Friday, June 24, 2011

New blog!

Hello, everyone. I've been absent lately. That's because I've been busy over here. That's right, I've got a new blog. It's all about life, job hunting, building a "career" and what that means for Gen Y's like myself (i.e. those of who've grown up with the internet and are also trying to enter the workforce in a really terrible, awful recession).

Does this mean I'll retire this blog? I'm not sure. Probably not. It might have to go on hiatus, though, while I put time and energy elsewhere. So, dear readers (however few) be patient, and read my new blog in the meantime!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The smell of roast chicken

Last week was difficult. Last week featured a fifteen minute crying jag, as I sat in the Food Lion parking lot. I was on the phone with my father wailing about how I would never, ever learn how to drive my car (a stick shift) and that my bank account was dwindling rapidly.

This week has been better. My mother was right when she told me things would get better. I've got a few job interviews lined up. The car, while still terrifying, is not as challenging as before. My living room is suffused with a lovely, golden glow because the sun is shining right through the rain. The air is cool and the house smells of roasting chicken and potatoes. My fiance just pulled in. I even discovered that I can temporarily remove the obnoxious, highly sensitive smoke alarm to my bedroom so that it doesn't go off every time I try to cook something.

Life is good.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free time?

And so, graduation came and went. I am now settled into a new apartment (only for the summer alas - I've got to find something quick as my sublease ends in August). Having free time feels wrong ... almost sinful, after a senior year full of intense coursework and being an editor for the newspaper. Hopefully I'll find a job soon, because I'm nearing broke. I also intend to start researching grad school options. I suppose I also need to start planning my wedding at some point (gosh, that sounds weird).

Although my sudden influx of free time feels disorienting, it also allows me to pursue things that I never had time for before. Right now, this means taking an online course through called "Intro to New Media." It starts on the 19th, and I'm very excited (thanks Guilford for the grant money to pay for it). This blog is getting dated and inadequate for my (hopefully more professional) needs, so I'm looking forward to investing some time in learning more about writing for new media by building up an online portfolio/blog. I'm also thinking that getting published would be helpful, since I'll need new things to post in my portfolio. College did not teach me how to freelance, however. Any tips on getting started would be welcome.

Sometimes when I write down aspirations such as "get published" or "get proficient in new media and networking" or "get into an awesome grad program on writing for digital media" I wonder if I've got the right goals. On the one hand, I wonder if I'm aiming too high. On the other hand, I wonder if others would think I'm aiming too low and setting myself up for financial uncertainty and little success. But then I think to myself, well who cares? Things are changing pretty quickly and pretty radically these days: culturally, socially, and even personally (especially if you're in your 20's like I am). In the face of that, why not just pursue what you care about most? Adjustments can always be made, but compromising or giving up on something too early never got anyone anywhere.

And then, when I am very anxious, I read Sugar. She reminds me that "the future has an ancient heart."

Friday, May 6, 2011


Well. This is my last night in my college room. My little shoebox in the on-campus apartments at Guilford College. The walls are bare. Almost everything is boxed up. I feel like I'm trying to cut myself off from my emotions, lest the floodgates open. I feel a deep sense of happiness, accomplishment (I'm graduating with high academic honors) and a real sense of relief. I'm ready to move on. And yet, I'm dogged by a feeling of sadness and nostalgia. I remember moving into my dorm for the first time. I was so nervous and excited. I really had no idea what was coming. I didn't know who I would meet, what I would learn, or whether or not I'd still be with my boyfriend come graduation. I didn't know I'd go to England, Italy, France and Germany. I didn't know I'd become an editor for the newspaper.
I cannot even begin to describe all the lessons (both academic and otherwise) that will be represented by that little piece of paper I'll be handed tomorrow. Guilford has been home to me. Guilford has shaped me. I think it's made me ready to make a new home, find a new calling. I may feel very green and unprepared for the "real world" still. On the other hand, I followed my gut when I chose to come here and I haven't been disappointed. Guilford has allowed me to honor my sense of passion and commitment ... a commitment to writing, creativity, excellence, hard work and meaningful relationships with others. For all its flaws (and issues that plague all institutions), I think I can safely say that Guilford has lived up to all it promised and more.
As for everyone who has supported me, I just can't thank you enough. Mom and Dad: thanks for everything, but most of all thank you for always, always telling me that I could be a writer and an English major if I wanted to. My favorite faculty (you know who you are): thank you for everything you taught me. David: thanks for just being you. My dear, dear friends: college would not have been the same without you.
I can only hope that whatever it is that led me here will continue to lead me on to equally wonderful things.
And that is that, ladies and gentlemen. I'm done with college.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Well. It's been an eventful few weeks. Finals are nearly over, graduation is impending (four days, now?) and my boyfriend of three years proposed last weekend. I said yes, naturally. He went to elaborate lengths to in order to propose (a trip to a winery, a picnic lunch, and a wine bottle floating down the creek were all involved). In the end, he ended up wading out up to his thighs in said creek to fish out the wine bottle (I was perplexed and wondering how we would drive home with his blue jeans soaking wet) just to give me the note that was inside the bottle. I finally caught up with what was happening, started weeping, and he pulled out a ring.
And that was that. It feels remarkably normal ... like the day you turn 13 and realize that you don't feel any different than you did yesterday. I take this as a good sign, finding this transition not be a real transition at all (rather, that the transition came already, and the engagement has come in recognition of it). All the same, it was a magical day. I feel so grateful to have a partner who treats me so well.
In other news, I remain jobless, but hopeful. I have a place to live for the summer. I've got grant money to do fun/instructive things with new media. I'm graduating from college with honors. I am going to see my family and celebrate soon. Packing is the only bane of my existence.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

