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Lost on Goat Island with Tea, Books, Samuel Beckett, and 76 Students

Taking a break from my never-ending pile of work to get out a blog post before the day is out.

To explain the title:

Currently, I’m freaking out a bit. On my current, to-do, ASAP list:

  • Grade 60 (well, 59 at the moment) papers
  • Write a reflection of this week’s theatre lab
  • Write a lesson plan for next Thursday’s theatre lab
  • Get through several lists of questions on Samuel Beckett and get back to students
  • Plan a Samuel Beckett-themed lesson for Monday and Wednesday
  • Write 4 (!) book reports by Saturday (as in, a week from this coming Saturday)
  • Finish my PechaKucha and presentation on Goat Island for Tuesday

And, accomplish as much of this as I can before heading out to Minnesota tomorrow for the APO Region IX Conference, all the while trying not to sulk about not being in Madison for Badger Ballroom or in Portland for ASTR.

Oh yeah, and I’m totally lost on most of these things. How to teach Beckett, how to finish all these books, and what the heck Goat Island is. At this point, I think I’d rather go to Unicorn Island, if you know what I am.

As of this moment, I am exactly halfway done the PechaKucha I started about an hour or so ago (yes!) regardless of whether it’s a good PechaKucha or not, and thought of a presentation idea for Tuesday which will hopefully work.

And, oh yeah, I should make sure I have clean clothes and all my supplies ready for the conference, because I have to leave at 1 PM, regardless of whether I am ready or not, because I am driving several people.

Okay, break over, now time to get back to the weirdness, because there’s a lot of it.

Pray for me, y’all!

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Adios, Mendota

Just a quick update.

The apartment is fully packed (well, 90%) in boxes and bags. Some will go into my car; most of it, though, into storage.

I have about half of my paper down, which I will finish tonight come hell or high water so I can print a copy, then pack up the printer.

I still need to eat the dinner I just cooked, put laundry in the dryer, and take books to the library.

Tonight will be my final night in 620 N. Carroll St., Apartment 409, ever.

Tomorrow morning I will return my Internet box (too stressed to think of what it’s called), get some money from the ATM, retrieve my water bottle from the gym and possibly take a shower if I feel so inclined, pick up some contact solution at Walgreens, shove some stuff in the mail, and get the 1:00 PM bus to Chicago (already paid for!), or, if I play my cards right, the 11:30 AM bus.

I will have no fixed address for the next month.

Adios, Mendota…hola, being a hobo.

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Get To A Better State…

There have been way too many State Farm commercials on lately. Just putting it out there.

I’m not feeling too inspired today. I got some feedback and a grade on my political science paper. Just about what I expected in terms of comments, and the professor pointed out two pretty obvious errors – I wrote “fate” instead of “fight” (Bawlmerese slipup, I guess), and I had a sentence in there that was about something that I ultimately cut from the paper. The grade was a little lower than I expected, but for what it’s worth, it could have been much, much worse. Most of the comments were along the lines of “I don’t get it,” or his favorite question, “how?” Not to say that I’m not disappointed, because I put a lot of work and research into it, but as I said, it could have been worse.

This English paper is not working out. Besides the fact that I can’t focus on it, I keep confusing myself, which isn’t good. I wrote about 800 words today, but should probably delete a lot more from what I already had. I planned to go out for lunch/dinner/food and then finish some books so I could get my book count under 40; I didn’t accomplish that while out, but since I’ve been home I decided that for 2-3 of them, I’ve probably gotten what I can get out of them.

Self-care has kinda taken a nosedive. Depression and stress have really set in for me, including odd-hour sleep, being easily distracted, lacking appetite when I know I should be eating, being on the verge of tears most of the time, worrying about the future, and no exercise since…two or three weeks ago.

At least I got a blog entry before ten minutes to midnight.

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My Next Two Weeks, By the Numbers

I’m feeling stressed and sad today; I had brunch and dinner with friends, but for some reason I still feel like I’m in a rut.

