Now/Next

I was either going to title my last post “Achievement Unlocked” or “Successful Completion.” I went with the latter because I had the sneaking suspicion I had already used the former title, but was too lazy to verify. (I had not used already used it.)

In any event, about an hour after I hit publish, the doorbell rang because I had a fancy signature-required piece of mail: my MA diploma.

Successful completion. Achievement unlocked.

Finality is strange. Right now, I am definitively “not a student.” It took a lot longer than it should have, but it’s done. In addition to throwing pointless extra money out the window in extension fees, the hyper delayed completion of my thesis also had the consequence of extending my student status. I wasn’t necessarily doing student-things for much of the extension time, but I was enrolled a little longer. I was officially a graduate student for three years.

After I finished undergrad, there was a period of about five months between graduation and my decision to go take the GRE and start applying for graduate schools. I enrolled in Media Bistro’s copy editing certificate program even before I made that decision. I’d estimate that my time off amounted to “the summer” before I found my way back to school.

I have been an officially recognized, enrolled student my entire life and it is surreal to realize that I am not one now. Something that has always been part of my identity suddenly isn’t.

Somewhere in the confused haze of the year between finishing undergrad and starting graduate school, I spent some time as a substitute teacher. (I also started this blog.) I was so awkward and uncomfortable as I walked through the halls of my high school with my teacher badge. On more than one occasion, I was chastised by faculty for being in the halls during my off period because they mistook me for a student. I had a hard time not carrying myself like one.

But now I’m not. I have always wanted to go all the way through and get my PhD, but everything about last year has me questioning that resolve. I was a student on paper for all of 2013, but I accomplished nothing. I think about the desperate crawl to the finish line and I’m not sure I’m capable of continuing.

That thought kills me. If I could say that after all of this I just changed my mind and realized it’s not what I wanted, it would be different. I’m a firm believer in giving yourself the freedom to change your mind. I’m sometimes reticent to share big plans because it feels too much like firm commitment to something that I can’t be sure my future self is still going to want. You don’t always know what future!you is going to want and that’s OK. Stuff changes – that’s life.

But to find myself unable to continue not because I’ve changed my mind, but because I no longer feel capable? That cuts deep. That invites some big, “Who the fuck am I, then?” questions.

Right now I don’t really have answers. Not yet, at least.

What I do know, right now, is that there are a lot of other good things happening. I know that right now I am confused and uncertain about my future. I know that not having answers to big questions about what I want to “do” with my life is a source of genuine anxiety for me. I also know, though, that what I’m doing right now is just fine right now. I’m happy right now.

And for right now I have to learn to let that be enough.

Did you like this? Share it:
{ 7 comments }

Successful Completion

There are probably better things that you could do with 50 minutes of your life, but that’s how long YouTube says it will take to watch all 31 of the videos that I uploaded during VEDA.

It’s that time of year again: time to sit around and think about this massive time suck project that I did, which will inevitably be forgotten shortly.

I uploaded one four minute video, but set a two minute limit which I stuck to for the other 30 videos – and that’s including the 7 or 8 seconds of outro. This isn’t the first time that I’ve successfully uploaded a video every day for a month, but it is the first time that I did that without relying on cell phone/tablet/laptop/direct uploads. Meaning: I managed to record and edit 31 videos. Some were better edited than others, of course, but the end result is that I’m actually pleased with most of these videos – which hasn’t always been the case in years past.

And that’s the big takeaway, I suppose, from a month of making videos; time and effort generally pays off. Go figure. I’m also going to recycle that two minute rule in the future. It was incredibly rare that I struggled to keep the videos under that line and even on those days I had to admit that the video was, in the end, better for the cutting.

I am a rambler. I have a recurring problem of talking too long, saying too much, and not knowing when to cut myself off. This becomes incredibly obvious in video form, especially while editing. I assume everyone who vlogs has run into this moment where you want to punch yourself in your own stupid face. Maybe it’s just me. But listening to yourself stumble over the same phrases and choose words poorly is a very instructive experience.

As, of course, is starting a thing and finishing a thing. Starting a thing just because it’ll be fun, for you, and seeing that thing through to the end.

