Friday, December 24, 2010
Some things are the same, although the stakes feel higher. Last year I wrote about the opportunity unfolding in front of me - how anxiety and excitement are so intertwined. I feel that ever the more this year, with graduation quickly approaching. I still worry about my relationship sometimes ... after almost three years things get increasingly complicated. Passing the holiday apart in separate states doesn't help and it's making my Christmas feel quite blue compared to last year.
I think, I hope, that this year I have more clarity at least. A vision of what I want out the next few years, out of my life, is beginning to form tentatively in my mind. I've just finished up the most intellectually and emotionally challenging semester yet and I made it. Not only am I still standing, I owned it. I am starting to feel a real sense of ownership over my abilities and my passions. I am more willing to stand up and defend my decisions, to defend my needs, to defend my views. That's got to count for something, right?
And so, the stakes do not feel so overwhelmingly high because I know that one way or another I will do all right. I have a lot of time ahead of me. At least this winter break is giving me time to settle and reflect, and I am grateful for that and for my family (and friends) near and far. I am also grateful for the time to do needlework and to finally read "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet."
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Whew. Anyway, now that it's all over I feel that I should be done. But I have two final exams and a paper to write yet. Urg. So, I'm off to work on that.
Just wanted to give a last nod to my intellectual and emotional euphoria.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
"It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living. Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing. That is why the sadness passes: the new presence inside us, the presence that has been added, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there, - is already in our blood. And we don't know what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes. We can't say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens."
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Why this man speaks to me I'll never know, but in every moment of deepest fatigue and despair he strikes right at the heart of the matter with a passage or a poem. I am thankful for this man who lived and died years before I was even born, even before my parents were born. Sometimes I felt that I quoted him too much, but this blog is a testament to his enduring influence, ever since I first received a copy of "Letters to a Young Poet" when I was 16.
Tonight he reminds me of the need for patience, even when patience is wearing thin. I feel so done in, so exhausted, so helpless to prevent conflict that I just want to check out sometimes. Rilke reminds me that you simply cannot snap your fingers and expect change. Change is difficult and painful, but we must, must hold to what is difficult. I am learning to be attentive, learning to sit with sadness, during those times in which we "stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing." Sometimes I wish that I could go back, revert to a time of not knowing what I know, not feeling what I've felt. I know that this is impossible because perhaps a new future is being transformed within me, waiting to move out of me someday.
*"The future stands still, dear Mr. Kappus, but we move in infinite space. How could it not be difficult for us?" RMR
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I can't sleep at night. I want to be done with all this, done with the pain and anxiety. I want to feel reassured and confident. I also want to become a hermit, to ignore everything for just as long as it takes to get these assignments done. But the idea of isolating myself entirely is upsetting in its own way too. I told myself this semester would be different. One good thing I can say is that I've become much, much better at still functioning even when I'm freaked out and unsettled and anxious (about school, about relationships, or anything else).
I can't help but feel that every aspect of my life that I've taken for granted over the past few years is getting shaken up and moved around, and I keep banging my knees into the furniture because it's not where it was, and I still don't know where everything is going to land in the end. I mean, I think I know what I want. I think I can get there. But the in-between is so very difficult.
Perhaps this is just what happens during transition times like these. Things change. Things surface. Things become uncertain. There is at least a little grain of excitement there.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
If you're confused, then so am I.
I'm so burned out. I've had a headache for the past three days and I keep feeling shooting pains in my chest whenever I think about that project or even just getting through the next five weeks. These are familiar sensations, but generally I don't feel quite this burned out until after Thanksgiving. It's concerning me because I also don't when I'll get the chance to recuperate.
On the upside, I just got a free ticket to see Bill Clinton speak. Yes, the ex-president himself is coming to my college. I also had an uplifting meeting with my adviser today - I have a very good feeling about spring classes. At the beginning of the year, I figured I'd be sad at the thought of my last undergrad registration process. Now, I'm just ready for what's next (whatever that may be). I'm getting tired of the undergrad lifestyle. Which is another upside. I'm realizing that I shouldn't let fear drive my decision making process about what to do or where to go next. That's automatically limiting yourself from the get-go, isn't it?
Monday, October 25, 2010
Desire change. Be enthusiastic for that flame
in which a thing escapes your grasp
while it makes a glorious display of transformation.
That designing Spirit, the master mind of all things on earth
loves nothing so much in the sweeping movement of the dance
as the turning point.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I'm being cryptic. I apologize, but it's the only was I can be appropriate while still trying to process. Some things are meant to stay between you and your therapist, let's face it. But I feel different and I want to note that. I feel different when I wake up in the morning and when I go to bed at night.
I've been able to move forward, to name problems, to see the positive and healthy way of dealing with everything that has happened. What surprises me the most is that I thought I was an adult before, but really I was just taking laps around the kiddy pool. Now, I've taken the first deep, icy plunge into the real adult world; a world of frightening ambiguity, of pain, of learning how to cope. You know what? It makes my concern over a B- on a paper seem childish and irrelevant. My anxiety over my GPA pales in comparison to all this. I still care about doing a good job for the sake of it; I'm still passionate about what I do (it keeps me centered, you see). But the intense anxiety and self-doubt that I suffered from worrying about grades and what my professors thought about me seems so unimportant and pointless. If I can get through this, through feeling like I've been turned upside down, then surely I can deal with a poor grade here or there. I have better things to cry about than that.
