An Unfortunate Time to Fall Back in Love with Reading

I’ve always loved books. They are magic bound up in paper, and that’s how I think of them. A whole world can be contained in those pages, with people and lives and things that feel so real. It amazes me that those scratches on the pages can add up to something so powerful.

While I’ve always loved books, I have realized recently that I haven’t always loved reading. I certainly grew to love it in high school, when I spent all of my lunch periods in the library because I had no friends. The reading made me feel a little less lonely. But somewhere toward the end of college I lost that love.

I think I just came to think of reading as a chore. I read for class, not for fun. I often enjoyed the reading (when I actually did it instead of turning to SparkNotes), but I didn’t love it. I didn’t get lost in it.

I did occasionally read a book outside of what was required for class, but I was always doing it more because I thought that I should. I felt guilty for not reading. I was, after all, an English major and a fervent lover of books. It would take me forever to finish anything, and that was if I finished it at all. Last summer I started the first Game of Thrones novel, and it took me four months. Granted, it is a long book and I read really slowly. But four months is long for any book.

The book I just finished took me five days. And I did that while reading about five hours a day for my grad school courses. It’s strange to go from not reading at all to reading all day.

I can’t remember the last time I actually wanted to stay up late reading. But I had to make myself go to bed last night. I was mad at myself when I had to get up at 7am this morning, but it’s hard to be mad at yourself for doing something that felt so good. I finished the book tonight…instead of doing required reading. So I’m sure I’ll be mad at myself again tomorrow.

But it was just so beautiful. I cried when I finished it, not because it was sad, but because I loved it so much. I hugged the book, as if I was hugging the characters inside. (By the way, this book is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz… and it is fantastic! I highly recommend it to anyone who likes young adult fiction)

I didn’t just love the book though; I loved the process of reading it. Every second. It made me feel so many things. I got so lost in it at one point that I just looked around my room and thought for a second that it was Thursday afternoon and I should open the blinds… then I remembered that it was about 9pm on Wednesday.

This is all a problem though, because I just do not have the time to read for fun! Even reading this book for just the past five days was really irresponsible and it has put me behind. Not that I regret it, but I can’t afford to let it happen again. If I can’t read in moderation, then I can’t read at all. And the past few days have proved to me that I have even less self-restraint than I thought I had.

I’m so glad that I’ve learned to really love reading again, I just hope I can hold on to that love even as I trudge through dense texts on learning theories and schooling inequalities.

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200th Blog Post… How Did THAT Happen?!

I have been blogging for four years and four months. Holy cow.

I can’t help but think of how I’m different now than I was then.

In March of 2010 I was a freshman in college, now I’m in my second week of graduate school. A few weeks ago I would have told you that I was practically a different person than that shy girl in her dorm room. But now that I’ve thrust myself into an alarmingly similar situation, I’m finding that not all that much has changed.

Back in 2010 I struggled connecting with my roommate, now I’ve been living with a girl for two weeks and I don’t know anything about her other than her name… and that she calls her boyfriends A LOT.

In 2010 I hated eating in the cafeteria alone. Four years later, I still bring my food back to my apartment and eat alone in my room with the door closed.

The first two years of college felt really transformative. And now I can feel myself changing again. It’s a little unsettling. I thought I’d figured out who I was, and now I realize that I’ve got a lot more transforming to do.

Maybe that’s what life is about: constantly changing and redefining who we are – to ourselves and to the world. I guess that’s a good thing. But it’s scary.

In my education classes we’ve been talking a lot about learning. One approach to learning (an approach I really like) is that the learning process is about the struggle. If you are content and you have no problems or confusion, then you won’t learn. Basically, if you’re struggling then you’re learning something. So I must be learning A LOT.

I’m having a really tough time adjusting. I feel really isolated and I miss everyone. And sometimes I just feel like my brain is going to explode from all of the reading. But I know that I will come out of this stronger and smarter and, eventually, happier.

 

I want to sincerely thank anyone who has read my blog over the past four years. Even though I don’t post regularly, this blog has become a place where I can come to sort through my thoughts and share my ideas. In a way, learning to open myself up to strangers has helped me to be more open with the people in my life. I know that no one could ever gain as much from my blog as I have (and continue to), but I hope that you can take something from it.

Also: I’ve given my blog a little bit of a make-over! I’m still not sure about it; I really don’t like that I can’t put widgets on the side. But change is good! Let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading!!!!!!

Grocery Shopping Sucks – Grad School Problems

I went shopping on Saturday and spent $60. I went again on Thursday and spend another $30. And I still feel like I have no food!

