Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Story Post!

So...I've decided to do something a bit daring. My blog is boring, and what with nothing much going on in my life right now, I figured I'd do something bold and different. From time to time, as many of you know, I dabble in creative writing.  This is a piece I wrote a year or two back, while still in grad school.  It was a piece of random inspiration from the song "Photograph" by Def Leppard (yes, laugh all you want). The writing prompt I used was to begin with the line "it was the one thing he coveted the most." It is a Harry Potter fanfic (yes, go laugh some more). I don't own the Harry Potter universe, etc etc. Being American, there may be some cultural incongruities and whatnot; I've done only minimal amounts of editing since I wrote it.  It's also been a while since I've read the Potter series, so there may be some inconsistencies. Feel free to comment, but please be kind. Enjoy (or not).

It was the one thing he coveted the most.  A photograph, dog-eared and yellow with age, which he kept in the drawer of his nightstand.  In the picture a young girl, roughly ten years of age, ran from the camera, but her face and upper body was turned toward it.  Despite the sun exposure one could  still see the girl’s long hair is a vivid red, and her mouth was turned upward and open in a laugh frozen in time.  He still admired, after all these years, the way her hair fanned out to the side, chopped off by the edge of the photo.  The color of her eyes was indiscernible, but he knew they were green.
The photo had been taken nearly thirty years prior.  He and Lily had met on the playground, their usual hangout.  It was a holiday weekend, but neither of their families had any plans to go anywhere.  The playground had been completely empty, which pleased Severus; he liked to imagine himself in a world where only he and Lily existed.  It was bright and sunny, and comfortably warm.  The pair usually avoided the play structures, opting instead to talk and play on the fringes of the playground amidst the trees, but the absence of any other children made them less inhibited.  They sat in the caboose of a wooden train, and Severus told her more about the magical world.
“Guess what I have,” Lily smiled mischievously, her hands reaching into her satchel.  Severus leaned forward eagerly, excited by the gleam in her eyes.  With a dramatic wave of her arm, she pulled out a disposable camera.  Severus’ smile dimmed a little, but Lily was undeterred.  She coaxed him off the train and out into the open.  “I want to start a scrapbook, and I need you in it!”
“It’s a Muggle camera,” he replied somewhat sourly, squinting in the sun.  He had a hard time keeping still; cameras (Muggle-made or not) made him uneasy.
“So?” Lily retorted.  “Don’t just stand there, do something!”
His patience was wearing thin.  “Like what?”  He felt unexpectedly weary; the sun’s heat was bearing down directly on him and his dark, baggy clothing.  But it was too late, for Lily quickly raised her arms and took a picture of him in mid-sentence.
She flashed him another cheeky smile.  “Candid camera!”  In a burst of annoyance, Severus made an attempt to grab the camera from her, but she darted away laughing, and continued to turn and take pictures behind her as the pursuit turned into a game.  He chased her through the playground, over and under bridges, down slides, and through tunnels.  Finally, he cornered her near the monkey bars and managed to take the camera from her.  “Wait,” she reached for it, “I have an idea.”  She wrapped an arm around his shoulder and leaned against him, with her face towards the camera as they both held it.  He felt his stomach leap at the closeness of her body, and blinked at the flash.  She withdrew quickly, but let go of the camera and ran off.  On impulse, Severus raised the camera to take a picture just as she began to turn around…
Two days later they met again at the playground.  Severus noticed that she had a paper bag which he immediately recognized as the kind the pharmacy put developed photos into.  Lily steered him toward a picnic table and they sat down.  “I got doubles,” she explained, “but most of these didn’t come out.”  She pulled out a stack of glossy photos.  Looking through them, Severus noticed that most were of him, but extremely blurry.  He rushed through his stack, eager to see only one picture.  He was met with disappointment; the left side of his face had been chopped off by the edge of the photo, and Lily’s face was completely washed out so all one could see were her eyes, and the faint outlines of her mouth and nose.
“I’m still going to put it in my scrapbook,” Lily shrugged.  “It’s the only one with both of us in it.”
Severus flipped to the next, which was the one he had taken of Lily running.  It had turned out surprisingly clear, and he found it striking.  “We should have used a wizard camera,” Severus replied sourly.  Lily did not respond to this comment, replying instead that he could keep one set of the photos if he wanted.  Severus looked them over again, and decided only to keep the one of the two of them and the one he himself had taken.  He hid them in the pocket of his oversized shirt; the last thing he wanted was his father to see them and start asking questions.
Those days seemed a lifetime ago.  Severus ultimately lost the shot of both him and Lily.  The picture, in light of everything that had transpired since, had taken on an almost eerie quality.  But he still had the picture of Lily, frozen in time.  Perhaps it was the wizard in him, but the stillness of the Muggle photograph was profound and unsettling.  It seemed to underscore the fact that Lily was dead, and irrevocably gone.  As he ruminated over it, he tried not to think about what had become of her set of the pictures.  Had she thrown them away? Torn out those particular pages of her scrapbook?  Was his photo, like him, without a partner?  His work was cut out for him, and the photo served as a daily reminder.  He held it dearly; it was the only part of her he possessed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