I'm only one person. I can only do so much. I've been pushed harder than ever before to evaluate what I want and what I value. I'm still working those things out, but it does give one perspective (no matter how painful).
p.s. I'm okay, folks. I promise. Just work'in through stuff ... guess that happens during senior year, eh?
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Then, of course, the storm (whichever one it happened to be) passes. Maybe you got fooled by the eye of the storm, and so the next wave hit you by surprise and made you wonder if it'll ever go away. But it does go away, even if you're left looking at a little, tiny bit of wreckage; a wee bit of re-ordering and re-evaluating to do.
Tonight, I had to force myself to get ready for bed, even though I felt wide awake. I kept wondering, why? How? How could this happen? I took a hot shower to calm down, told myself that everything is going to be okay, that nothing really important was lost. Some things just got shaken up a bit. Then, as I was about to get in bed, I heard music drifting in through my open window. No stereo, no tinned-up, pre-recorded stuff. It wasn't the dull booming music of a house party. Someone in the house across the way was playing the accordion in the darkness of their side porch. I couldn't see them, but I could hear the song clear across the night air, and it was the most beautiful, wistful thing because they kept fumbling at a certain part, stopping, starting again. As I listened, I knew it was a tune I knew but couldn't remember. I was transfixed. Maybe I only feel this way because it's late and because I'm tired and still a little upset, but at that moment the beautiful, lilting, stumbling accordion felt like it was life. Life in its stumbling awkward, breathtaking, intimate, grand, confusing, upsetting, frustrating, ecstatic, ho-hum kind of beauty.
Maybe faith means knowing that messing up doesn't ruin the song.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Let me be specific. In my senior seminar, one of the most important "learning outcomes" is, according to the prof, to learn how to conduct independent study and research. That sounds straightforward, but it's very difficult because independent study means working without prompts, without rules, without an imposed structure. Structure becomes something you define for yourself, for the needs of the project. There are guiding principles, important ones; otherwise the paper would end up un-readable. I spent the whole afternoon yesterday spinning wheels, getting hung up on how to structure my mid-term paper, where to hang all the shiny baubles of thought that I haven't even articulated yet. I feel like I wasted all that time and have nothing to show for it, and now have even less time to get the paper done. I hate not having a prompt to follow, a way of knowing if I'm getting it right.
On the other hand, I'm trying to see yesterday as a part of my learning process, a process not of acquiring new information, but one of "well, that approach didn't work ... what do I do now?" I am trying very hard to cut myself some slack and realize that perhaps learning how to approach this kind of paper is important and valuable in of itself. That learning for myself which strategies are most effective when I'm working without an imposed structure is perhaps the most important lesson I could take away from this class, no matter how frustrating or scary that is. After all, how do you grade that kind of learning?
I've decided to start again using the concept of the one-inch picture frame. Mostly I wish I wasn't so burned out. Every time I try to work I end up with a headache and a stomach ache.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Pick your battles. It's a phrase I've heard often, but never really embraced. I generally want to tackle everything at once. It's tough for me to reign myself in, focus on just a few things and let the rest go.
I feel like I repeat myself a lot on this topic. Especially on this blog. Sometimes, I look at myself and think, "jeez, chill out ... why can't you just move on?" Then, I think that you readers (I'm assuming there's more of you there besides my mom and my aunties) must be yawning and thinking the same thing.
So, for my sake more than yours, I'm going to throw out a little more Natalie Goldberg because she helps me see my obsessions and preoccupations and steps backward in a more compassionate way.
"It takes a while for our experience to sift through our consciousness. For instance, it is hard to write about being in love in the midst of a mad love affair. We have no perspective. All we can say is, “I’m madly in love,” over and over again. It is also hard to write about a city we just moved to; it’s not yet in our body. We don’t know our new home, even if we can drive to the drugstore without getting lost. We have not lived through three winters there or seen the ducks leave in fall and return to the lakes in spring. Hemingway wrote about Michigan while sitting in a cafe in Paris. 'Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I could write about Michigan. I did not know it was too early for that because I did not know Paris well enough.'"
-- Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones (The Hemingway quote is from A Moveable Feast.)
p.s. Thanks to the veggie co-op, I have okra! What does one do with okra?
Friday, October 1, 2010
It's still hitting me that I might be setting the bar too high, or perhaps aiming at the wrong bar all together.
I feel discouraged every week because I can't get everything done. Every week, it seems, something happens to set me off, make me cry, and make me feel that I'm not good enough. Why is it so difficult to find what it means to live a sustainable life?
I had an enlightening conversation with a very wise woman yesterday. She told me that part of school is learning how to choose. You must choose what is important to you, what you want to get out of a class, and probably someday a job or a grad school program. Trying to do everything only makes you sick.
I know this. I've gone over this already, written about it already, talked about already. How and when does learning take place? That's what I want to know. What does it mean, really, to be a compassionate person? I will not be a doormat; that is not compassion. Will I learn to let go of some things? Will I learn to stop eviscerating myself over every little slip, every item not finished or perhaps only half-assed? Will I learn to take a stand over what's really meaningful to me and what I can reasonably accomplish every week? Will I extend that understanding to other people?
I don't want to run around feeling like my head is on fire. But I was also told yesterday that I am really the only one who can put out that fire. Really. Seriously.