And so, for posterity’s sake – of if you really do have an hour to kill – here are my 31 videos:

Did you like this? Share it:
{ 2 comments }

Wine, Pinocchio, and Bonus Content

It’s likely that I will keep talking about my summer overseas at length in the coming months, because that’s a good deal more glamorous than the view from the desk where I’m currently sitting. (A view that includes a stack of thesis books, some encyclopedias nobody has opened in a decade because Google, and a globe. The high life, my friends.)

Lorraine and I went to a wine tasting class that wasn’t so much about learning things as drinking while a funny French guy talked about wine. Still, we came home and recorded all the important things we learned.

This video has been sitting in my queue for a month now, waiting for VEDA to end. I had almost forgotten about it until YouTube was all, “Hey, girl, you uploaded a thing!”

Here is that thing.

Did you like this? Share it:
{ 3 comments }

Obsessions & Goodbyes

Did you like this? Share it:
{ 6 comments }

On Record

Last summer was a down period for this blog. It was a weird time wherein I had too many feelings to know how to wrap my arms around them and unload them into this space designed, primarily, as a receptacle for my abundant feelings.

In October, I started to make my way back here in part because the absence thing created a feeling that entire months of my life were erased or empty. There was a void. Things were incomplete.

Here I sit, a year later, feeling infinitely more whole and complete as a human being and determined to make sure I make some notation of that. Here is the record. Here is the acknowledgment that things are wonderful, for however long this lasts.

If the silence and isolation taught me anything it was how incredibly valuable this moment is. I’m not one for trying to draw comparisons between emotional experiences – I hate the idea that one terrible thing should somehow render you immune to any number of “merely bad” experiences. Sometimes things just suck, for whatever reason, and you’re allowed to be upset about that, no matter what other varieties of suck you have known in your life.

Still, the radical shift from epic suck to I love my life right now from one year to the next is kind of incredible. This comparison is inherently different, of course, because I’m using the emotional comparisons to intensify and further validate a feeling, rather than invalidate a feeling, as if feelings are driven by some cohesive logic, an absurd concept if ever there was one.

I’m remembering where and how I was a year ago and acknowledging that everything has changed, entirely for the better.

That’s all there really is to say. I’m sitting in a lovely apartment in Paris on a Sunday afternoon, with one of my best friends. Let the record show that things are good. Things are really, really good.

 

Did you like this? Share it:
{ 5 comments }

the view from here

It has now been 24 days since I woke up at 6am to leave my house and set off on a trip spanning 5 countries, 11 boats, and 10 beds. Or approximations of beds. 11, actually, if we’re vaguing up the terminology to “approximations of beds” because I napped a bit while sitting upright on my 10pm – 6am train from Torino to Rome.

The shittiest of the 10 beds (because if we’re counting that last one, it’s the obvious winner – mostly because the other occupants of my cabin were having an argument in Italian for at least 3 of those hours) was probably the bed in my proper night train from Milan to Paris. Those beds are tiny to begin with but the bottom one is tiniest of all because the armrests from the seat take up at least a third of the bed and you get the singular joy of knowing you’re sleeping where people’s sweaty asses have been all day.

After that gloriously restful night sleep, I got to Paris in the morning and had a whole day to occupy before I could get to the next bed on the list. (It’s not entirely relevant to this post, but food was a key part of how I occupied myself because I make the best choices.) I put my monstrous suitcase in a locker at the station, but I still had my backpack. After my night on the ass-bed I was already approaching a special level of human grime. Wearing the heavy backpack around in the heat didn’t help matters much.

Six years ago, though, this is how we traveled. Backpacking with my little brother was one of my favorite trips, but countless times on this current outing I have marveled at the difference that six years has made.

Namely, that I have become too old for that shit.

It’s not just about creature comforts. Following the week in Amalfi, I spent a week on a cruise ship. The ship was fantastic and the port cities were incredible, but I found myself generally distressed by how little time we had to see these places. How do you explore a city in half a day? HOW?