So...apparently I cannot get Blogger to fully function on Chrome, but it works on Mozilla? I need to rethink my new found dedication to Chrome, methinks.

In other news, today is my third day in Michigan. My parents flew in to NC last Thursday for my graduation ceremony, which was held on Friday (pictures forthcoming). Everything went really well, until Saturday when I started to come down with a cold.  I was sick as a dog on Sunday, basically lying in bed all day while my mom continued to pack around me (which didn't make me feel any better). I hate not having any privacy when I feel and look like shit; privacy in my apartment was completely impossible due to the fact that most of the packing boxes were in my bedroom, and with my apartment's layout you have to walk through my bedroom to get to the only bathroom (my parents were staying with me). So I laid there, totally awake and feeling awful, until I got stir-crazy and decided to go out for one last frozen yogurt run with my awesome friend Kim. Monday, my parent and I sat around waiting to hear from the moving company...who failed to call or even SHOW UP, despite the fact that my mom had arranged for them to move us on Monday (the date was printed on the contract she had). On top of it all, my mom couldn't even reach anyone at any of the three numbers or so that she had; this company apparently isn't even OPEN on Mondays! At about noon, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would probably have to explore our other options. We ended up renting a small U-Haul truck, asked a few friends over to help move my stuff into it, and got out on the road at about 2:45. The moving company did end up calling my mom back, nonchalantly asking when we wanted them to arrive THE NEXT DAY, to which my mom told them we had already left (and also gave them a piece of her mind). The drive back was long, but not too difficult. It was surprisingly mild in Michigan, with temperatures in the mid 40s (today we're back in the 30s, but it's sunny outside).

Since returning I have done...very little. Job applications are moving at a crawl, unpacking is being done in spurts, and as yet I have not seen any of my MI friends (I will be seeing a few of them shortly, however). I have a hard time believing that Christmas is almost here. There is no snow on the ground, and there probably will be very little come Christmas day. In good news, I'm SLEEPING!! No Ambien for the last three nights, and I've had wonderful sleep. I don't miss my apartment as I thought I might (although it's still early to tell). I do miss my Gville friends, and my close proximity to everything, though. I hope to see them all in March, hopefully, as our panel got accepted into the Society for Applied Anthropology's conference in Baltimore! Yay! I'm trying to hope that I might have a job by then, but I'm trying to not stress too much about that yet.

That's about it for now. Happy holidays, everyone! :-)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On the Eve of My Birthday

...I am working on a cover letter. This is my first job application since finishing my thesis a few weeks ago. My first.  I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo screwed. The letter is a steaming pile so far, due mostly to the fact that I hate talking about myself. Correction: I hate selling myself. If my resume/CV can't convince you that I'm at least worth an interview, then shit. On top of it, I feel like I'm walking on ice with every sentence I type; I want to at least get my ideas out but my inner critic cringes with each word. My adviser is also a brilliant writer, which gives me confidence in his editing abilities, but makes it harder to give him something I know totally sucks.  If only you could be self-deprecating in a cover letter, cuz I would rock that shit.