Okay. Good decisions made this past week. One, deciding to get farm fresh, local, organic veggies through the veggie co-op. I now possess many hard-to-identify root vegetables and some lovely field greens. Two, deciding to pitch and run that story on sexual health in The Guilfordian. I think it's a good piece of journalism, and (more importantly) it will probably get people talking. Three, deciding to finally take the time to update this blog.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
This malaise has been making me rethink my go-go-go attitude. I am starting to think that I should chill out even when I do feel better, take more time for baking cookies, seeing friends, laying in bed, knitting, perhaps even reading something that is NOT assigned! It's such a tough balance though. Some days the thought of time off seems reasonable. Others days, it seems impossible. Plus, I do enjoy being busy, for the most part. I guess I just want to be busy for the right reasons.
My capstone class continues to confound me. My first paper is due in a week and I don't even know how to format it. I had a chat with the professor yesterday about good and bad kinds of discomfort. That class has been shaking my new-found confidence and sense of self worth - to me, that seems like bad discomfort. I told her that everyone was incredibly anxious and uptight in that class because we all thing that we have to suddenly transform ourselves into "smart people" to get through a senior seminar alive, when really we all just wanted to loosen up but didn't know how. I wasn't the only one to raise this issue, it turns out. So, yesterday during class we all went out and sat on the grass. We talked and the prof said, "Really guys, don't worry about the grades, the institution, the way you are supposed to think, and definitely don't worry about getting the right answer. This book we are reading simply won't tolerate that."
I think we're getting somewhere. In the soft afternoon light of the quad, I seemed to see my classmates in a new way. Everyone looked more relaxed, more vulnerable, more like how I felt and I realized that we are NOT competing in this class, we are all in the big scary, messy boat together (even that guy who reads Derrida for kicks and giggles, and I'm liking that guy more and more). I realized that we are being called to be uncomfortable together, which I suppose makes me feel a little better about all this unsettling postmodern business.
Writing that damn paper is still nerve wracking, but oh well.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
- Raymond Federman
A bit of reflective writing a did for my professor (I'm taking a senior seminar on "House of Leaves"):
I feel like my thinking quickly spirals out of control and loses focus when I grapple with postmodern ideas and texts. When reading House of Leaves, I still wanted meaning, strove to find meaning. I can’t get out of the goal-oriented philosophy of the classroom to accept that what I get out of House of Leaves may be something totally different than I expect or want. I feel like I’ll never “get” House of Leaves and I’m struggling with that fact. The fact that “getting it” may not be the point. Right now, one of my biggest struggles is understanding how to enact or apply (as a student/writer/artist/person) postmodern theory and the issues inherent in House of Leaves because they blow apart all my assumptions about meaning and communication.
I have this feeling that I’m right on the edge of comprehending something important, even if part of that means NOT comprehending. In my ENG 200 class (which seems a long time ago now), I hit a point on day in class when I realized, suddenly, that things were not as I’d always assumed and that the question of right/wrong was far more complex than I realized in high school. The memory of that moment is still very strong; it was a kind of intellectual vertigo that opened up a new way of thinking. I feel like I’m hovering near the edge of that again, only with a new and different realization.
... Postmodernism and I have a complicated relationship.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
I have drafts. I am officially an editor. I feel a little overwhelmed, because there are infinite possibilities for giving feedback. But I don't want to overwhelm my writers when they see a draft covered in red. I am trying to focus on "higher order concerns" (as my professor recommended) and on being encouraging. Most of these writers do not really know what they are doing. On the other hand, I love editing. It feels so natural, so enjoyable... Perhaps I've had the personality for this job all along. I know I sound like a dweeb, but that's ok.
I've made it through the first week admirably. No meltdowns, no freakouts. And tonight is date night.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
This is my girl editor theme song. Partly. I'm trying to mix in some humor and compassion for all the scared newbie writers. But don't get me wrong. I mean business. The first round of Monday evening newspaper meetings (practicum, ed board meeting, general staff meeting) went very, very well. We shall see how things progress... I am excited and a little nervous about getting my first round of drafts.
I do not feel the same sense of overwhelming panic that I usually feel in the first week of classes. I keep waiting for it to set in, for something to go wrong, for me to freak out. I think I can safely say, though, that being a senior, knowing how this all works, knowing my capabilities and priorities is helping. I think that every semester has helped me become more confident, more disciplined... London taught me to go with the flow, that things will work out if you simply strike out and take a chance. Leap, and the net will appear. I still have trouble applying that to life post-graduation. May seems far away enough right now that I'm not freaking out... yet. I know I will, but I'm hoping I'll be able to understand that the anxiety is a surface thing, that deep down everything will be okay.
Life is good. I am in love. In love with this school, with the things I've chosen to pursue,with my many beautiful and wonderful friends, and with my man (even after two and a half years). Thunderstorm my lie in wait, but for now I am basking in the sun. I'll re-read this post later if I have trouble remembering how wonderful things are, really. I'm also going to re-read my last post... to remind myself to stay kind and compassionate (to myself and others).
Friday, August 20, 2010
I feel like this semester is an opportunity for a breakthrough (or rather, a messy one-step-forward-one-step-back kind of painful progress). I have realized this afternoon, with unprecedented clarity how wrong it is that I almost always equate my sense of self worth with my performance and what other people (might) think of me. I have for years assumed that if I do everything everyone else wants of me, if I always show up on time, turn things in on time, get good grades, go to every single meeting, then I am a good girl. I am worth something.
