social life seems freakish to me. Whatever it is, I think this conspiracy theory would play well into a plot twist in the series...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Looking Glass Self

The looking glass self (a term coined by Charles Horton Cooley) describes how we develop our identity--that our sense of self comes from social interactions and how we THINK others perceive us. Basically, your identity (in your mind) is a reflection of how you think others see you. Okay, I am being redundant and this isn't the point...

The point is (here's my point, Dude--for The Big Lebowski fans out there) I am not exactly sure what my looking glass self is reflecting these days. I had always told my self I would never be "one of those" military wives whose life is so totally wrapped up in their husband's identity that they lose some of what makes them an individual--that I would never totally conform to military life in order to keep that sense of my former self. Since the completion of Buzz's latest deployment, I have had lots of time to reflect on the independence and strength I have gained. I have been so proud of myself, my marriage, the strength of my little family and amazing friends. Sometimes, I want to yell all of this to the world--especially here.

I have always kept in mind that there is a world out there separate from the military and I was still connected to that. But now I am out in that world--and I'm not nearly as connected as I thought! I guess I could blame it on J-Vegas--I mean that place is so isolated from "the real world" I can't even put it into words. (I have always wondered why a place that housed so many Marines--some of the finest men (and women) and their families from across the globe--could be so crappy. But I digress again...) I suppose I could blame this lack of connection on the fact that the past few years, I have been essentially locked into that little military town where pop culture is covered by the dark curtains of military life--especially deployments. I mean, when you are keeping your family together on your own through deployments and struggles, who has time to learn the latest phrases or styles. I guess I am coming to realize the biggest "connection" (if you can call it that) with what is going on outside of my little world has been with tv shows. :) (And we all know how well the media--especially dramas--portray reality!)

So now I am here--losing the excitement of being away from the military town and trying to regain the connections I THOUGHT I had with the outside world. I am SO the person I never thought I would be. I am "that girl" who tells people all the time about her husband in the Marine Corps. I connect about every concept in my classes to something military-related. I have no idea what people wear or talk about or do for fun. I don't know fads. I don't know what a hipster is--well, I didn't--my classmates are teaching me. :)

Wow--what a loser people must think I am. This crazy girl with the southern accent (but at least that's way more common here--and mine isn't bad compared to some locals) who talks about her husband and daughter like they are the only people who exist in the world. Maybe she doesn't even realize that we don't know OR care about what military life is like. Has she been lost in a bubble somewhere? She knows nothing of what goes on in life.

I guess my looking glass self is feeling a little shattered and uncertain. I am trying to keep that confidence I have gained at the forefront of my mind and hope some of that starts reflecting and overshadowing all of these insecurities. Although I am not sure they are really insecurities and I am really not sure why I care at all. I have my family together and I am pursuing THE career path that I want. But now I am mixed in with all of these "regular" people and I am just not sure where I fit in (as I have mentioned before) and I am not sure how they see me.

Moving forward (and trying to stop this rambling rant) I am going to work on embracing who I am--ALL parts of that person. I AM a military wife and a mom...I am also a PhD student in sociology. I may not know all of the current fads, trends, etc. but that's not really important to who I am--never has been. I have always had pride in the fact that I am pretty much an open book and I don't try to change myself, my image, my life to fit in or please people. (Yet on the other hand, I have a need for approval from others.) That was pretty much my attitude when I entered this military life...and, in hindsight, that is how I ended up fitting in. Maybe I am "one of them" but I am proud of that. Maybe I talk a lot about my amazing husband and daughter--but I am proud of that, too. Yeah, the military is still a big part of my life even when I am not in a military town--so what? Semper fi!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Primary Groups

In sociology, we talk about primary social groups as small groups where you are regularly with the other members and have to cooperate with them. In the "regular world," these are people like your closest friends and family--it can also be people that you work with/go to school with/whatever you are doing that requires face-to-face association and cooperation. In Buzz's line of work, I guess you could say my primary groups change on a fairly regular basis. It's not easy and it's something that I am still not totally used to--but it's just reality (well, a construction of reality, I suppose--too much theory is going through my head).