In other news, tomorrow I face another birthday and a new year of life. I'm hoping it will be better than the last, and at the moment it seems to be looking up, aside from the job situation. My thesis is done, I'm weaning myself off the Ambien, I'll be seeing my family in a few weeks, etc. I'm a little sad to leave Greenville and all the friends I've made, though. I'll miss my crappy apartment, and the little nooks and crannies I've made my home here. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to a new chapter of life (unemployment).  As much as the economy might suck right now, I'm done being a student. Hopefully I can have a relaxing holiday season and not stress about all the unknowns too much.  Knowing my luck, I'll move back home only to get a job in Greenville and move back here all over again. My life tends to be funny like that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Holy Cow it's November

I'm still reeling from the fact that it's November. MID-November, at that. NaNoWriMo has been a dismal failure, but quite understandable in light of everything I've been doing. After about a three or four hour marathon today at Tipsy and the ECU library, I can finally say that I think my thesis is more or less done.  I still need to add all the little details it needs, such as a table of contents, etc., but the bulk of the writing is done. I sent off my thesis to my committee again, and I'm hoping that they're generally pleased with it.

In other news, I'm trying to be happy with my life as it is right now. Yes, there are a lot of unknowns for the future: I don't have a job lined up after I graduate, I don't know how long it will take for me to find a job. I don't know how long it will take me to get beyond some of my current problems.  I don't have faith in myself, and I am not sure I ever have.  I was talking to someone a few days ago, and she said that based on what I was telling her about my feelings throughout grad school that it sounded as if I don't have faith in myself. Self-confidence is a big issue with me, I know for sure. I have to know that I can get beyond what I'm going through. I've thought about trying to start myself off on the right foot each morning, maybe with prayer, Scripture, meditation, etc.  Perhaps make some small changes that will help my outlook on life. Not knowing the future can be a downer when I don't know how my problems will sort themselves out.

I stumbled across a poem some time ago in a book of mine, and it stood out to me:

Ode on Solitude

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.

Whose heards with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest! who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix'd; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me dye;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lye.
--Alexander Pope

Happy is the man who is content on the few acres  of land he possesses, whose desires are simply and easily met by his own resources. He who lives a quiet life in meditation, sleeping soundly at night and having ease and peace of mind by day.  Someone who lives unseen, unknown, and "unlamented"" when he dies, without even a marker where he is buried.  It's a bit humbling when I think of all that I want, how restless and unsatisfied I can be.  I also remember when I was younger I wrote about never wanting to be forgotten after I die.  I have no idea why, but looking back I realize I don't care as much if people remember me. I also find that I don't want an extremely fast-paced, stressful life, which probably is a big reason why I finally decided that academia is just not for me. I want to be able to publish at my own pace (if it even happens). I want a job where I can completely detach as soon as I get home. I would love to not have to worry about making a living (financially speaking) but I know that that is not a reality.

Can I have faith in myself? My whole life I've been taught to have faith in God, and I haven't even gotten that right. I've spent time on personal inventories and in therapy and what not, and I don't know if I'm any closer to understanding who I am or how I tick. Why do I sleep better some nights and not others? What are my strengths (I feel I'm pretty keen on my weaknesses)? I have a lot of unanswered questions, and I get impatient when short-term problems turn into long-term problems with no resolution in sight. I especially hate how I can't always trust that things are going to get better; I'm so afraid of that, and no amount of reassurance comforts me for long. I want to aim for more than just acceptance of the present situation, I want to actually enjoy my present situation.  How do I find (or develop) faith in the future despite my uncertainties? Right now I'm not sure.  I'm not severely depressed, but at the moment am without answers.  If nothing else I just get through the day and do my best to prepare for the following day.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Life Post-Thesis Defense

This blog is going to be nothing but rants, I've realized. If you don't actually know me in person, please do not believe that these entries are the total sum of my thoughts and personality.

I'll start with the good news: I passed my thesis defense on Wednesday. My friends showed up to support me, and the whole thing felt less formal and antagonistic than I thought it would. Thanks again to all of you! The defense was also followed by a very fun night out with said friends (and adviser). The bad news: IT'S STILL NOT OVER. I walked away with a ton of editing to do, which all needs to get done in the next two weeks (!!!!). I don't want to look at it ever again. I want to set it aflame in the middle of a field and never look back. It doesn't help that I walked out of that meeting feeling like what I have is a fucking first draft. On top of that, I had to meet with my adviser the very next day to discuss edits, and I have yet to read all the formal comments my committee sent me via e-mail, which means I have to relive my defense at least three more times before I start writing again.