This is very, very bad. If I do everything, I end up feeling sick and crazy because it never ends and everyone always wants something. Someone else always appears to be doing more, doing better. When I realize I can't do everything, I feel an overwhelming sense of panic and guilt, but I am comparing myself to others and not being true to myself. But what if I do make everything happen? What if I somehow manage to "do it all'? I am passing some subtle and terrible reverse judgment on others: that I am somehow a better person because I show up on time, and do what other people want. That scares me.
This is not the way to become calmer, or more accepting, or more authentic. This is not the road to self respect. This is the road to taking on an unmanageable amount of stress, not being able to prioritize, and then unintentionally taking things out on friends and partners.
Why, then, do I have so much trouble controlling my knee-jerk reactions? Why can't I banish the voice that tells me to do every assignment perfectly, go to every meeting, stay up late and get up early, be on time, get an A every class. I wish I knew. I wish that I could pray or go to therapy (or both) and have this voice magically erased.
I don't think that's likely. Instead, I think I have to feel good that I can finally see this with a clarity I could never have reached a few years ago. Awareness is the first step, right? Today, I said "no" and I'm not going to feel guilty.
It's going to be a messy semester, but a good one I think.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I miss my sweetheart. He is in Ohio for a funeral and I think about him off and on throughout the day, wishing I could be there too. I feel unusually tired, but I'm trying to stay up because he said he would call.
I've been distracting myself by sorting through all my clothes: washing, mending and packing for school. I finally found the clothes I had stashed in the very back corner of my closet before I left for England. What a long time ago that seems. I have enjoyed the pleasant surprise with which I greet items of clothing I forgot I owned. It's such a treat. On the other hand, some items are a bit shabbier than I realized. Some cuts had to be made.
So the days slip into one another, full of dishes and laundry and milking goats. It's peaceful in its own way and not a bad way to spend the last few days before my life suddenly becomes very, very busy.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Perhaps everything seems worse right now because I am tired, and because I am trying desperately to read "House of Leaves" but its making my eyes and my head hurt. Even doing laundry isn't making me feel more settled.
I have made a step forward on the exercise front. I have acquired some work out DVDs... this is positive because I can never get the gumption to actually go to the gym every day. If I don't have to leave my room, I think I'll do much better.
I've also acquired some lovely new recipes, thanks to my Ant Deeda. I will never make macaroni and cheese without a bread and molasses topping ever again. I'm glad to have some tasty dinners to share with my vegetarian friends as well.
I've started a new knitting project. I couldn't help myself. This one will definitely get finished, though.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I'd like to do a little better at a lot of things. The list for now (besides more blogging):
Staying calm and trusting when thinking about life post-graduation
Starting to exercise at least a few times a week (regularly!) to manage stress levels etc.
Eating healthy and enjoying the process of shopping/cooking now that I will be totally off the meal plan
Resisting perfectionism hang-ups (particularly during my English capstone and being an editor for the newspaper this coming school year)
I think that's a long enough list for now. I could add more (like: actually finish one of those unfinished knitting projects languishing under your bed) but I don't want to bite off more than I can chew, or get distracted from the essential things to focus on.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
What can I say? Life has been pulling me apart lately, bit by bit. There are not enough hours in the day to manage everything, to do everything I want and planned. I hate summer. Maybe hate is a strong word. Summers make me uncomfortable. They have become (as I've grown up) a strange liminal space, an awkward in-between time, a time loaded with certain expectations and difficulties. I should have known that the summer right after a semester in London (I want to go back!) and the beginning of senior year (ready or not) would be hard. My anxiety level has been rollercoastering from okay to crazy, and I can't stop thinking about the future, the past, everything but the right-now. I feel clueless about grad school, job searching, where to move to, what I want to do... Do I really have to take the GRE? I mean, after a bachelors degree, standardized tests shouldn't matter anymore. It's been harder than I thought to re-adjust to being back in Greensboro, to being back in the same city as my sweetheart. I still can't quite believe that we're back, and yet I'm starting to realize how many decisions we have in front of us. I feel off-kilter. I've woken up late for for work the past two mornings in a row. I've had the most awful tours. I have no food in the refrigerator. Someone left the milk out last night. I'm trying to schedule my vacation/family time and it's not working out exactly how I want, but I don't know what to do about it. I don't want summer school to end, and yet I'm so ready to be done. I really, really need a haircut. It's 100 degrees outside and humid. It's all very exhausting.
What's a girl to do?
Monday, May 31, 2010
Not today, though. Today I have one blissful day off. I'll spend most of the afternoon reading, but that's okay. I'm happy not to be reading Queer Theory late at night for a change. This class is like a bucket of ice water over the head after the almost non-existent academics in London. I like to think that it "hurts so good." It's fascinating and eye opening. It's also beating my brain to a pulp.
The campus is so quiet over the summer. It feels strange. Occasionally I get flashes of memory from my time abroad, and I think, "Did that really happen?" It feels like a dream now that I'm back to my life as it was. Only, my life isn't quite as it was because things have changed, I've changed... Some days I miss London so much. Other days I am beyond content right here.
I'm just holding out for the end of my five week class. Life will become easier then, as I'll be down to just my film class (which is the awesome... watching movies is the best kind of homework). By that time I will also finally have my sweetie back. He's still in Germany, toiling away to get ready for his big, scary finals. I'm so ready to have him back here with me instead.