Maybe if I write down everything – absolutely everything – that’s going on in the next two weeks for me, I’ll feel better. I’ve been trying to avoid doing stuff like this in this blog, but if it exists somewhere, maybe it’ll help me compartmentalize it.

Courses: 4

Class sessions: 6

Political Science classes: 2 with work

Theatre classes: 1 with work, 1 of presentations

History classes: 2 with presentations

English classes: 0

Book reviews: 1

Final papers: 4

APO events: 2, plus CAPS and Formal

Articles to read for tomorrow: 7

Days until Theatre presentation: 9

Days until History presentation: 10

Days until English final is due: 12 (ish)

Days until Political Science final is due: 15

Days until History final is due: 17

Days until Theatre final is due: 18

This is my life.

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Lemonade and Jelly Beans Day

Every once-in-a-while, I have a day that I call Lemonade and Jelly Beans Day.

And today was one of those days.

A Lemonade and Jelly Beans Day is not a good day, a bad day, or a neutral day. It’s one of those days that starts out with some rottenness, is usually dreary, and something good happens, but it’s not enough to turn the day around. Well, the good thing that happened to me today will have some long-lasting effects, but I’ll talk about those another time.

The provenance of Lemonade and Jelly Beans Day occurred in October 2009 in Jerusalem, Israel. I can’t exactly remember what set me off, but I was still living in the WUJS apartment so it couldn’t have been a good day, period. I remember that it was raining, which is normally a bummer, but makes everyone calm and happy in drought-stricken Israel, and softens the rougher edges of the world. It’s more of an act of purification than anything else. Plus, it makes everything beautiful. That day, I slept in, and when I woke up, my heart was sinking in my chest, heavy like a bag of sand. Which, ironically, was heavier knowing that it would have to face the rain. I wasn’t tired, hungry, or motivated to do anything. And then a feeling crept up on me.

I needed lemonade and jelly beans.

Right now.

Even though those are two foods I don’t enjoy on a regular basis, I strolled through the rain down to the makolet, which, fortunately for me, had some Minute Maid bottled lemonade and Jelly Belly Sours. Double yes, went my brain. Back at home, I settled back into my bed, my computer in front of me, and cracked open the drink. The lemony goodness washed down my throat, and when I bit into each jelly bean, the sour tang tickled my taste buds, validating all the sour thoughts and feelings that were going through me, and typed “it’s a lemonade and jelly beans type of day.”

Though I didn’t end up getting lemonade and jelly beans today, I certainly felt a bit deflated as I went about my daily routine, even passing up gym time to go home and hit the studying, hard, which was kind of good, I guess, since it got me to get some of my stuff done.

Each time I have one of these days, some other odd compulsion comes out, and for some reason, today, it was 90s one-hit-wonder group Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” doubling as the soundtrack. There’s just something about Wendy, Chynna, and Carnie singing lyrics like “I know this pain/Why do lock yourself up in these chains?/No one can change your life except for you/Don’t ever let anyone step all over you/Just open your heart and your mind/Is it really fair to feel this way inside?” It’s like a damp dishcloth for your soul, complete with a wacky bass line and banal, inoffensive lyrics that essentially talk about nothing. Sometimes it’s a horrible song, sometimes it’s my jam, but today, it’s like my special friend, or guardian angel, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Everyone has a lemonade and jelly beans day once in a while, where you’re not at your best, and that’s okay. Again, it’s not happy, but it’s not necessarily sad – more like subtle, subdued, low-key, teetering between anxiety and calm.

I feel a little better now.

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Oversaid Fines

Here’s a good one.

There is a three-word phrase that you probably say just about every day of your life, whether it’s to yourself or to someone else. It’s not “I love you,” and it’s not “f my life” but to me, it’s just as overstated and meaningless.

What do you typically say to a good friend who is:

  • Struggling with school?
  • Nervous about searching for employment?
  • Scared of dying alone?
  • About to embark on a big trip?
  • Having wedding-day jitters?
  • Undergoing stage fright right before the show’s opening?
  • Has been trying and trying and trying but failing?
  • Has lost faith in himself?
  • Has lost faith in everything?