It is really hard to stay on budget shopping for one person when you literally have nothing in your kitchen. I had to buy stuff like salt, pepper, oil, mayo, mustard, and salsa – none of which can be eaten as a meal. I hate that cooking requires so many ingredients. Even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich takes three ingredients, and that’s as basic as it gets. I have the necessities to make PB&J or cheese sandwiches, pasta with marinara, rice with soy sauce, or toast. That’s about it. And it gets old so fast!

Breakfast is easy. I can eat yogurt, fruit, or cereal. All of which require no effort and are quick and reasonably affordable (my idea of a perfect meal).

Lunch and dinner are a little bit more complicated. Not only do I have to make some sort of sandwich or boil some noodles or rice, but I also feel like I need a side dish. Apparently the only side dish I can make is… carrot sticks.

So basically every single meal is a sandwich and carrot sticks. Since my tastes are about as sophisticated as your average six year old, I really kind of like this combination. But not every single day (sometimes twice a day). I’ve gotten so bored that I’ve started putting salsa on my cheese sandwiches – and I totally love it!

The other sucky thing about grocery shopping is the actual shopping! I don’t really know anyone here yet and my apartment-mate might be invisible, so I have to go alone. The first time I went it took me a solid hour. I’m a pretty introverted person, but I just don’t enjoy walking around alone for that long feeling lost and confused. Every grocery store seems to have their own way of organizing things, and none of them make sense.

I’m pretty sure this is one of those things that will get easier (and cheaper) with time. And I’m already improving: tonight I got really adventurous and had a frozen pizza… with carrot sticks.

Procrastinating and Missing Him

It is 10pm, and I am supposed to be writing an essay! But instead I’m going to write a blog post… because I’m crazy. And boy do I feel crazy right now!

I just started graduate school a few days ago, and already I am having trouble with procrastinating. I literally just sat at my desk and watched Tarzan for an hour and a half. Bad idea. Not only because it was a waste of time, but because Disney movies are so sappy. And they make ME feel sappy!

In all honesty, I really did not miss my boyfriend for the first five days after I moved. I was wondering if I would ever start missing him or if maybe there was something wrong with me and I really didn’t love him as much as I thought I did. But it has finally hit me. And it’s hitting me pretty hard.

It’s not even that I’m lonely, which I kind of am. And it’s not that I miss kissing him or any of the physical stuff (ok, I DO miss all of that, but that’s only a small part of it). I just miss him. Talking to him, seeing him, telling him everything, holding his hand, being near him, even just being in the same room as him.

I guess there’s nothing I can do about it, except for wait. And maybe stop watching sappy Disney movies. And get back to work on that essay…

Staying Close

As I was glancing through my unread emails today something occurred to me. I saw the subject line for an email from the Career Resource Center at my alma mater informing me of a managerial position in Oregon. I deleted it without thought and kept scrolling.

It’s highly unlikely that is would have been the type of job I would apply for, but four months ago I would have at least looked at it. Before I graduated in May I decided that I would be willing to move pretty much anywhere if it meant I could start a career.

I addition to applying for jobs all over California, I also applied for jobs in New York, New Jersey, and Ohio. In hindsight it wasn’t the smartest tactic. Why would these places bother with interviewing me via Skype when there are more than enough qualified candidates applying close by? Regardless, I would have been willing to move for the right job. I was even excited about the prospect of starting new.

Now I have no interest in moving out of Northern California. Sure, if I was offered a chance at my dream job I would accept without a second thought, regardless of location. But that is not going to happen. I’ve stopped looking for jobs outside of the area. And when I was deciding upon graduate schools to apply to I decided to cross the Southern California schools off of my list.

It’s not that I want to stay where I am. I don’t, I assure you.

It’s almost more embarrassing than that…

I don’t want to move any farther away from my boyfriend. He’s currently going to school about four hours away, and I want to be closer to him.

I never thought I would be that girl. The one who makes important life choices based on a guy. But here I am. I picked my first choice grad school before we were even technically dating, and one of my favorite things about it is that it’s only an hour drive from his school. It also happens to have an incredible one year program, but I would be lying if I said the proximity to my boyfriend has nothing to do with why I want to go there so badly. It isn’t the only reason, but it was a factor in my decision making process.

We’ve only been dating for two months and this scares me a little bit. I always said I would never let a guy get in the way of my career. But then, I’d never had a boyfriend before. And I certainly don’t mean to sound like he’s holding me back. He’s incredibly supportive and encouraging. If anything, I’m holding myself back – or will hold myself back in the future, nothing has really happened yet. But I don’t want it to come to that.