So, that's that. I've decided to start doing yoga to keep myself calm in the midst of these classes. And, for all the hard work I'm putting in, at least I got lucky with my apartment mates this summer. I love them.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
I don't know what to say. I've actually been avoiding my blog because I'm too overwhelmed to write, and there are some things I just can't write about here. I am trying to keep calm and carry on, to know that I can handle the next few weeks, that I can do anything. I can handle these classes, I've done it before. I can handle a new job, because this time I'm not even dealing with cultural differences. I can handle another four weeks of separation from my beloved, we've done that before too.
I will say this: as disoriented as I feel right now, it is good to be back at my familiar little college. I missed it.
Friday, April 30, 2010
It is good to be back in London, though. I feel an overwhelming sense of affection for England when I fly back from another European country. I just love it here, and (if I may hazard the opinion) I think I feel a kind of affinity for the British. I do appreciate them. I am here staying with family and my grandmother has flown out here to join me for the week. I am sure we are going to have a grand old time. We will spend time in London, and in Paris, and then it's back to the US for the first time in about four months. I'm not quite ready to process that yet. I am excited and apprehensive at the same time. The time has flown by, and yet I am starting to realize that this experience has changed me, probably in ways that I won't realize until I get home. I will say this: I can't wait to be reunited with my wardrobe. I am so tired of living out of a suitcase.
Well, I am off to bed. I am going to get cozy with a copy of Joyce's "Dubliners" and then hopefully fall asleep and not think about any of this for a few sweet hours.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
In all seriousness now, I have to say that I am still in shock knowing my program is over. Over. On the other hand, I am so, so happy right now. This is a good way to transition, I think.
That is all for now. I am off to spend the day with my sweetheart.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I am trying to stay calm. I know that, one way or another, everything will be okay. I know that I have no control over any of this now, and that I just have to wait and see. It's like I'm on a roller-coaster: I get nervous and worried, and then I talk myself down. Then something comes up, and I get nervous again, and I have to talk myself down all over again. It's exhausting. Add in the sudden emotion that everyone is feeling about having to say goodbye, and things get even worse. It's funny, because in this little London flat packed with 21 students we've all been irritating each other quite a bit. On the other hand, now that it's time to leave soon all the good times are coming back to us. You just can't go through this together and not bond in some way. Now, it's going to be hard to say goodbye and go our separate ways.
If we get to go our separate ways as planned, that is. If things get any worse, I'm falling back on the other British way of coping: the pub.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
I shouldn't really be blogging. I should be writing my 3,000 word internship report, putting together a presentation to go with it, and finishing my short story. Then I have to study for a final exam.
Sadly, this internship report is dead boring. On the other hand, I'm having serious doubts about the quality of my fiction. Fortunately, I have stocks of tea and biscuits to help me through these troubling times. I have decided that I am going to eat as much as I want of the foods I'll miss when I go back home.
It's not really surprising, but it does seem that as soon as I have become comfortable in London and at my internship it is time to leave. I will miss this city. I will miss the people, miss the lifestyle and the energy. On the other hand, I won't miss living with 20 other people in one tiny flat. It's getting harder and harder to stay focused on the present with so much travel and transition in front of me. But. These papers won't right themselves. I'll try to write more later when I don't have them hanging over me.
Friday, April 9, 2010
My blogging has been non-existent because life has been so jam-packed full of work, and school, and play, and company, and living. I also have not wanted to examine my feelings all to closely. It's easier to keep moving.
The next few weeks are going to be hard. I have two papers to write this weekend, and so much more after that. Life is good though. I have my aunt here to visit me (the chicago ant) and it has been divine. We have dined well, been to the theater (Private Lives, with Kim Cattrall and Matthew Macfayden), and wandered endlessly through the streets of London. It is so nice to have the perspective of someone who has taken a very twisted, yet delightful path through life. It gives me a renewed sense of faith, the feeling that everything will fall into place, even if it doesn't fall in according to my plan. Proof: I now have a job lined up for summer that I didn't think I was going to get.
It is hard to envision leaving this city. I will miss it, and yet I can't wait to be done... I can't wait to go to Germany and see my beloved, can't wait to bomb around London and Paris with my grandma, can't wait for summer classes and work... it's all very mixing and difficult, but at this moment I feel calm and very happy. Perhaps partly because it's Friday as well, but there you go.
P.S. I went to Oxford last weekend... it was sublime, a true pilgrimage.
(The Inklings pub)
(Christ Church College)
(Christ Church Meadow)
Sunday, March 28, 2010
All the same I get anxious when I think about the end of my program, because it is the beginning of the end, and the beginning of something else all at the same time. I am going to miss London, and yet I am so excited to get back to all that is waiting for me at home. Transition times also make me think about graduation, and getting a job, and deciding where to go to grad school and that terrifies me a little bit still. Even though I am even more sure now that I will be ready for it when it comes.
I am still trying to make the most out of things. Yesterday I went to the Camden market, and it was overwhelming and wonderful.
I ate perogies. They were tasty.
Then last night I sat outside and smoked hookah and drank sangria and talked for hours about life, and relationships, and London with some of my girlfriends. It was an appropriate end to the day.
Now, I will have frozen pizza for dinner because the city has shut down all the water on our block.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
"The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence."
I stumbled upon this quote at work the other day and I was quite struck when I read it. It's been resurfacing in my mind today. I haven't been sleeping well the past few nights, thanks to an unsettled mind. I keep going though, because I don't want to miss anything.