So, inexplicably (or maybe explicably) today I have been in a bad mood. I need to start writing again but can't. I can't even write for FUN. The weather is cooler, but grey and morose (ten points for vocab). I'm so sick of taking sleeping pills, but whenever I've made a serious effort to go off them I end up laying in bed until I finally give in. I can sleep without them on nights when I've been drinking, but otherwise I just lay there for an hour or so until I get up and take an Ambien. It's so discouraging, and I'm always so mad the next day. I just wish I could sleep NORMALLY again; it's infuriating to feel I have no power over a basic life function like sleep. Am I really still so stressed that I can't sleep? Or am I just addicted? Will I ever be able to be NORMAL again and sleep?

I'm also worried about the basic fact that I cannot simply be happy that my thesis defense is over and that a major hurdle has been overcome. I just keep thinking that I STILL have to work on it, I STILL have to find a job, etc, etc. It's a monster that refuses to die. What will come next? An awful job? Another shitty apartment? Another gang-ridden, ghetto city with nothing to do? Laden with idiotic drivers and students (I'm terribly jaded with the college scene, I guess). I feel stuck on a hamster wheel. I am really (or was) excited about doing NaNoWriMo, but now I know how much more I have to do, and I know that my ideas are cliche, and totally unfeasible. I just don't know if I can do it.

In the meantime, I chose to treat myself to a mini-spree at Ulta, and a self-indulgent night -in with pasta, pumpkin beer, candy, and the movie Bridesmaids with actors' commentary. I also bought a copy of Mother Jones magazine, which may or may not improve my mood. We'll see.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Unpretty (i.e. a Rant)

I'm reluctant to write about this publicly, because I'm afraid it will get into the hands of someone involved in this incident, but I feel the need to write about it and get some feedback to see if I'm really just much too sensitive a person (chances are, if you're reading this, I'm not talking about you).

Recently I was at a restaurant with a group of friends. We went late enough that I wasn't planning on eating, but alcohol consumption tends to bring out a desire in me to eat nasty, greasy bar food. After an hour or so I gave in and ordered an appetizer of cheesy fries with bacon. I thought nothing of it. When my food arrived, I was surprised by the portion size they gave me (an entire dinner plate--enough for a meal!) but figured I was always willing to share, or get a to-go box, if push came to shove. A few of my friends around me expressed similar amazement at the size, but as I said before, I was also a little intimidated. However, as I begin munching away at cheesy-fry bliss, the guy next to me turns and asked "do you eat healthy?" A little off-put by this question, I replied that I try to eat healthy. This is the truth; although I don't cook much and go out more than I should, I do try to be conscious about what I eat (and drink). Nonetheless, I eased up on the fries and sat back a little. "Don't judge me," I joked half-heartedly, and he quickly refuted that he wasn't.

Yet the comments persisted. A girl across the table leaned over and asked (this probably isn't verbatim but is pretty close) "How do you stay so skinny [maybe she said thin?] when I see you eat all this crap?" She was undoubtedly referring to other times when we all had gone out. I don't remember what I said back, but knowing me I probably just smiled and chuckled. "You go to the gym, right?" She asked me next. I'm proud to say that this is true, that I exercise on average about 3-5 hours a week. The guy next to me more or less repeated this question, then asked what I did to workout (in case you're wondering, I tend to use the elliptical-type machines and rowing machines).

At this point I was hurt and extremely self-conscious, and all nibbling came to a halt. I pushed my plate away slightly, which only ignited shocked outrage from others who had obviously not heard the earlier exchange. This at least produced the desired effect of having others dive into my fries (including those who had just given me shit about eating them in the first place). I ate a little more, and between a number of us the plate was mostly finished by the end of the night. Nonetheless, I couldn't let go of the hurt and resentment I felt at the comments that had been made to me. I stayed largely quiet (although I don't know if anyone noticed) and left as soon as trivia was over, with my beer unfinished. I made an excuse to not continue to hang out .

