Lessons from Sophomore Year

Sophomore_Graphic-01As I mentioned in my previous post, Sophomore year of college was quite the doozy—the Spring semester especially. It seemed that I was constantly either at work or doing my homework, with very little time for socializing or sleeping. Several times I felt extremely burnt out and spent a week in bed watching Netflix, dissociating, and not getting much of anything done. As is life.

Between that though, I managed to learn a thing or too. Here’s some of that wisdom:

When they say “overloading” they mean it. At my school, overloading means going of 18 credits, fairly easy when each class is typically 4 each. During the spring semester, in order to graduate on time and go abroad, I decided to take five courses, including two writing courses. Writing has always been my academic bread and butter, but first and foremost quality writing requires time, and between the heavy course load there was little of that to go around. I felt I could have succeeded in either class, but instead I was stretched far too thin and ended up doing mediocre (for me) in both. Hopefully that’s the last time I have to take that many classes again.

Transferring, while worth it, isn’t easy. I would 100% advocate to anyone thinking of transferring schools. However, the process of getting credits sorted and schedules arranged is certainly not easy, and you have to be ready to advocate for yourself. I sent quite a few emails (including one to an assistant dean) appealing, questioning, and begging for a handful of credits to go through. However, doing so prevented me from taking redundant courses in science fields, something that will only be useful for the required credit and never for my career. Speaking of appeals…

Ask. Appeal. Repeat. At any college, especially a large university like mine, there are layers of bureaucracy to get through. There’s always someone to email, always a form you can fill out. You’d be surprised the benefits you receive when you just bother to ask someone for something. For instance, I appealed my financial aid several times throughout the semester, and while it didn’t drastically change my financial situation, the process resulted in several thousand dollars in new grants. A drop in the ocean, sure, but it’s money I didn’t have before and don’t have to pay back. People are also often willing to bend the rules a little or help you out if you take the time to ask them (and be polite about it!).

More than 20 people have been born on Antarctica. Apparently Argentina is pretty serious about their claim. 

Unhappy? Change something. Transferring is one of the best decisions I ever made, but more than that, I took charge of my own happiness. I wanted to try to be more active in making friends instead of laying at home every night (did actually make that many new friends? Not really, but I did try!). I signed up for things outside of my comfort zone, like being a tour guide for the university. I applied and was accepted to be an RA next year. Making money makes me considerably less stressed, so I got a job (though that came with its own problems). On my way home from campus I would have to cross a bridge that spanned that Mass Turnpike, and everyday I would cross that bridge, look out towards the city, and feel truly privileged to be where I was. So incredibly happy to be someplace where people are as passionate, motivated, and engaged in their projects as I am.

Weird Sunburns and New Tattoos: the Start of Summer 2017

I have undeniably been terrible in every way about updating this poor, neglected blog. Hey! Who knew college was actually really difficult and time consuming! I do, now. It’s even difficult to write about what I’ve been reading, because I honestly have not been reading as of late. My Goodreads account pleasantly informs me that I am a whooping six books behind my goal. The last time I published something was on January 16th. Most of the time, this blog is an angry snarl of guilt in the back of my head.

But hey, it would be worse if I never published again, right?

The entire Spring Semester was a whirlwind of stress and my schedule was packed for the majority of it. Despite the arduous time, I still feel like I learned quite a bit, some of which I’d like to share. It was also my first full year at my new university, where I managed to feel like a Freshman all over again. My retrospective thoughts, however, deserve a post all their own.

It’s 90 degrees here in Boston as I write this, so the summer has undeniably begun, even after the cold and misIMG_0336erable May we’ve had. I even have the strangest sunburn to prove it. On a sunny and hot Thursday my new coworkers and I took the train out to Revere Beach, a location I was skeptical about. Being from Maine, I guess you can call me a bit of a beach snob. However, the beach turned out to be really lovely, and not the watch-out-for-needles kind of place I expected. The water was even not-freezing, though my friends didn’t exactly agree with that.

Also to celebrate summer I got myself a new tattoo! I managed to get an appointment at Brilliance in Allston, a badass shop with all lady artists. There’s something very relaxing about getting tattooed by another lady, and my artist Hannah and I chatted the whole time. The tattoo, of course, is gorgeous. Roses for my newly-graduated sister.