But, of course, I did that – or nearly that – six years ago. We usually had 2-3 days in each city, but those 2-3 days had day-long train travel as bookends. Those bookends were filled with hauling around everything we thought to bring with us for six weeks. This past week I was back in Rome – one of the cities our ambitious backpacker selves did in about a day (we arrived very late on Saturday and left very early on Monday) – and I couldn’t fathom mirroring what our past selves did. The prospect of seeing all the things we saw in just one day now sounds daunting and, quite frankly, unpleasant.

1934134_568871255334_7903_n

Not that we didn’t also occasionally find this unpleasant even then. I remember the end of our very long first day in Paris. We’d saved the Louvre for the end of the day because it was cheaper if we went in after 6pm, plus SEE ALL THE THINGS! and we were still beginners at this trip maximizing game. This was the day of breaking in those traveling shoes. We went down an escalator and immediately sat down near the bottom of it. I looked at Derrik and asked if he was ready to call it – knowing the answer already. Clearly we were both ready to call it.

We ran ourselves into the ground in the second city on our trip. Then we repeated the process for five more weeks.

Then, of course, there was the “no more old churches” compact. I don’t actually recall if this was a real conversation we had. I assume it was – a trip like this is kind of intense because you end up speaking almost exclusively to one person for six weeks, because of the language barriers and the fact that you don’t stick around your hostels long enough to have multiple conversations with the other people staying there. Regardless, we were relying quite heavily on Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring to tell us what to do and where to go. (Alternatively, Derrik would run in the mornings and come back and say, “I passed X, Y, and Z neat things. Let’s go see what they are!) Essentially every city in Europe’s top 3 MUST SEE items includes at least one magnificent church that’s significantly older than our home country. Many cities have several of these MUST SEE churches. They’re gorgeous and impressive, but there’s a point at which you run out of fucks to give for all the opulent old churches of yore.

1934134_568873695444_6900_n

In that respect, I guess at 26 I might be able to stretch that time a little longer than I could at 20 and traveling with a 16-year-old. I might have fucks to give for an additional 1-2 old churches.

Probably not, because the bigger issue – the real thing I’d like to never replicate – is the aggressive pace at which we moved. Especially carrying all of our stuff. (Which, though challenging, remains better than being without your stuff.) Of course, the shit we were hauling around was a lot less than everything I brought on this six week trip. As I have mentioned a time or two before, we weren’t traveling with those monstrous backpacking backpacks – these were proper books-and-lunch-bags backpacks.

My brother brought two pairs of socks with him. The smell of his feet on that trip will probably haunt me in my nightmares long after many of my other memories fade. Regardless, it’s a potent (and pungent…) example of the kinds of “creature comforts” which were once unnecessary luxuries. (I have not asked, but I have faith that this sock thing is a life choice that my brother would not replicate at 22.)

All of this is to say that I am glad that while a handful of those 10-11 beds are one-night-only deals, most are much longer than 2-3 nights. I’m glad that I had that trip with my brother when I had it – I loved 93% of every minute of it. I’m also grateful to be traveling this way, now.

I learned a lot about myself and a fair number of problem solving skills. It was one of those rare moments where you’re experiencing a significant transition while fully aware that that’s what’s happening. It’s a little surreal to be reminiscing about all of that now, because six years feels like several lifetimes. It feels like I’m not just comparing two very different trips, but trips being experienced by two very different people.

The 2014 one owes the 2008 one a whole lot. Past!me’s adventures were grand and I’m lucky to have gotten to live them. Some of my favorite stories and mental pictures were collected on that trip. The view from here is pretty damn great too, though.

Did you like this? Share it:
{ 6 comments }

LEG DAY EVERY DAY: Adventures in Italy

It has been an insane few weeks. Since I last posted: I landed in Paris, slept on the couch of a (very kind) stranger, signed some school paperwork (so everything is also super officially official now!), took a train to Torino and then Rome, spent a week in Italy with 40-some-odd wonderful people, headed to Bari with 10 of those people for a week-long Mediterranean cruise, and then returned to Rome just before saying goodbye to my mother this morning.

Early tomorrow morning my grandparents will also return to the US. After a little over two weeks with many, many travel companions, I’ll be entirely on my own. For a few days, at least. (Six, in fact. Not that anyone is counting.)