The point of this story, I guess, is to ask: What in hell made these people think that these were polite, unoffensive remarks and questions? I would never, EVER have grilled someone like that about the food they eat, especially when I only see them MAYBE once a week! The only possible exception I can think of is a close friend or relative who I know for CERTAIN is endangering themselves. The casual "wow that's a big burger" comment or something of that effect may be okay, but grilling someone (no pun intended) about their diet and physical activity is not, in my opinion. I understand that as much as our culture promotes an unhealthy lifestyle which can lead to obesity (and of which about one-third of us are), we also stereotype and ridicule overweight and obese people as stupid, lazy, etc. I'm not trying to imply that I suffer more. I'm also not trying to imply that I'm perfect; God knows I've put my foot into my mouth many times. It angered me to feel that I cannot win; if I'm overweight, I am ridiculed. If I'm thin with little to no effort, I become the subject of resentment and passive-aggressive behavior (funnily enough, both of these individuals seemed to be a healthy weight). We live in a society where only one type of beauty is idolized, and it's a shame. I'm pretty damn sure there are overweight people out there who are more physically fit and diet-conscious than I am. Although I may be able to brag about a slender figure and a face which is deemed pretty, I have my own set of problems.

I'm not really sure how to end this. I try not to hold onto any ill-will towards the aforementioned individuals. The guy was at least half-drunk, and the girl may very well have thought she was complimenting me. I'm trying to let it go, but I thought it might be helpful to get my feelings out in the open. Chances are I'm overreacting, and I understand that. I don't know the struggles of those who embarrassed me. These types of comments come once in a blue moon. Yet as I walked into my apartment that night, the song "Unpretty" by TLC came to mind.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Brief Life Update

Just wanted to give those few of you still reading a brief update so you know I'm not dead. First, good news: I think my thesis defense date has been set! As of now it will be sometime on October 26th. I keep getting asked how it feels to almost be done, and I honestly have no idea. I don't think it will feel done until it is DONE--submitted to the graduate school and everything. At that point, I'll probably be too worried about getting a job that the accomplishment will go barely noticed in my mind. I've been getting a lot of questions on that score as well, and the answer is I have no idea what I want to do (serious employment-wise) and am still fumbling with the question of where to apply and where I want to live. I've looked around a little, and haven't seen much that sounded interesting or that I was qualified for. There's still hope though...

In other news, signed up for NaNoWriMo, which starts next month. It may be crazy, but I figured since I'll only be working on thesis edits and job applications at that point (only HAHA) I'll need something fun on the side to de-stress (or make myself more stressed, we'll see). At least if NaNo gets too hairy I can always drop it (not that I want to!). Finally came up with some tangible writing ideas...not that they're very good/feasible. At least it will be a good time of commiseration and whining with other wannabe-novelists. I'm actually attempting a little bit of outlining/research for this one, unlike past years where I dove in headfirst with only the vaguest clue of what I was doing. I've managed to "win" twice in the past (i.e. wrote at least 50,000 words) with this strategy, but was left with "novels"  I never looked back on because there wasn't any passion left for them, and they were so crappy that it wouldn't have mattered if there was anyway. We'll see how well this plan goes; I've tended to strongly deviate from outlines in the past.

Ok, that's about all for now. Over and out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Misfit Shrines

Note: I started this post on the 18th and have been sitting on it for a few days. It was difficult to write.

It's been a while since my last post, deepest apologies. I recently had a conversation with a friend that brought to mind a lot of dissonance that has existed in my personal life for some time now. I don't really know where to begin, and and don't have the energy to describe it in every detail. For a while, especially since started graduate school, I've felt a conflict between my field of study (and academia in general) and my faith as a Christian. I've easily assimilated the tenets of science with my religion as a believer in theistic evolution, etc., but through the comments and attitudes of certain peers and faculty I've been led to believe that my faith is something to keep quiet, as scientists "don't really believe that sort of thing." A fellow student in a class once had the gall to say "I don't really think one can really believe in both the scientific method and God" (or something to that effect).  It felt like a challenge, one that I'm tired of being confronted with, as someone who has long believed in both God and evolution, dinosaurs, etc. It's also illogical, to my understanding, since the scientific method is a process of trying to understand and explain the material world, not a way of trying to prove the existence of God.