I’m both excited and not about staying in Boston for the summer. I have a job at the school that provides housing, and not having to worry about paying rent is certainly a luxury. I also have an internship at an all-female social media agency, which makes me a little less stressed about my future (trust me: communications students are always asking each other about what internships they’ve had). It’s hard not to miss Maine, though, especially in my tiny, stuffy room.IMG_0334

Besides going to work, I spend most days in the school library, where there is beautiful, beautiful air conditioning and couches to lay on (also where I took these pictures, as I’m sure you’ve guessed). To be quite honest, I have no idea what to expect from this summer. Hopefully (fingers crossed) I will be able to dedicate much of my time to reading, to learning to code (more), and to writing this blog.

As we’ve learned from the last, though, I promise nothing.

Thoughts from Thoughts from Places

A few weeks ago I wrote about now having a house, a home, anymore. About my dad losing his job.

He’s since taken off on a cross country road trip where he’s sort of living out of his car, visiting museums, and avoiding crowds. It’s the kind of adventure that if he were the type to have a blog, his would put mine to shame.

There’s something very Into the Wild about it, although I don’t think my dad’s going to drive to Alaska in his mom’s 2001 Cadillac Deville with only a bag of rice and a book on plants.

This is a very difficult thing to explain to other people. I try to flippant when it comes up. “Oh,” I say, “he’s the vagabond type.”

He does update fairly frequently on Facebook about his comings and goings, because he’s finally realized his friends and family care and worry about him. I try to text him more and occasionally I get something from him out of the blue.

The last thing? “Driving across Iowa. Lots of corn & soybeans”

Still, I try not to think about how at any given moment, I have no idea where in the country he is. Fortunately he doesn’t have a passport, so he’s American bound for now.

As he drives around the country and takes pictures and thinks of things, I think about him, and me. About how alike and very different we are, about how he more than anyone alive has shaped me into the person I am.

It beats thinking about home.

I think it’s the him in me that is the tiniest bit jealous that he gets to go off on his own— gets to go wherever he wants. Because there’s always been part of me that’s wanted to find the secret little caverns of the world, to breathe in strange air and maybe find myself in someplace else.

Just daughters of fathers, I guess.

Surrealism at Lobster Night

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Wednesday, September 14th, was Lobster Night.

The event, a heavily marketed tradition on campus, was held across the three dining halls on campus. In the lead up days, a video was published on how to dissemble and eat a lobster. When the night came, the line stretched through the building, even threatening to go out the door.

Somewhere between 7,000 to 8,000 lobsters, supposedly.

I sent my mom the following text message: “I’m just wondering how much lobster they’re wasting by giving kids who’ve never eaten one a whole fucking lobster.”

The whole fucking lobster was served with the classic side of corn on the cob (not a whole cob) and apple crisp for desert.

Inside the dining hall, it was chaos at around 6:30, when I stumbled home from work. There was absolutely nowhere to sit, and some groups collected in comfy alcoves. The stench was overwhelming and eventually became unbearable. It was filthy with discarded napkins, forks, plates, everything covering the floor and tables.

I ate my macaroni and apple crips and fled.

Now, being from Maine, I have specific thoughts about lobster. First, I don’t like it. I never have and despite the occasional taste, I probably never will. Second, the classic Maine Lobster Dinner is a specific thing. It’s sitting out on the porch in the summer evening, seven, maybe even eight at night. The plastic table cloth (to be thrown out after suffering through the night) is held down with either rocks or stable to the underside of the picnic table. There’s friends and family, corn (another thing I do not like), potato salad, and probably some other type of seafood to match. The lobsters probably came from Market Basket, where they sell live ones for $5 a pound.

You sit around with people you love and drink beer and laugh until the mosquitos chase you inside.

Eating lobster is a big deal for people not from the coast. But a kid from Chicago will probably never get the real deal, because eating lobster is about a hell of a lot more than eating lobster.

The Brand New Place

I live here, now, in this tiny room I share with another person. Here in this brownstone on a tree-lined street, tight-roping between Boston and Brookline. I live here on the third floor of this old and narrow place, stocked only with a mini-fridge and a microwave.

I live here and not just in the “I sleep here” way. Quite literally, this is my address, too shaky to be called permanent but where I reside. The school thinks I live with my mother, but the truth is I haven’t lived with her since I was twelve. Over the past few months what I thought of as home dissolved between my fingers. I’ve come to reside only within myself. Home is now a concept I can fold up and put in my suitcase.

There is really only one event leading up to this: in June, my dad lost his job. It happens to a lot of people, but I never once considered the possibility it would happen to me, to my family. I figured being a teacher, not a factory worker, had pretty good job security. But the district he worked in folded social studies— his lifelong career— into language arts and that was that.