Today I just kept thinking about that quote, though. I realized this morning that if I was at home and in this state, I would give myself a quiet day. Lately I've fallen into the trap that if I don't take every single opportunity to go out, to see something, do something, meet someone, then I'll regret it. Maybe that's partially true. On the other hand, I'm burned out. I'm so tired from dealing with the newness and uncertainty of my internship, from another class that has been added to my schedule, from missing people... I think maybe I need to stop distracting myself and taking some more quiet time. It's a precious thing around here, in a city in a flat with twenty other people.
Anyway. Today I walked in the park and made cookies. Now, I am going to watch TV or read. I will do homework tomorrow.
In other news, my internship is going well. The culture shock is a bit more intense - the British approach their work very differently that Americans, from what I can tell. I'll write more about that later. Also, I am going to tour the Globe Theater on Tuesday. At long last, my dream comes true.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Acceptance. It's a difficult word, difficult to comprehend, difficult to adopt. At least for me. My natural state seems to be resistance... I fret and complain and resist all the time. My classes aren't hard enough, my work is stressful, I don't like living with so many other people, the weather won't warm up; the list goes on, and it changes depending on the day. I don't know what to write for my next short story, waiting for inspiration doesn't work. I miss my boyfriend and I weep when we talk because I don't want to be this far apart anymore. I'm nervous about going home, and yet in some ways I can't wait.
Yet, every so often, I get flashes of insight where I think to myself that if I could simply accept where I am life would be easier. If I could accept the hard things that I can't stand, maybe I'd feel less exhausted. Maybe I would enjoy the things I love more... I don't know, this is a slippery thing, hard to get at, hard to do. I just keep thinking back to Italy and my first terrifying, lonely day while I waited for my friend to meet me. I was alone in Siena, in a sea of people who didn't speak the same language I did. I felt anxious just trying to find dinner. I didn't talk to anyone all day, but wandered through the sun-soaked cobblestoned streets by myself. It was awful and delicious all at the same time, but the important part is that after a few days I simply started to accept the language barrier for what it was. I can't even really describe it, excpet that once I realized there was nothing I could do about it, it just stopped bothering me. I floated through incomprehinsible conversations with smiles and lots of gestures. I also started to accept that, no matter what happend or where I went, things would be alright.
Being back in London has been more challenging that I thought though. I wonder if I can't get back to the way I felt in Italy - accpeting what I can't change, enjoying what I have, knowing everything will alright. My program is already more than half over, and I want to make it good.
Yesterday, it was sunny and I went for a walk in Hyde Park. There were bunches of crocuses, spread across the grass. It felt like each one was a tiny little promise that spring is on its way.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
So, I am exhausted. I've been meaning to write for days, to try (however feebly) to capture my travels in Italy, what it's like to be back in London, the first few days of my internship.
However, actually participating in all those things means that I have not had time or energy to write about it all here. Something tells me it would be inappropriate to blog at work (at least here, part of my job is to blog, except for the company... so, that worked out well).
I am about ready to collapse right now. Let me just say that working from 9 to 5 makes Saturday seem utterly luxurious. Weekends are nice, especially when they are filled with mojitos, swing dancing at the blues club, and street markets. Tomorrow church, grocery shopping, and finishing up my application to be a section editor at the school newspaper next year (something tells me I don't really know what I'm getting myself into there).
Soon, I will write about Italy. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a photograph.
(Side street in Siena, Italy)
Thursday, February 25, 2010
This is a photo I took from the top of Cadbury "castle" (old hill fortress that has been speculatively linked to Camelot). You are looking at Corton Ridge, and behind it is the village of Corton Denham... the village my family used to live in before they moved to Canada in the 1800s. The entire weekend was a trip back into family history, myth, and all the literature I loved growing up. I felt that I was taking a tromp through the Shire. Rolling fields, tiny villages, 19th century famrhouses, old gravestones with my family surname, a roaring fire in the pub... it is all a happy glow in my memory. I am blocking out the moments of terror I felt in the rental car my father was driving to get us there... barreling through the English countryside with no real idea of where you are going can be quite unnerving. After this past weekend, I also have to agree with Bill Bryson when he says that the British seem to take a quiet, intense, and ornery pride in doing everything differently than the whole rest of the world.
Now, my classes are to be set aside for a week as I spend my spring break in Tuscany. I am nervous and excited. I have traveled by myself before, but never to another country. On the other hand, I can't stop thinking about Italian food, Italian countryside, Italian architecture, and history... I've been waiting for this for a long time, and it's finally happening.
It will be grand. I'll update when I can, but I do not intend to take my laptop with me. I think it will be good for me to go without it for a week.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Dun-Dun! Spotted Dick Pudding in a can! It's basically a cake/bread like substance, in a can, that you boil. You boil the can in water. Very strange. You're supposed to put custard on top, but I forgot that part. It has raisins, hence the "spotted." Still not sure why it's called "dick" pudding, except that maybe God wanted me to giggle a little while I was here.
All in all, it wasn't bad. Not as bad as it looks. It was sweet and cinnamony, and I do like raisins. I don't know if anyone actually even eats the stuff over here, and I don't know if I'd buy it again. However, it was an entertaining thing to do on a chilly evening.
What's next? Bangers and mash? If I am feeling ambitious, it might happen. I've been very busy between writing an article for the student newspaper back home, and writing my first short story for my creative writing class. Things are not slowing down, either. This week I have a trip to Al Jazeera, and (gulp) my interview for my internship. Oh, and my 21st birthday. The my dad is coming to visit. Not long after, I will be in Italy. I booked a hotel room in Siena all by myself for a good price, and felt very grown up. I feel good, if overwhelmed.