On the other hand, are the conservative Christians who has also made me feel like an outsider who will never fit in. Evangelism, in the form of approaching a person for the sole purpose of forcing another speech about Jesus and salvation (often in the most condescending way possible) strikes me as awkward, superficial, and usually ineffectual. I'd rather have an honest, down-to-earth conversation where my perspective is desired.  Through Christ I know the old law is dead (i.e. all the insane laws of the Old Testament) and my sins are forgiven. I choose to embrace people who are gay as my equals who deserve equal rights. As much as I abhor the thought of abortion, I support the reproductive rights of women. As human beings I believe we are stewards over the Earth, and need to care for it and all its inhabitants (although I swear I'll kill every spider I come across in my apartment). I believe that women and men are equals who complement each other (look at powerful women in the Bible--Esther, Ruth, Mary, Mary Magdelene, etc). Women can serve as both political and religious leaders--I have a hard time stomaching the idea that women must submit to their husbands, although I've read personal accounts of Christian marriage relations adhering to this principle that made sense to me. As much as I strive to believe the Bible is the word of God, I can't help but see Paul as a bigot and homophobe (a bit problematic considering he wrote about 75% of the New Testament).

In sum (since I'm beginning to rant), I've had a fair amount of anger at fellow Christians because I feel they don't accept me, ignore me, don't include me in their little cliques, and have accepted a lot of ideas I just can't stomach. To be fair, perhaps I'm depending too much on my own emotions and gut reactions rather than an honest analysis of Scripture. Also, it sounds like I'm making a lot of blanket statements, so I want to add that I know a lot of people who share my faith share a lot of the same sentiments that I've described above, and I've had really positive relationships and interactions with other Christians as well. This also goes for all my non-Christian friends. I am trying to grapple with my liberal worldview and political leanings and assimilate them with my religion. I have been tempted to try to abandon it altogether, but it's never been something I can seriously do. I just can't support legislation that relies solely on religious reasoning (sorry, the U.S is not a theocracy), and I can't discount all the scientific discoveries that have been made (God gave us reason, use it!).

So there it is. For those of you who've stayed with me this far, thank you. I had to get this off my chest, and I know that this is rather unpolished and unprepared. I know there are others like me out there, so there's no reason for a full-out pity party. I'm not as much a misfit as I sometimes feel. In the end, I may be wrong on some points, but I'm getting to where I want to start living openly and honestly. Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Just Checking In

I feel it's been a while since my last update, so I'm stopping in. I don't really have a particular topic in mind, I just...don't feel like working on my thesis. I did some data entry into Excel earlier today while watching Young Frankenstein as the rain poured outside. In less than two weeks I'm hoping to have my data more or less analyzed for my defense. It feels strange that the end is in sight, and surprisingly, I'm not any more excited or motivated to work on it than usual. As long as I get something done each day, I feel more or less content.

In other news, still plowing through Dickens' Bleak House, and am now about 600 pages in. About a week ago I wrote down some ideas in my paper journal that I'd had about reading while I was washing the dishes. I thought about how I typically can't wait to finish a novel, with my eye constantly on the stack of books I want to read next. I sometimes rush through endings, reading practically nonstop until I'm done. With Bleak House, however, I don't necessarily feel that rush. My eyes do stray; for example, I'd love to pick up Tina Fey's autobiography at some point. I have so many books I'd like to read, but I don't feel myself rushing through this one. Part of it may be the language--it's difficult, but I love it. I can get "lost" in descriptions  of buildings, characters, scenarios, etc. It keeps me in the present. 

To make a bit of a logical leap, perhaps that's a good thing about my present troubles. When I'm fully in the present I'm not as preoccupied with the past and I can't expend as much energy worrying about the future. As someone told me, our twenties are a time when we're allowed to experiment and make mistakes. There's always something else that needs to be done. My apartment is a mess, there are bills to pay, and there is always more work to be done on my thesis. I'm trying to just take life one day at a time and enjoy it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In the Aftermath of Hurricane Irene

As if we haven't all already heard enough about Hurricane Irene in the past few days...

I survived Hurricane Irene, if that wasn't already obvious (this is not zombie Mel or an imposter--who would go to the trouble?).  At about 8:00 yesterday morning I woke up to high winds and rain lashing at my window. Shortly thereafter, the power went out.  I was expecting this to happen, yet I spent a bit of time hum-hawing as to what precisely to do. Should I get into my bathtub (the one slightly safe place in my apartment) or hold off unless things got worse? How would I know if things got worse? How bad were present conditions? With no TV or internet (I didn't think to get a battery-powered radio) I had a difficult time finding out what exactly was happening in the world around me. Looking out my window, I could tell things were pretty bad (high winds and rain whipping almost horizontally through the trees) but was it bad enough to go into hiding?  The power began to flash in and out periodically until about 10:00 AM, and I learned from the Weather Channel that Irene had hit Nag's Head at about 7:30 AM, the state was going to get a shit-ton of rain, an this thing was not going away anytime soon. I spent some time in the bathroom (I still wasn't up to actually crouching in the tub yet) reading Bleak House by Dickens with a flashlight and a lit candle (couldn't decide on that either). Yet after a while doing that, I said "meh, whatever, the windows aren't going to shatter anytime soon" and went back to bed. At about noon I decided that even a tropical storm/hurricane wasn't a good enough reason to sleep in that late, and got up. After reporting my power outage to the utilities company, I began my day.