This too shall pass

A few weeks ago, one of my professors told me a story and I've been thinking about it ever since. He said there was an old fable in which a man was sentenced to die. The king set the condemned man what seemed to be an impossible task; the king said that if the condemned man could give him something that would make him happy when he was sad, and sad when he was happy, then he could go free. The man gave the king a ring engraved with the words "this too shall pass." The king realized that the man had met his challenge and set him free.

This too shall pass. Those words suddenly seem to be a full, meaningful description of the way things are, rather than something I tell myself to feel better when things are rough. It does make me happy and sad, sometimes at the same time.

Tonight was a lovely, shining moment that made me so happy and melancholy at the same time, only because I knew that nothing else would ever be quite like it. Those lovely, shining moments are rare, especially when most weeks feel like a long, emotional slog. Such has been my time with the student newspaper: long hours, blood, sweat and tears, mixed so much joy, and passion, and fulfillment. Tonight I had a chance to sit and reflect with my fellow graduating editors (along with our beloved advisor, of course) and it was priceless. We shared memories and the strengths we recognized in each other after so much time working together. One editor remarked that he had moments of panic when he thought that perhaps working The Guilfordian was as good as things are going to get, because how could we ever find another group of such talented, passionate and hardworking individuals? When would we ever find another group of people willing to sacrifice so much for no pay and little formal recognition?

I don't know the answer to that, but we did share a sense of excitement and faith for the future of the student newspaper in the hands of its new editors. And after leaving, I can't help but feel and sense of faith and excitement for myself and all my fellow editors who are graduating along with me. I have no doubt that the strength and passion we've brought to this newspaper will carry us forward to wonderful things, even if it's not what we imagine now. Looking back on it, my work for The Guilfordian (and by extension, my work at college) and the relationships I've built have been genuinely transformational and I am grateful. I am grateful to have known these people, grateful that I will go on knowing them. I am grateful for everything they have taught me, and everything we have shared.

It's appropriate that the same professor who told me that story is also the advisor for the newspaper.

This too shall pass. But something will always be waiting ahead as well.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I am a terrible blogger lately. This is partly because I am starting to see a shift coming. I'm working on a project for a TA/independent study position that will hopefully become a professional showcase and website that will host a new blog, my twitter feed, and hopefully examples of my work. It's sucking up energy that I'd normally feed over here. As it is, this blog might be retired soon as I make my switch.

What a precious archive, though. So far, I've blogged partly for others, mostly for myself. I chose a blog so that I could share. Now, as my understanding of digital literacy and new media communications/rhetoric is expanding, I feel that I need to change the nature of my output to reflect my growing sense that I am (or can be) a part of professional and academic discourse "out there" in the world. I think this blog was a stepping stone, though, an place for learning and reflection and I hope to carry that over as well.

It's been interesting to note the cyclical nature of my worries, my joys. Is this what it means to be a student, or is this what it means to be a human? Or both? Even though, come May, I won't be a "student" for a while, I know that the line between "school" and "life" is false and that I'll never stop learning. Although, getting that grant money I applied for would help a lot too.

It's taken me until now to realize that, in the face of my anxiety and worry over where I'll be and what I'll be doing in the coming months, I'm the only one who can give myself permission not to be worried or anxious. I have six weeks of college left. Six weeks. I want to be present for those last weeks, not stuck in anxiety over a future that will probably work itself out anyway. I don't think it's wrong to count on having a little serendipity mixed in with all the hard work and preparation for the future.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

March 1 selection from "A Year with Rilke" (Sonnets to Orpheus II, 12)

I love Rilke. Reading a snippet or poem of his every day has been an interesting exercise. I had a period last week when I forgot to read almost five days in a row. I was sick and busy, but I felt upset and slightly ashamed when I realized it. I've made a renewed effort over the past few days to make sure I read them on time. It's sometimes dull, because I'll go days without anything really speaking to me. Then, all of a sudden, I will read a poem and think, "I really, really needed to read that today."