I guess what I’m really worried about is that having a boyfriend has changed more than I’ve realized. There are good changes, or course: It’s nice to have someone to talk to, to know that if I have to go through something difficult he will be there, to receive sweet text messages at random, etc.

But being in a relationship also comes with some constrictions:

  • There is a time commitment (which is fine with me right now because I don’t have a life).
  • I’m no longer single, so I can’t get drunk and make out with random strangers (I’ve never actually done that, but it sounds fun, right?).
  • I’m more reluctant to do things that are irresponsible (like booking a trip to France even though I’m $50,000 in debt with student loans), because I’m afraid he’ll think I’m crazy.
  • I’m attached to him, and that means I don’t want to move half way across the country for a job that may or may not work out.

From where I’m sitting right now, it’s hard to tell if any of those are actually that bad. Honestly, I kind of feel like having a boyfriend (not just any boyfriend, but this particular boyfriend) is good for me. I’m just afraid that five years from now I’ll realize that I was wrong.

I’m… Going Back to School?

After months of trying to decide what to do with my life I have finally made a decision. Ok, so I still don’t know for sure what I want to do for the rest of my life. That’s a tough question for a 22 year old. But I’ve decided on something to do for the next couple of years that won’t drive me absolutely crazy.

Law school is out. Pursuing a career in publishing is out (at least for the next 2 years). And working in a deli for the rest of my life was never in.

So, what’s next?… Grad school. A master’s degree in education with a single subject teaching credential, to be specific.

I never planned on going to grad school. And the more my mom pushed the more I resisted. I never planned on becoming a teacher. But now that I’ve given it some thought I’m surprised it took me so long to come to this resolution. I think a big part of it was stubbornness. My mom was a kindergarten teacher for several years and I was determined to do something that no one in my family had ever done before. Plus, I always found it annoying that everyone just assumed I would want to be a teacher when I told them that I was studying English. I didn’t want to be a cliché.

Since it took so long for me to finally make my mind up, I’ve only got about six weeks to get everything together for the application process. It’s way more complicated than I ever imagined. Test, letters of recommendation, essays, volunteer experience, and more tests. It’s going to be a busy six weeks for sure.

But one of the things I’m thinking about most right now is what I want to do differently now that I’ve already done the whole college experience once. I had a great four years at my alma mater, the best years of my life so far. I feel like I’ve left part of my heart there. I don’t have many regrets because I would never want to change the way things turned out. But there is certainly a lot I know now that I did not know then.

By the time I graduated I felt like I had finally just gotten the hang of it. I finally knew how to make friends and keep them. I finally knew how to take chances and try new things. I finally knew how to love myself and the people around me. College was a learning experience in more ways than I could ever count. So this time around I want to do everything that I wish I had done before. Now, I just need to figure out exactly what those things are.

No Longer A Student – Post Graduation Musings

I graduated from college one month ago, and it was fabulous and wonderful and even a little sad. Suddenly I’m not a student anymore. And that’s a bit jarring.

I’ve been trying to adjust to this new life; even though it’s really not any different that last summer or the summer before, it feels different. The dynamic with my parents is changing, I’m suddenly worrying about money all the time, I feel so stuck because I’m once again working at the deli and living at home when I really want to move away and start my dream career. And now that I can no longer identify as a student, I’m more confused about who I am than ever before. I’m not even sure I know who I want to be anymore! But then again, did I ever know?

I’m once again thinking about law school. If I’m still stuck a year from now, I will choose law school over deli work in a heartbeat. But is that really what I want to base my future career path on? I think not.

I would love to go into publishing or marketing, but all of the jobs I apply for seem like long shots and I don’t know how to break into the field. I’m also kind of wishing that I had another semester to take all the classes I didn’t have time for over the past four years. I especially wish I could take a computer class and a business class (but no, I do not regret majoring in English and I do not think that my degree can be blamed for my current deli-girl status. I wish I’d done internships and gotten more work experience.)

I just want to know what I’m meant to do with my life so I can get on with it! Is that too much to ask for?! I guess so.

For the first time in my life I’m no longer a student. So it’s time to figure out what I want to be next! That should be exciting, even if it is a little scary.

Freshman Flashbacks – Musings of an Almost College Grad

I will graduate from college in 4 days. Among the many things on my mind right now (essays, finals, finding a job) is freshman year. Who I was, how I felt, what I expected.