P.S. Happy Valentines Day. I wasn't thrilled to have my sweetie in another country, but then I was reminded how lucky I am to have him at all... So, that's that.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Over his visit, we had many long conversations about topics that just can't be covered over the phone, and I realized that those conversations are perhaps what I miss the most. This trip has made me think a lot about what it means to share your life with someone. Back home, we share a city, we share friends, we share our days, our joys and our frustrations (even when we were deeply frustrated with each other, as we sometimes are). I didn't think much of it until we came to Europe, where we have such different and separate lives. I miss that kind of being together; at the same time I am savoring my independence and the experience of something so totally new. I am grateful and happy that we are where we are, grateful we can share even part of this experience with each other. I also cried bitterly off and on all day today because every time it gets harder to say goodbye.
It's all very mixed up... I am full of so many different emotions. I suppose this experience would not be what it is without that. I was quite touched when, in the middle of his visit, David told me that after seeing the city he can tell that London is where I need to be. I smiled when he said it because I know he is right, and I am grateful that he can see it. I have no doubts that he is in the right place too. I do not doubt that this is making us both stronger, wiser people (at least, I really, really hope it is).
In the end, I am always grateful just to have him in my life, because my life is just better with him in it. It's that simple, really.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Anyway, no more drinking and dancing tonight. Just homework. Earlier this afternoon I spent about 10 minutes starting at the portrait of Jane Austen in the National Portrait Gallery. I was also very excited to see the portrait of Lord Byron in a turban, William Wordsworth looking pensive, and other Romantic types that I've spent semesters studying. Now I am staying in to relax and write, despite protest.
My boy is coming this weekend. Words cannot describe my excitement (well, they might but it would be unbearably sappy I am sure, so I'll spare you). S
So life continues in London, fun, confusing, occasionally awkward... at least I never get bored.
P.S. I have not forgotten about the Spotted Dick, by the way. Next post, I swear.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
I am trying hard to stay positive - I am grateful for my sweet roomies, and grateful that I get to have brunch with some (kind of distant) family that I have here in London tomorrow morning.
But I am also still really grumpy and firmly in a funk. A big, dark, irritable, gloomy, depressed, weepy funk. I guess I just need to wait it out.
I want to go to the countryside where things are quiet and there are wide open spaces.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
History simply layers up in this country. People use and reuse the same places over the span of thousands of years. Case in point, Stonehenge. I was privileged enough to take a day trip out to the famous monument. Our lovely tour guide (who happened to look very much like Helen Mirren) gave us a lot of information about how little we actually know about Stonehenge because it really is terribly, terribly old. I wandered about in the chilly air of Salisbury plain looking at that pile stones and feeling the kind of awe one must feel around terribly old things. I realized that I just couldn't comprehend how old it was or the people who so mysteriously built it. I felt very touristy, but ultimately I think I would have regretted not seeing Stonehenge.
After the Henge, we sped over to the city of Bath. History really is literally in layers there - Roman baths underneath, Georgian city above built all in the same local stone, all transformed into a modern, working city. I of course was absolutly giddy to be in the city where Jane Austen set so many novels. I recognized street names from the books (doesn't get much nerdier than that, does it?). Anyway, it was quite remarkable, and quite magical. The city is beautiful and fascinating; I could wander around there all afternoon. I want to go back just to sit in the tearoom in the Jane Austen center one more time, under the slightly tacky portait of Mr. Darcy.
Now I am back in London. Things have been a little difficult at the flat lately, what with all the problems with the hot water. People are going out tonight and part of me wants to stay in and read and sip some tea (or wine)... I never know if I should indulge my reclusive tendencies or not. We shall see. I do plan on getting out and about this week. There is so much to do and see in London that I just get overwhelmed and forget what I even wanted to do in the first place.
Not that I am complaining.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Today was a busy day. I was privileged enough to take a tour of Red Bee Media with my class. It was pretty fabulous seeing a working broadcast center. People always ask me what job I want when I graduate. I never know what to tell them because no one has ever given me any practical, hands-on information about any sort of career (college doesn't actually prepare you for "real life" it turns out). Today was a thrilling foray into the world of professional broadcasting.
After lunch, I headed out to the Victoria and Albert Musuem (pictured above). I spent two hours in only a few galleries. It was wonderful, but by the end my feet and my back were feeling very cranky. i retreated back to the flat and had a quiet dinner.
Now, on the subject of food. Today I finally fixed myself up a staple of the English breakfast: beans on toast.
The beans are like canned baked beans, only they are white beans in a tomato sauce. I made toast, added hot beans, and some salt and pepper. It was very tasty, like a ligher version of American baked beans. I wouldn't have thought to have beans for breakfast, so I might make it a regular afternoon lunch/snack. Beans are cheap, and the give some variety.
It was my second foray into uniquely English food after sticky toffee pudding. I have decided to try out as many "traditional" English foods that I can (at least, out of what can be found at Sainsburys since I am on a budget). This was mostly inspired by my spotting a can at the store labelled "Spotted Dick Pudding." I am intruiged. I want to try more foods with funny names. I will try and document my foodie adventures here for you all as they come.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
I am quite in love with the park, and I anticipate many happy hours there, especially once the weather gets warmer. In Hyde Park, all the dogs are allowed to run off their leashes. Londoners come to give their dogs a run, and the park was full of delirious dogs running around after tennis balls and sticks. The dogs will not come up to you though, which is very interesting to me. At home I always worry about being approached by strange dogs; here, they trot right by without even looking at you.