It quickly became clear to me that I would not do well in Olden Tymes where there was no electricity, running water, TV, or internet.  Unlike some of my friends, I didn't find it extremely entertaining to watch the goings-on outside as a way to pass the time, perhaps because nothing really happened around me.  With that said, I DID look out the windows constantly to check the intensity of the storm.  Fortunately for me, however, I am a big reader, and read Dickens by flashlight.  Yet I can't read Dickens all day (who can?) and so I searched for another way to pass my time. Sudoku, a trashy romance novel I only read periodically, an anthropology journal (only for a few minutes, sooo boring), solitaire with real cards as I listened to Sarah McLaughlin, listening to the radio (forgot that my ipod has an FM radio tuner, ha), and...was out of ideas after that. I was NOT about to work on my thesis. Screw that.

I tried journaling, but all I could get myself to write about was the storm, the power outage, and my resulting boredom.  The point of relaying all of this, I guess, is to say that I finally began to learn the art of Doing Nothing.  Being so constantly bombarded with media in the form of TV, radio, Internet, etc, I was at a loss when it was all (or mostly) gone. I had my cell phone which could access Facebook and Twitter, but I was trying to keep my phone turned off to conserve the battery, which meant I only turned it on to 1) bug the utility company (once), 2) update my Facebook status so friends and family knew I was okay, an 3) check to see if anyone had tried to contact me. A few friends texted to see how I was doing, which I really appreciate. Anyhoo, this art of Doing Nothing was a challenge for me. The silence became suffering, and even with music I couldn't find anything else I wanted to do after I exhausted all the aforementioned activities. Thus, I found myself staring out into space, at the wall, at my couch, etc.  It got me wondering, especially after reading Dickens, about life in "Olden Tymes" and how spoiled I am in comparison. I don't know how to live (well) without electricity, running water, TV, computers, etc. I can barely cook with a stove, oven, and microwave, God forbid I have to do it in the 19th century.

The power finally came back on at about 7:00 that evening, as I was watching Monty Python on my computer (I finally broke out the DVDs even though I was trying to conserve my computer battery).  I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and celebrated by watched TV and Netflix for the next three hours while surfing the internet.  Today has been beautiful, and I've ventured outside and taken some pictures of my apartment complex and campus to show friends and family the extent of the damage.  I haven't seen too much flooding, but a lot of trees fell, and classes at ECU have been cancelled tomorrow.

The above picture is of the front yard of my complex from my front door.

As you can see, my car survived :-)

Some of the tree carnage I encountered on campus. About half the courtyard was taped off.

The bridge at the bottom of College Hill Drive. It was blocked off (obviously) due to high water and broken branches all over it.

Well, that's all for now. I hope everyone who was in the path of the hurricane is doing well!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bucket List

A thunderstorm is rolling in, and I felt like updating this blog, but had no particular ideas about what, exactly, so I thought I'd share what I have on my bucket list thus far. I actually have a list saved on my computer (dorky, I know), that I try to keep adding to. For those of you who are unsure what a bucket list is, it is a list of everything you want to do before you die. Considering I'm only 25 years old and in good health, hopefully that day is a long way off.

1. Swim with whale sharks: This is a totally random first entry to my list.  I read an article about this in a recent issue of Smithsonian magazine, and was intrigued enough to search online for companies that provide this service.  http://www.islawhalesharks.com/default.asp is one website I found. I've not done any in-depth research into this particular company or type of tourism, so don't take that as an endorsement. They have some good information, though, and a lot of neat pictures. It looks like a lot of fun, and appears to be relatively inexpensive. Another big plus is that it appears you don't have to have any experience scuba diving or even snorkeling necessarily (I think I'll practice beforehand, though).