But first, I made a video about all the fun things that happened in Italy. Or some of the fun things. A sampling of the fun things.

My best intentions to be on top of this were thwarted by the fact that cruise ships are not actually ideal for activities which require internet connectivity. GO FIGURE.

A week later than planned, though, here’s a thing that now exists:

 

 

Music: “Master of the Feast” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Did you like this? Share it:
{ 6 comments }

noisy airport / noisy life

A brief update on my life, brought to you from an immensely noisy airport. Normally I try to contextualize videos when I post them to the blog, but there’s that whole time and never having enough of it thing to contend with.

A couple things, though:

(1) I AM SO SORRY FOR THIS NOISE. 100 points for your house if you suffer through the whole thing.

(2) I used a lot of todays and tomorrows without dates. This video was recorded late night on Wednesday, July 2nd, New York time. It is being uploaded on the morning of Friday, July 4th, Paris time, courtesy of my school’s wifi, which I am thankfully still allowed to sign onto. HUZZAH.

That information isn’t actually important except that I said something about when I’d be able to edit/upload and it’s cool to do a check-in on predictions like that. For me, at least. Maybe nobody else cares. So it goes.

Did you like this? Share it:
{ 0 comments }

There are a lot of things that people around me want that I’m not entirely sure I’m interested in. I don’t want a lot of things that I think my people in life want for me. I’m probably doing a fair bit of projecting in that last statement because the best people in my life all pretty much just want me to do whatever the hell it is that makes me happy.

And that is all peachy and sunshine and glitter confetti magic.

But it’s sometimes a challenge to remember this important truth. Some days it’s all too easy to get caught up in the reality that the surest way to win modern society’s highest form of social approval – ALL THE LIKES! – is to get married or have a baby.

I haven’t posted anything on Facebook about belatedly finishing my degree because of all the corresponding shame tied up in how long it took, but it’s easy to guess how that would compare to those all-important markers of individual human achievement. (Or, more accurately, paired human achievement.) I’m not too concerned with this.

The thing is, even if I did get wrapped up in my own petulant self-pity, I sincerely hope that the thought would not ever occur to me that I should be any less happy for the people in my life doing things that make their lives more fulfilling.

And yet. I know this is a thing that happens.

There’s something particularly unsavory about seeing someone from “your side” say and do awful shit. Seeing the worst of a mindset to which you ostensibly belong placed front and center is frustrating, to say the least.

Such is the feeling that I got recently upon seeing someone bemoan the self-indulgent horror of mommy blogs. Mommy blogs, you see, are basically feminism’s public enemy #1. Or something like that.

For reference, the thing that’s got me twitchy:

I did (and will continue to) spasm whenever I encounter a “mommy blog.” So self-absorbed, smug, and stupid. I’m glad she fulfilled her dream of doing something her body (and every other woman’s body) is innately designed to do, but some of us have less predictable, more independent goals to pursue and brag about. (x)

What makes me anxious about this comment is that I can feel some of where it’s coming from. I love stuff like STFU Parents. I will be the first to raise a glass in agreement that it’s a pure douche canoe move for people who marry and/or procreate to usurp the spotlight from other people trying to share their unrelated excitement.

That said, the opposite is also true.

I think my friend’s doctoral graduation picture is every bit as much of a big deal as the wedding photos. Based strictly on relevance to my own life, I read more blogs from grad students than parents. That doesn’t mean the latter is somehow any less valid or worthwhile.

Being happy for other people and celebrating their accomplishments isn’t some sort of zero sum game.

Unless my big dream is to become a serial killer who moonlights in arson, it’s not really anyone else’s place to tell me whether my big dreams are worthy of discussion or sharing or attempts to find connection with other people who share those dreams and values.

Of course, you’re also not obligated to validate them. This is a companion topic for another day. (A topic I’ve been meaning to take up for some time.) Still, who the fuck are you to say that motherhood is somehow an invalid priority?