I am rather glad the snow is gone; I like to see everything green outside after I have been shut up with various ailments. Walking restored more of my good spirits, and I am looking forward to this week. I hope to get out and do some more exploring on my own (I find the only cure for missing certain people is to increase my solitude; funny, isn't it?), and I hope to join the knitting group that meets at a nearby college. I think think of no better way of crossing cultural boundaries than through needlework.
I have been scheming over my spring break as well. Here is the plan: Go to Tuscany. Rent a bike. Ride around, and eat Italian food. Good plan, no?
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Everything in London feels both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. In some ways, London is like any other city. It is not such an absolute change as it could be. Everyone speaks English, there are cars, and shops, and movie theaters. In some ways, I don't feel as if I've come very far at all.
Then there are all the little differences that crop up when I least expect it. Small acts, such as crossing the street, are different. I'm still anxious about getting run over because I looked the wrong way before crossing. Making change is a nightmare. Everywhere I go I am not quite sure how to act, what the etiquette is. I have to keep reminding myself that the pounds are not equivalent to dollars. Even watching the weather and seeing a map of the UK is strange. I look at it and think, "Oh my God, that where I am."
I had to go to the doctor today (long story involving a 24hr stomach bug that has now morphed into an infected tonsil), and it made me realize that I didn't know where to go or what to do like I do at home. Then I had to find a pharmacy to get my anti-biotics. Did my overseas insurance policy cover the medicine? How much would it be? Little things jump out at me all the time and I realize that I don't know automatically what to do. It's strange because I don't expect it, even though I should.
I have survived without too much trouble. I met with a very kind doctor who reminded me that the sudden change in environment could be quite hard on me, and that I should take care of myself and keep my spirits up.
So, that is what I intend to do. I may have missed out on the theater tonight, but I have much to look forward to when I get well. Mostly I am grateful to have the room (which I share with two others) to myself for a few hours.
There is only one thing I miss right now. I have noticed that any word or offer of kindness by my flatmates has made me want to hug them. I realized that I haven't had many hugs since I got here. I am hugged constantly at home by my friends and my boyfriend (we are an affectionate lot; Americans seem to hug more anyway), but here there is no one I know so well yet. Really, I'd just like to cuddle with one of them now.
I suppose I'll just have to be a big girl and give myself over to the healing powers of tea, biscuits, and Jane Austen.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Anyway. Kensington is beautiful, the city is amazing. The living situation is basically like being in a hostel; 20 people and one kitchen. That will be a challenge. It is worth it though. I am living right down the street from the house where Virginia Woolf used to live. Today I took a bus tour and saw... so many places I want to go. I don't know where to start. I can't even comprehend the notion of taking classes yet. I want to go to Brighton, and Bath, and Oxford too. I keep thinking of all the British novel's I've read. I've fallen in love with pubs, they are the perfect place to relax.
I can't even compose anything about how I feel. I am excited, and nervous. I have yet to hear from my sweetheart who is getting settled in Germany. I am trying not to be shy about embarrass myself with the Brits (so many coins... I hate change!) I don't know, I just don't know how I feel or what to think. I am adjusting well so far, but we'll see how things go. So I think I could categorize this as the honeymoon phase. My strongest feeling is one of gratitude, really. I am so grateful and happy to be here. So few have this opportunity. I am convinced it is the perfect place for me right now.
I suppose that is all for now. I will write something a little more organized when I have my own computer working again. Cheers.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I don't know what to say. I am excited, and very happy. Somewhat nervous, not happy about some of my goodbyes, but this is it. This is it, I have to go and just trust that everything will be okay. Better than okay.
I will blog as much as possible (don't know what that means yet, we'll see). I will do my very best to keep you posted, dear readers, on all my adventures in London and in Europe. Wish me luck.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Usually I write a lengthy retrospective on the past year, a tally of all that has happened... I am having trouble thinking about the past this year, though. I have been so intensely focused on the future that it is difficult to think in detail about 2009. I suppose I will write down a few generalities and then keep focusing on the future.
2009 was difficult. Academically, certainly. Emotionally too. I consider that a good thing, though. I think I have been slowly learning to take things in stride more, to ride out difficulties, to be more patient. Maturity is a big word, but I think I managed to gain some this year, kicking and screaming all the way... I've seen it happen to some of my closest friends too. Maybe that is part of college; watching each other grow. 2009 was rewarding. My relationships have been rewarding, my classes have been rewarding. I am not the writer or the thinker I used to be. I think, if anything, I have gained more conviction and confidence that I had before.
Courage and conviction. This is what I wish for all of us heading into 2010. I know that my difficulties pale in comparison to some. I see that we are all struggling for something, for someone, for some reason. I hope we know when to lean on one another, when to be grateful, when to be patient.
I am trying to see past my anxiety to just be grateful for the grand adventure that is in front of me. It is not easy during the stage of packing and anticipation; of scared and excited imaginings. I am envisioning afternoons in museums, walks in Hyde Park, visits to The Globe. I am also envisioning more stressful things, but I'm trying not think about that, as it is a waste of energy. At any rate, I can't wait to document it here for you all. I am grateful, and ready (mostly) to set off on my own. I am grateful that my loved ones love me enough to let me go (although it does sound like I may have a number of visitors!).
Best wishes for the new year.