So instigated the Move. We— my dad and I— just couldn’t afford to remain in the house I grew up in. And although he’s a great teacher, it’s very difficult for a person in their 50s to get a competitive teaching job when going up against cheap recent graduates. He’s always been a teacher to me, and now that he’s not, it creates a strange feeling that sits in the pit of my stomach.

We cleared out all of our things. We painted and sanded the evidence of out long tenure there away. Reformed it into something someone else could live in and create memories in. Realistically I knew that my home would not always be there for me, but it still feels as though the rug has been torn out from under me.

We as a society romanticize the idea of home. From Dorothy to My Antonia. Unconsciously, throughout my less-than stable life, I grasped onto this ideal. Not to mention that I already have trouble processing sudden, expectation shifting change.

On one level, it’s silly. I have a great school to go to, a job to do, and a family that loves me. Plenty of people have it worse. It doesn’t make it an easier pill to swallow.


Is it 10:30 on Monday? Yes, absolutely. But I got it done in time. Cheers!

What Do I Want? (A Frequent Evaluation)

whatdoiwantOk. Hello.

It’s no secret I’ve been really, really bad with posting over the summer. No, not even summer, since April. There are reasons, like family events and mental exhaustions, but truthfully I always thought this would happen. I’m not great at consistency, but the intense structure of college provided me with a schedule which kept me mostly true to what I planned out.

In the summer… not so much.

Why do I function better during the school year? Why am I better at eating right, productivity, and exercise? Too preoccupied by lying on the beach, perhaps.

With a new semester stretched out in front of me, it’s time to do the frequent evaluation I like to do here: What Do I Want (in my life and for the blog).

First, for my life: do well in school, get a job, be proactive in making friends, help pay off student loans, eat well and exercise. So far, all this is going quite well, as it should, because it’s one of the only things really thought about over the break. And those months were long and arduous.

Now, for the blog. It’s no secret here that I love critical thinking. During the spring semester, when I absolutely had it with the Presidential primary, I shifted the blog’s focus almost entirely to it. For better or worse. However, because Donald Trump makes my brain mushy, I will likely be staying away from politics for the time being. I want to delve into the things I love further— meaning art and literature. Of course, I will still have the occasional personal meditation thrown in.

All creators go through completely uninspiring periods. The best thing to do is work through them… which I failed at. But I’ve been watching a lot of video essays lately (recommendation post to come) and it’s revived my love and interest in the essay structure. I want to get back into writing.

Also, I have to get back to utilizing Photoshop and Illustrator. I don’t want to let my efforts in last semester’s class go to waste. So you can expect integration of those elements in future posts.

Finally, the schedule. Something I’ve put more thought into than anything else. Last year I started this blog with a basic idea: write more. And the MWF schedule reflected that. I didn’t care if it was good, I cared that I was writing. One year later, I’m older, and my priorities have changed. This blog is on my resume— I need to put my best foot forward. Therefore, I’ve decided to shift to Monday-Friday with a bonus Wednesday post when I have to get something off my chest.

Thank you to everyone who’s stuck around through this period of radio-silence. I’m excited to be back (really).

I’ve Been a Bad Mom

I’ve been a bad mom to this blog. My last post was in April. Two months ago, practically.

Going through my life in fast forward, the last thing I posted in late April was right before the death of my grandmother. After that, for a while I just didn’t feel like writing anymore. This blog in particular can be emotionally draining and I had no emotional capacity to spare. I put a hold on my life and flew back to Maine for a week, then had to return for three days to take my finals. Finish off my last year of Freshman year, pack up, and move on.

Every year after I finish school I sort of… go into hiatus for a month. I need time to decompress after working my ass off for months and months. This year I got a job right away where I work a twelve hour overnight two days in a row at a restaurant. It’s a lot of work, but the money’s good and I get four days off in a row. Time to write, or not write.

I haven’t stopped reading. I’ve actually been on quite the tear. At this point I’m a full seven books behind in writing reviews. I also have acquired plenty of stories from working the drunk shift.

While summer in Maine is amazing, beautiful, and I’m so pleased to be home, I do miss the structure of being at college. I’m more focused, more productive than I can be at home. The environment is right for blogging. I’m a person who thrives under pressure anyways.

Thanks for bearing with me, everything. I promise from now on to be a better mom to this blog. I aim to publish one-two days a week, probably Tuesdays and Thursdays. Look forward to more books, New England summer adventures, and crazy drunk people. Cheers, folks.