(And this is to say nothing of the insulting treatment of what motherhood actually consists of. Given how hard I typically find it to take care of my one 26 year old self, I am terrified of the prospect of being in charge of the life of a small helpless human. Crazier still – MANY SMALL HELPLESS HUMANS. I mentioned that I don’t read a lot of mommy blogs, but I assume the entire point of the genre is that there’s actually a whole lot of shit that comes after the basic biology “innately designed” portion. That biology doesn’t do a damn thing to make you a good parent.)

It is, admittedly, harder when it seems like the choices you value are consistently undervalued. I just don’t understand why, if you’re acquainted with that feeling, you would want to inflict it upon others. (Strangers, no less!)

To reiterate my brief Twitter rant on the subject: the solution is to celebrate more, not to shit on other people’s happiness.

To all of my friends doing cool stuff that makes you feel happy and fulfilled: A TOAST. CONGRATULATIONS! I HOPE YOU CONTINUE TO DO THINGS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL HAPPY AND FULFILLED.*

*So long as those things are not murder/arson/being-a-terrible-person/etc.

Did you like this? Share it:
{ 13 comments }

Everything is different/the same forever.

I have been to a lot of weddings in the last year or so. Weddings on weddings on weddings. For a person who is single, my Instagram is overflowing with photos of floral arrangements, bridesmaid dresses, and bachelorette party hashtags.

I’ve got another one coming up next weekend and another one at the end of the summer. All of the real adults I work with promise me that this season of never ending weddings is actually going to last for another five years. If this is a real and true fact, it has the primary benefit of presenting me with ample opportunities to wear my expensive bridesmaid dresses.

(They’re all nice fun dresses – many thanks to the lovely brides for picking such nice, fun dresses – but the reality is that other weddings are basically the only occasions to wear such things.)

Having purchased a few now, I can also spot them a mile off. “I see you, girl, I see you re-wearing that bridesmaid dress. I see you and I respect it.

A toast to getting some mileage out of bridesmaid dresses.

Watching someone you have known forever get married is such a strange and surreal experience. Last month I was in my college roommate’s wedding and the whole weekend gave me whiplash from the alternating sensations of, “EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT FOREVER!” and “Some things never actually change.

On the morning of the ceremony, I sat around with my dear friend and two of her other bridesmaids discussing her Hogwarts sorting, as is standard practice before grownup activities like weddings. The other two ladies in question were her younger sister and childhood best friend. Our bride-to-be said that as an adult she has come to accept that she is a Hufflepuff, a sentiment I fully agreed with. The people who have known her forever, however, vehemently disagreed – she’s all Ravenclaw. (Given that they knew her at the age when she would have been sorted, their votes had automatic priority over mine.)

It made me think about the way that friends tend to become somewhat frozen in time in our understanding of them. My college friends are so tied to particular moments in my own life and understanding of myself that when I’m around them I forget that it has been four years since graduation. An entire class of students has entered college and then graduated in the time since we’ve left.

To me, she’s still the first person I met in college. The girl who poked her sleepy head around through the bathroom door after my army of child laborers woke her up at 7am because we drove all night to get there and be the first ones in the building. (Gotta claim the best bed!) I picture her in multicolored scarves and gold cowboy boots with fringe.

She’s also that mythical unicorn of twenty-somethings: a person who has her shit together. She always was – really. Her college self was only frazzled because balancing your love of bright colors and tassels with your need to have Senate internships and shit is exhausting.

And sure enough, even at her own wedding, she was still more concerned with making sure everything went smoothly and that everyone else was happy than with basic self-care tasks like eating. Watching our other roommate haggle with her about squeezing bites of a sandwich roll between all the primping and photographing brought on a giant wave of nostalgia-packed feels. It felt like college and that little piece of home that these people represent to me.

Except this wasn’t college. It was a wedding day. It was watching someone who was so essential to starting a new chapter in my life start a new one in her own.

I love weddings. I have all sorts of squicky feelings about marriage and weddings when I try to imagine those things for myself, but holy shit do I love other people’s weddings. I love how excited and happy everyone is and I love that for all the ways the whole game is formulaic, people make all these choices that leave guests with the feeling of, “Aah, yes, that’s all very them.

Because even in this big something new, there are always all these little hints of the things that stay the same.

Did you like this? Share it:
{ 4 comments }