I remember standing in the hall of my dorm after moving in and watching my parents walk down the hall and leave. They did not cry, like in the movies. Instead, they hugged me goodbye and walked away. I watched them disappear around the corner and the tears that had been collecting on the rims of my eyes spilled over. I stared at the wall where they had been for just a second, then I walked back into my room, closed the door, and cried softly for a few minutes. Just like that, I was alone and my life was different.

I was a different person then than I am now. I was so shy, even though I’d already made so much progress the year before. I was closed off, without even realizing it. I was scared, but brave.

I’m still shy, but it’s nowhere near the same as it was then. Social situations still make me nervous, but it’s not paralyzing anymore. I can still be very awkward and it can still be embarrassing, but I’m more aware of it now and willing to push past it. I never thought I could be as outgoing and friendly as I am now. I still surprise myself sometimes. There is still progress to be made, but past me would be proud.

Back then I wanted to make friends more than anything. I’ve never had more friends than I have now. I still struggle to form close friendships, but it’s something I’m working on. I have a best friend and a tight group of friends that I have grown to love – and that makes me so happy. (Still never had a boyfriend, maybe next year)

I’m still scared of all sorts of things (talking to professors, asking for favors, going to large social events). But last year I hopped on a plane – for the first time ever – and flew to England where I studied abroad for 5 months and faced so many fears. I always thought that being scared and being brave were the opposite, but now I know that you can’t have one without the other. It wouldn’t be an act of bravery if there wasn’t something to fear. And it took me a long time to see that I had been brave all along: In high school I went to homecoming freshman year by myself with no plans of meeting up with friends; I applied for college even though my parents told me we couldn’t afford it (I also applied for the FAFSA); I moved to a city where I knew no one and I started over. It was one of the bravest, and one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I’m proud of who I am now, but I’m also proud of who I was then. I was shy and awkward and scared, but I was also strong and smart and brave. And, most important of all, I was willing to change. And I still am.

A Case of the Pre-Graduation Blues

Do you ever have those days where you keep doing things you shouldn’t be doing and you just keep thinking “what am I doing with my life”, but you just keep doing the same thing over and over even though it’s not making you feel good anymore? Well, I’m having one of those days.

So, instead of refreshing my Tumblr dashboard and checking my emails again, I’m going to turn on some music and blog about it. I’m not sure if that’s really any better, but I can already tell that my fingers have missed typing and it feels better than mindless scrolling.

I graduate in ten days, which I’m so excited about, but I’m just not happy. And I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just end of the semester stress, or maybe it’s because I don’t want to leave. Maybe I’m getting mad at all of my friends and frustrated with everything because that will make it easier to leave. I don’t want to do that.

I want to be brave and face everything head-first, even if that means more pain later. The future is fast-approaching, and I couldn’t run from it even if I wanted to – and maybe that is what I want. I really don’t know what I’m doing with my life, but reverting back to an angsty teenager is not an option.

I need to get my happy back, and I think that might just entail closing my internet browser and getting to work on my final essays. My typical reaction to the blues is a pint of ice cream and a night (or several nights) of complete immersion into the never-ending vortex that is YouTube, Tumblr, and Facebook. But I’ve tried that, and it’s not helping anymore.

I have ten days left as a college student, so I might as well enjoy my last ten days of essay writing. The internet will be there when it’s all over, and I’m sure that not long after these ten days pass I will be blogging about the blues again. But being sad because something so special and amazing has come to an end is so much better than being sad while you should be enjoying those last days of such a special and amazing experience.

Senior Year Panic – Everything is Ending! Forever!

I don’t know what I’m going to be doing or even where I’m going to be living in two months, but the fear of that is finally being drowned out with the thoughts that it’s almost over. It hit me today when I realized that I had played in the Pep Band for the last time.

It was a damn good last time, cheering on our men’s basketball team as they won the Big West tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years. It was one of the best moments of the past four years. But there won’t be any more moments like that. I might never play my clarinet in any sort of band every again. And I will never again cheer and stomp and shout as fiercely as I did that night.

Maybe that’s part of why it was such a special moment. But it also brings a lump to my throat when I think about it. And I can’t stop thinking about it because I chose not to travel with the Pep Band to the NCAA game because I didn’t think I could afford to miss three more days of school. And now that seems like such a stupid decision. But three days ago it hardly required any thinking at all.

This is all I’ve been thinking about all day and I had to get it down into words. But this time, writing doesn’t seem to have made me feel any better. I want my classes to end, at least the homework, but I don’t want everything else to end. This has been my life for the past four years, and it has been the best four years of my life so far. And in 46 days it will be over forever and I will never again experience so many of the things that have become part of my life and part of me.