Luckily, I have a few "real" friends popping up here--my primary groups are changing yet again but at least I HAVE some primary groups now (other than my family--best primary group ever). I have my neighbors, a close friend and her family, and now my department at school. I am so lucky to have chosen such a great neighborhood with some really great neighbors and to have found my friend--who happens to have a daughter near K's age and a husband that has quite a bit in common with Buzz. But I am still not so sure of how I will fit into my department. In the past, like when I was working on my master's, I had some GREAT friends from school. We went to class together, worked together, and hung out together. It was amazing. We were all about the same age and at similar points in our lives. Not so much with the group here--but they are still a good group of people (mostly guys). :)

I am LOVING school. I really like what I am doing, but am experiencing some inner turmoil. In one way, I really feel like this is the place I should be and what I should be doing when I am physically IN school. But, on the other hand, I don't fit in...and on another hand (assuming we have 3) I feel like I am neglecting some of my motherly duties. Don't get me wrong, K is doing really well adjusting to new people and routines--but this is the first time in her life that I am not with her all day every day. It tugs at my heart-strings quite a bit. I don't know how to neutralize this inner struggle. I keep trying to tell myself that I am doing this for me but ALSO for HER. I can be a better mom if I am doing what I like...and eventually I really will make some substantial monetary contribution to this family and, with this degree, I will be able to do it in a way that still allows me the flexibility to be around a lot and be the mom I want to be. I guess, right now, I sort of feel like two different people and I am trying to figure out how to fit those people together and not be at odds with each other. I'm working on it; I'll get there. (I hope.)

Anyway, back to the other primary groups in my life. I MISS MY FRIENDS! Again, I am very thankful for who I have here, but I miss my girls--my "fellow" USMC wives and friends from years past. In military life, it seems that you build amazingly strong friendships in a very short amount of time--it's the nature of the beast and those friendships are one of the best things that come out of military life. For example, surviving deployments together bonds you with others in a way no civilian can imagine. Words can't describe it, but I know my girls know what I am talking about. :) I miss the Marines themselves (who always provided entertainment at the very least...but I also always knew there were men to count on, even in Buzz's absence, if I needed someone.) I miss those non-military people who I was lucky enough to bump into and become friends with--who accepted me and befriended me even when they knew I was just a temporary occupant of their town. In the past, we have only lived in military towns, so those amazing friends were used to the military lifestyle even if they weren't technically living it themselves (not that it makes it any easier on them). Not so here. Here, we are anomalies. I am not really sure that people "get" us at all here. I've said it before and I'll probably say it again--some people seem more interested in asking questions about our weird lifestyle than actually being our friends. (If anyone is wondering, military families are just like you. It's just a different job. We don't need anyone to feel sorry for us, either--we are strong and we can handle it.)

In many ways, though, I am seeing that academics have a lot more in common with military peeps than most. Even though they are under very different circumstances, each have moved, left friends, had to depend only on themselves, and have had at least a few struggles to get to where they are and are stronger from the journey. Even though I am older than most of my "peers" and have a kid and a husband, we have more in common than just sociology. I am trying to stay positive and hoping this journey might not be SO tough after all. I can handle the reading and writing and exams (and I am sure the few--at least--nervous breakdowns that are to come from trying to get it all done at home and at school) but I am not so sure I can handle being so isolated. I still miss my friends more than words can say. Thank goodness for Facebook! But I really wish I could walk or drive across or down the street or a few minutes away and find those who can brighten any day. The good news is, maybe I'm not as isolated as I thought. Time will tell...

Off to more reading--more theory. More good news, that will cloud my brain so much I won't have the energy to ponder how much I miss my friends for a while. :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Help Wanted:

Upper Management Level theory--to help manage my time and jump into my mind to help me understand the way theory and practice work together, sociologically speaking. Candidate should be well-versed in classical and contemporary sociological theory; a vast and complex knowledge of the world of philosophy is a plus. Ideal candidate will be able to take very abstract concepts that have nothing to do with reality and put them into understandable, concrete terms that make sense in my world. The ability to completely dehumanize yourself to see how society impacts the individual so much that, in theory, the individual has internalized society to the point that one may not be separated from the other is a necessary trait for this position. Compensation will be the non-monetary payment of being my hero.

Equal Opportunity Employer
P.S. Yes...that's Karl Marx throwin' the peace sign :) (Oh I am contemplating all of the ironies and theoretical discussions that could be had on this post......)