That's what happened today. That's why I push myself to keep reading, day after day when it seems easier not to commit to something extra. I love it when Rilke describes change as a flame, that there is something burning and effervescent about change, even when it seems to be mere drudgery or supreme discomfort. "Every happiness is the child of separation/it did not think it could survive."
How often I need to be reminded of that.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Words and more words

Wordle: Three Years of Blog Posts

A "word cloud" drawn from the four or so years of my blog (created via Wordle). Curious and revealing, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Useless Days

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.

From "Dear Sugar, The Rumpus Advice Column #64: Tiny Beautiful Things."

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Awareness. I always considered it to be a cognitive skill, a kind of mental discipline that was often beyond me. It some ways, it felt easier to be harried, stressed, and under pressure even though those feelings are so negative. This semester I've been feeling an intense amount of pressure in my academic and personal life ... as if this semester were some kind of medieval torture device, and someone was maliciously tightening the screws day by day. I feel worst when I feel out of control. This has been a pattern that's gone on long enough, though. Many conversations, readings and experience are beginning to shift my perception of my own stress. First of all, feeling "out of control" assumes that there actually exists some level of control that I could gain over my life and what happens next. Really, I'll never know or control that. Now, that's a tough one and I still don't quite believe it on a gut level but I hope to get there eventually.

Recently, I've begun to think that there are important decisions that can impact my day-to-day perceptions. What started me off was a comment from a respected professor, who pointed out that I will always be busy, and that there will always be multiple demands on my time. It made me think that I need to take make decisions right now that will make me feel more sane, rather than assuming my life will become less hectic at some point in the future ... since then, I've stumbled across this interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn. It's changed my ideas about awareness and mindfulness. Zinn, a scientist and zen student who has studied mediation and its clinical and practical applications, speaks to the essential difference between awareness and "thinking." Thinking, he says, is a source of great creativity but it can also be destructive. Awareness or mindfulness is entirely different. It is not a cognitive exercise so much as a willingness to let of thinking and to settle into your body and the present moment instead. The ability to truly focus our attention on the present is a skill humans are not taught to cultivate. Zinn argues that cultivating great awareness does not only reduce feelings of stress and illness, it allows us to live life as if every moment really does matter.

What a radical concept. I spend so much time, these past few weeks especially, worrying and yearning for the future. I'm starting to wonder if I have more control over my sense of dissatisfaction than I thought. This concept of awareness runs much deeper than that, though. I think there is more at stake. I wonder if a greater sense of awareness might also lead to a greater sense of compassion and flexibility. Awareness in communication seems crucial to me, that ability to be present with another person, acting as if each moment is worth paying attention to. What would happen if I tried to do that more?

Yoga gives me a greater sense of mindfulness, of simply being in my body. It's difficult to maintain in an academic environment where thinking is valued so highly. But it seems to me that a balance between the two would allow for greater creativity of thought and a deeper sense of engagement.

So, this is a really tall order. This is tough work. Just trying to be more mindful at least part of the time helps though, rather than thinking "if I could just graduate" or "if I could just go back to Europe." It's better than just giving up and letting myself slip back into that sense of pressure and self-preoccupation. That's no way to live.

Postscript: strangely enough (or not strangely at all) Zinn also has some potential Quaker influences. I love finding these connections.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Solitude We Are

"To speak again of solitude, it becomes ever clearer that in truth there is nothing we can choose or avoid. We are solitary. We can delude ourselves and act as if this were not so. That is all we can do. How much better to realize it from the start that is what we are, and to proceed from there. It can, of course, make us dizzy, for everything our eyes rest upon will be taken from us, no longer is anything near, and what is far is endlessly far."
- Rilke (Jan 27 selection from "A Year with Rilke")

I miss Italy. I was there for ten days last spring after deciding that I would fly from London to Pisa all by myself, so that I could get on a bus to Siena to visit a young woman who is probably my oldest friend. It was, at times, very unsettling and nerve wracking to travel to a country on your own without speaking a lick of Italian. But I miss the long hours when I would wander around the city alone, poking down side streets, stumbling upon gardens, wandering into churches ... my friend was preoccupied with classes most afternoons, so I would go for hours without speaking to anyone (aside from feeble attempts to buy gelato in Italian). I've never gone that long in silence. I would sit in the Piazza del Campo when I was tired and I would sketch and people watch. I don't think I've ever written so profusely in my life. When I was alone I turned to my journal. My solitude felt intense and overwhelming and deeply uncomfortable, but perhaps that was the value of it. I wrote pages upon pages every day, in the afternoon in the piazza and at night before I went to bed. The came Florence; I spent an entire afternoon alone in the Uffizi gallery and a full half hour in the Botticelli room. I climbed to the top of Brunelleschi's dome. I practically meditated over the glory of my meals. The funny thing is that I both hated and loved the days spent alone ... in some moments I wanted any way out, anyone to talk to, just so that I wouldn't have to feel so alone. Other moments, I savored the feeling.