2. Write a book: My thesis doesn't count. :-) I'd love to write a novel, as daunting/impossible as this seems.  A short story might be more feasible, but what few ideas I have seem to be so grandiose that they wouldn't work (unless I had a series of short stories...?). That's the other problem: having ideas, if I want to write anything other than fanfiction.  For the time being, I've resorted to random writing exercises to at least try to keep writing.

3. Visit the Western U.S coast: I'm thinking Washington and/or Oregon.

4. Learn yoga: I'd like to take a proper yoga course, rather than the half-assed attempts to try to learn it on my own.  Within the past year or so I've been trying to exercise on a more consistent basis, and yoga has always attracted me as a relaxing and fun way to go about it. 

5. Buy a house: kind of a no-brainer, really. Along with getting a "grown-up" job, I'd like to get out of the renter's market and have a place of my own.  I'm rather torn about whether I'd like to live in the city or the country.  I love nature, having a lawn with trees, and so forth, but I like having things to do and being near everything (a by-product of living out in the country). On a random note, I'd kind of like my house to have solar panels. :-)

6. Write a serious blog: depending on how this blog goes, maybe I can cross this one out? :-P

Well, there are most definitely other things to add to this list, but this is what I've actually bothered to write down so far. The storm outside has abated, and I need to get going.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

So...I Guess My First Official Post is Going to be a Rant

Today I went to a local cafe to work on my thesis.  My books and notes to my right, and earbuds firmly in place, I began to type.  I had been at this for nearly two hours when an older gentleman, who had been talking to an acquaintance of mine, wandered over to my table.  I kept my eyes glued to my computer screen, hoping he was just looking at the bookshelf behind me, but then he asked me what I was writing.  I told him I was writing my thesis (although at the moment he leaned over my computer I was taking a Facebook break, go figure).  He asked me what it was about, and despite my best efforts to explain, never really seemed to grasp it.  This in and of itself didn't bother me much, as anthropology (especially cultural anthropology) can be a difficult subject to explain.  But this guy was an ASS. Our conversation was prefaced by his comment "do you know that only five people outside of you and your committee will actually read your thesis?"  This is a harsh yet somehow oddly relieving fact that I already know, so I let it go. Yet after a brief discussion of my topic, he follows up with this zinger: telling me that my topic sounds "condescending."  This caught me completely off-guard, and I stumbled for words to defend myself.  Mercifully, the conversation did not last much longer before he wandered away.

It's times like these that I really wish I could give people the what-for they deserve. Although I was not overly friendly, I did not abruptly end the conversation as I had wished. I hope that my emotions were transparent enough (they usually are) to show him how I felt. Seriously, who gets off on trolling coffee shops and sparking obnoxious conversations with people? It's not like I was just sitting there talking with those around me or simply reading a novel, I was WORKING! I had earphones in and was typing away with a pile of shit around my computer.  Apparently I need a literal 'Do Not Disturb' sign hanging over my head.   I don't know what it is about me that causes men to think that I want to talk to them when I'm clearly busy with something else.  Just because I'm young, pretty, and in a public place doesn't necessarily mean I'm looking for conversation. I'm also bummed that the earbud strategy apparently doesn't always work.

*Deep breath* well that's all for now. I'm not really as upset as this post probably makes me sound, it's just that the re occurrence of these types of situations really irritates me.  I don't know if it's the idea that people don't take me seriously, have no consideration for my feelings, or some other reason I can't recognize. I know that I'm probably reading into this way too much, so I'll end it here. Chances are he's just a lonely soul who put his foot in his mouth. And I need to stop being so sensitive. My adviser has made his share of enemies as well as friends. Not everyone is going to understand or support my work.  Not everyone is going to understand my need for privacy. I guess that's the risk you run when you choose to work in a public place.

Okay, I'll end now, for real. Over and out.

Friday, August 12, 2011


It's been a while since I've had a blog. I've started this one with the intention of making it more than a diary (like my last one) with thought-provoking observations and discussion-generating ideas (and let's face it probably occasional rants as well).  I've set the bar rather high, I guess, especially as I'm not sure how public I want my identity to be (I had a not-so-great experience with a roommate reading my blog as an undergrad).  For now I'll say that I'm a  25 year-old graduate student in North Carolina.

So...this post is kind of dull, but I'll be sure to post something more worthwhile soon!