Today

Written April 16th, 2016


 

Today I am thinking about good things and bad things. Good days and bad days. I am thinking about how the seemingly smallest things can bandage big problems, like how poetry and getting a cat helps my sister cope with her daily struggles. I am thinking about how today, April 16th, I saw my mother in Philadelphia and ended the day with a text from my dad informing me that my grandmother, my Nana, had finally entered hospice care after two months of on and off hospital stays.

Objectively, I had a good day. I saw my mom, who I see less than one time a month. It was a beautiful day in Philadelphia– warm and cloudless but not overwhelmingly hot. I showed her around the city and we went to do some tourist-y things like visit Reading Terminal Market and the Liberty Bell (which I had never seen, despite living in Philadelphia for almost a year). The park was beautiful and the walking conditions were pleasant.

When the car rolled out of sight I totally hid my tears behind my sunglasses.

I don’t have the answer to why some things affect us the way they do. I wish they didn’t and I wish I knew.

Art Gang ASCO

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You know the stereotypes: all you Hispanic American kids are in gangs. They ride around East LA with their guns and their colors, contributing nothing to society.

Surprise surprise, not everyone agrees with that stereotype.

ASCO was an art collective active from between 1972-1987. They were a bunch of artists, kids really, living in LA. They’re (more or less) associated with the Chicano art movement, although they certainly focus more on contemporary Chicano culture rather than pre-Columbian stuff. The core group was four friends: Harry Gamboa Jr., Glugio “Gronk” Nicandro, Willie Herron, and Patssi Valdez.

They were performance artists. They were provocative. They didn’t give a fuck.

ASCO were the stuff of dreams for me when I wanted to go to art school and be a real artist. Young people are constantly told that their ideas are invalid, and frankly, by the time I was a high school senior I was just done with art conventions. I wanted to do whatever I wanted– things that weren’t pretty or technical. I wanted to do things that were purposefully incomplete or ugly– things that inspired asco, meaning to inspire nausea.

As the story goes, Harry Gamboa Jr. was at the LA County Museum of Art, and upon finding no Chicano artists, went knocking on doors. He was told that Chicano don’t make art— they were in gangs. So he and his friends (after a youthful bout of minor vandalism) decided to start ASCO– an art gang.

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Which– is just so cool.

Their weapons weren’t guns or knives, they were their bodies and images appropriated from the media. ASCO, like Cindy Sherman, staged fake film stills, trying to sell the representation they forced as reality, sometimes even trying to get the media to show their fake crime scenes.

artforum

I think a lot of young people can take a lot away from ASCO. They were kids, yeah, but that didn’t stop them from fighting against “the Man” for fair representation. Frankly, the whole teen-rebellion bit is pretty romantic.

Make Your Dreams Come True

Wow! Imagine when my surprise when I went to look at my stats and saw an unpublished draft– you know, that thing I meant to post on Friday. Cue resigned sigh.


 

Hey Abs, see you missed another post. Yeah, I know. I’m sorry! April is just a totally busy, stressful time of the week. Next week I have a project, a presentation, and a paper due three days in a row. I’m trying here.


On Monday, I got accepted to my dream school. Second time’s the charm, right? I’m a current college freshman, not a senior in high school. I applied as a transfer from the university I attend now, in Philadelphia. As a matter of fact, I applied to my dream school last year but go wait-listed.

Applying was an incredibly stressful process. Being a freshman is already stressful enough, being homesick, adjusting to a new place, trying to find friends, and balancing workload with activities. It cost a lot of money, money that I didn’t really have, had to scramble to get a form sent in at the last minute, and then I just waited. For a month. While everyone around me was finding places to live next year and registering for classes. I was totally committed to going somewhere else.

But, hey, turns out it was worth it.

Transferring is a hard process to describe, especially to the people around you at your current school. There’s a lot of “it’s not you it’s me” going around. It’s not the school– it’s the city for the most part. I actually love the program and my friends, but I need to be closer to home.

And there’s the fact that I could never quite let my dream school go.

I take my education very, very seriously. I worked hard and got accepted to a school I was wait-listed at in high school. I had the fortune to be supported by my mom and my closest aunt who encouraged me to follow my dreams. Even though the new school is much more expensive than the old one.

When I came to the decision, sitting in a lunch place with my mom, I was so scared.

I made my own dreams come true. Please, be brave enough to take a risk on yourself. Say, “I deserve this.”