I don't quite recall the point of all this, except to remind myself that it happened, to let out that longing for anywhere-but-here and a longing to be in a place where I was always present. Perhaps I feel this way because this week I've not had a minute to myself. I always wonder if, by searching for something beyond the daily grind, I am romanticizing silence, solitude, God, whatever. Maybe I'm inventing what I'm searching for.

On the other hand, does it matter? Is it okay to just buy into something if it makes you feel more sane, and more compassionate?

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Ah. Once again, the first week of January is marked by impatience. Impatience to be away, to be back at school, to be done with the break. However, I've also enjoyed my time at home quite a bit during this break - much more so than last winter. I am learning to settle into what I'm doing a bit better. Of course, a year ago I was impatient to leave for England. Now, I think wistfully back to those magical months abroad. I think, though, that my deep impatience this year is for the rest of my life to start. That sounds dramatic ... more so than I intended. I merely mean that I am impatient for a change of pace. I'm researching grad schools still, but a year off to work is what I want right now. I want to give all these transitions the time they need. I am ready for new challenges, despite their sometimes harsh reality. I can't stay an undergrad forever and I don't want to. I also don't want to go right to grad school because it would feel as if I decided to go just because I was scared and wanted to prolong the structure that's defined my life for so many years. I want to go to grad school because I really, really want it. And after a year or so of work, I don't doubt that I'll be more than ready to dive back into school (I'll always love it, really). I guess what I'm looking for is a sense of balance and a sense that everything will happen on its own time. In which case, I suppose I should train myself for more patience ...
And so, I'm enjoying my last day at home. I get to be the overprotective older sister for the day, hopefully with some measure of coolness mixed in. Then, I'm off to start my last semester at Guilford! Whew.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Begin

Generally I write a post just before the new year. This year, I've chosen (well, waited) to post after the beginning of the new year. This is partially because I was busy tying up some loose ends, (although in reality nothing is ever that final) by having some tough but fruitful discussions that needed to take place. However, it all works out because this year I'd like to focus on beginnings, however arbitrary they may be, rather than endings. Honestly, there's not much that just ends with the turning of the year anyway. Yes, 2010 was a full year with many challenges and unexpected joys (five months abroad remains a highlight) but isn't every year full of both? Our cares and pleasures stay with us no matter what the date.

I have decided that I am very much opposed to making lists. At least for myself, anyway. I am an obsessive list maker when it comes to my daily tasks, it is true. New year's lists are seductive in their promise of a shiny new routine, a new improved you ... in my experience the over ambitious list always leads to failure because we aim to remake ourselves when we shouldn't feel the need to. At any rate, I've admitted to myself that I cannot follow through on ambitious lists of new year's resolutions and I've decided to save myself the disappointment. This is similar to my realization that I simply need to take a yoga class (one in which I am expected to show up in front of others) in order to set up a regular exercise regime. So, regular yoga is not on a list because I have already built it into my schedule for next semester.

In a similar vein, my approach to lists of books to be read also informs my feelings on new year's lists as well. I generally reject reading lists in favor of the spontaneous find, and whatever whim may take me when doing leisure reading. This winter break I had expected to read "T.S. Spivet." However, I've found myself engrossed in needlework and reading "How to Eat' by Nigella Lawson. It may seem odd to sit a read through a cookbook as if it were an engrossing novel, but Nigella is unique. Her cookbook is largely narrative based, the story of her cooking process and her intense, sensual love of eating and therefore cooking. It's inspirational because I can't stop thinking about how I will shop and cook differently this semester - for example, it's high time that I roasted a chicken on my own. I like to give myself the freedom to indulge in unexpected reading finds, and I feel the same way about the new year. I like to leave lots of room for the unexpected.

A little structure is always a good thing, though. A few simple things to keep you centered never hurts. This is why my one commitment of the new year is to read "A Year with Rilke" translated and edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. I've given in wholeheartedly to Rilke and I hope that he will inspire more blogging this coming year. But mostly these daily readings will me for me and for me alone as I navigate 2011. What with graduation and the many decisions that come with that turning point, I'm sure I'll need it.

However, this is only one thing and therefore does not count as a list in my eyes. And thus, I welcome the new year. I'll let Rilke have the last (or first) word:

"I love all beginnings, despite their anxiousness and their uncertainty, which belong to every commencement. If I have earned a pleasure or a reward, or if I wish that something had not happened; if I doubt the worth of an experience and remain in my past – then I choose to begin at this very second. Begin what? I begin. I have already thus begun a thousand lives."

-- Rilke (early journals), entry one from "A Year with Rilke."