If you’re like most of the world, the response in your head at this point is something like:

“You’ll be fine.”

BUT WILL I BE?

It seems to be the catch-all answer these days.

I first noticed it being used more frequently last year in Houston, when struggling to complete my coursework and my master’s thesis. My professors used it as a clap-on-the-shoulder, “I have to do something else but I want to end this conversation on a positive note even though it may or may not be true.” My parents have used it in pretty much every conversation about anything I’ve been nervous about over the past year, from moving to a new apartment in a new city, attending a new school, and eating yogurt after its expiration date. I’ve heard it from friends, family members, doctors, teachers, and even acquaintances. Over the past few days, I’ve heard it said to me about a hundred times and have even resorted to using it myself.

But what does it mean? What does “fine” actually mean? Where’s the context?

“Fine” can mean so many different things. It can be used as a brief explanation to someone that you aren’t dying, it can be used to express happiness, it can be used to express disinterest. It can also be used ironically, to show disgust or annoyance. It’s one of those words that if you say it too many times, it loses all meaning. “Fine” can mean physically healthy, emotionally healthy, mentally healthy, safe, having money, or any combination of the above. Once upon a time, saying you’re “fine” meant that everything was going 100% smoothly and well in your life, but now, even if everything is completely out of whack, you can just say it and no one will suspect a thing since our sensibilities can no longer handle transparency anymore.

Here’s the way I see it…

My dad has a client who happens to be a very high-strung woman in her 70s. Let’s call her Doris. Doris is a wife, mother, and grandmother, with a college education, an incredible high-profile career, and so many friends that she can’t fit them all into her apartment for get-togethers. She’s the exact opposite of a cat lady – respected, honored, and leads an active social and professional life that would be envied by most. Plus, she’s friendly, fashionable, and charming. Whenever Doris and my dad talk, she’s usually fretting about something money-related, like her paycheck (from her contracts from which she works, which is hit-and-miss but lucrative when she’s working), her social security (which she hasn’t yet started claiming) or her will (and despite a physical disability, she’s in great shape for her age). And it’s always the same tone with her – at level 10. From the way she talks and how she describes herself, you’d think she’d be a step away from being evicted and that her next meal might come from a dumpster behind a Taco Bell. I, myself, am not privy to details about Doris’ financial situation; needless to say, I think that despite her paranoia she’s got a lot of bases covered to sustain emotionally, physically, and financially for the rest of her life. I don’t know if she chooses to see herself that way, or if she actually does, but either way, her self-perception is completely untrue. And every time my dad talks to her (and about her, outside the office) he says that she’ll be fine. 

That I can go for. That’s what being fine means to me – she’s already lived a full and happy life and continues to live it even as I type this entry when I should be studying. She has the money she needs, friends and family who love her, all her mental and almost all her physical faculties, and finds new things to love every day.

Basically, I dream of having a life like that.

However…that’s not the case with me. I’m a constant worrier, yes, and I do over-analyze a lot, but let’s get real here. I struggle every day in a different way. Most of the time, I am not fine. Big or small, and whether I know it or not, I feel like there’s something that’s always not right. Will I be fine in my life? With God’s blessing and no major catastrophes, yes. Will I be fine this minute? No, not necessarily. I am safe, I’m not even unhappy, yet there’s a falling-quicksand sensation in my brain that not everything is all right.

Will I be fine?

You don’t know. I don’t know. I hope so.

In the future, when someone says then to me, I’ll continue to accept it, given the large amount of possible subtext lying beneath the phrase. As to whether I’ll believe it or not, that depends on how I’m feeling that day. The fact of the matter: sometimes it’s hard to believe it, it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Sometimes it helps to hear, but sometimes it doesn’t. Let your actions speak louder than your words, but don’t let your words slide down.

This was a particularly long and heavy post, so here’s an audiovisual representation of how I usually feel when you say this to me, with a special thanks to Whitney Houston: