Je veux des aventures Wednesday, Feb 28 2007 

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This morning, I was in my Early French Lit class and my professor said something that struck me.  She usually battles valiantly to get most of the class to relate to the work – something I don’t particularly need.  But she said something roughly akin to “going forth in life and having adventures” (en français, bien sûr) – and I guess I never thought about the modern life being filled with “adventures,” per se.  In fact, the things in modern life we are supposed to want seem to preclude adventures.  I don’t know where I’m going with this, but it has been rattling around all day.

After class, she gave me a little advice about grad school, and really pushed me to consider leaving town.  I am free to leave, so to speak; I probably should, but I’m having trouble picking up my feet.  Inaction may be a form of action, but there is no doubt that action…well it’s pretty damn active, no?  I guess I’m a little uncomfortable with forcing the universe’s hand, which seems ridiculous, considering that things happen whether you are passive or active.  It isn’t as though I’m more in danger of making the wrong choices just by making active ones.  I’m feeling mushy and fuzzy-headed; it may be a reaction against needing to be forceful and clear-headed.  I may not have anything to keep me here, but leaving means giving up the ghosts of what I had (if that makes any sense).  Ironically, being apart from the Ex makes it harder to make this decision – I would have argued for leaving if we were together.  Oh, how full of excuses I find myself these days.

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Am I the woman I think I am? Tuesday, Feb 27 2007 

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For most of the day, I have felt…uncomfortable.  Not physically, but psychically (not in the “psychic” sense, but the “psyche” one).  I don’t know if it was the 2 feet of snow that soggily landed on our fair metropolis – a case could be made for that, since I found myself having to scramble over 4 foot-high snowbanks merely to cross a street.  I don’t know if it is just another side effect from being broken-hearted.  I don’t know.  I was all right in today’s only class, but work was another issue.

I was dreading getting up and getting out this morning, but that was mostly a dislike of trudging through piles and piles of snow.  I got to work, and my mood didn’t lift.  I have hated jobs before, believe me.  I don’t hate my job, I just…sometimes have personality issues.  I tutor students at a two-year college.  Some of them are going for an associate degree in a field where a four-year degree doesn’t make sense.  Some of them are saving money; they spend much less per credit than they would at a four-year school, and many classes transfer.  Others are beyond unprepared.  Unprepared academically, unprepared emotionally, just generally unprepared.  In theory, this is a good option for them.  If they need high school level classes, they pay no tuition; there are many resources for them to get prepared for college-level work.  And yet, so many of them are so far behind, I fear they’ll never see it through.  And for those who are unprepared emotionally, their lack of maturity works my last nerve.  I grit my teeth, hold my tongue and just smile and try to push them in the right direction.  But most of the time, I just want to chew them out.  I feel bad for disliking some of them.  I wonder if some of them have serious problems – that they aren’t just ill-prepared or immature – and if so, maybe I’m holding them to unrealistic standards.  Not everyone wants to be like me; some days, I don’t want to be like me.  I can be a bit of a snob.  And while I don’t think so, I can understand why some people might find me pretentious.  As they say, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.  So since I’m loaded with not-so-admirable qualities, why judge people harshly just for being annoying?

I’ve been thinking about this for the better part of the day.  Not beating myself up, but challenging myself not to be so quick to dislike people just because I find them annoying.  I don’t have to be friends with everyone, but recognize that there is enough contempt in the world; I certainly don’t need to add to the sum total.

The joke is that people often call me nice.  As I have joked to my friend, KS(-P), what these people don’t recognize is that I’m not so much nice as polite.  While being polite is fine, maybe I should try being nicer.

And yet…as my work day came to a close, I worked with two very nice students.  They may have been in the same boat with the others, but how they choose to row is completely different.  Now, I’m not sure – do I need to be nicer?  Or am I going to be someone who is never going to suffer fools gladly?  Does that make me a bitch?

Happy Oscar Day! Monday, Feb 26 2007 

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I know that today is not a real holiday, and people make some intelligent criticisms about the silliness or ridiculousness or whateverness about the Oscars, but I can’t help but love it.  Every year, I watch the pre-pre-show and the pre-show and the show with my mom; we have snacks and get fancy beverages and generally make a little party of the whole thing.  I always look forward to it, even if I’m not crazy about the nominees or the films.

Why? You may ask.  I’m not sure, except I’ve never wanted to be a princess, but I have wanted to me a movie star.  Even now, though I have given up on acting (except for a fun hobby), I still think it might be fun to get all dolled up for a big event.  And who knows, I still write a lot, and I have written screenplays.  Some day, I might win an Oscar yet.

Saturday Snow Day Sunday, Feb 25 2007 

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Well, a goodly amount of snow dropped overnight, with the promise of more to come in the next 36 hours.  Being on a lake has magnified the wind that has been kicking up, so I can’t tell if we’re getting new snow, or just blowing last night’s around.  I signed up to take a practice GRE this morning (free – sponsored by the Alumni association), but when I saw how much snow had already fallen, I assessed my chances.  They weren’t good.  I live far off campus, and I would have to take 2 buses to get to the test.  Even we hardy Midwesterners lose efficiency after a moderate snowfall.  I envisioned missing my transfer and standing, out in the cold, waiting for Godot’s bus.

I tried to go back to sleep, but it was too late – I was awake for the duration.  So I made a cup of coffee, a little breakfast, and watched some TV.  For some reason, there were a lot of romantic comedies on, which seemed to poke at me and my wounded heart with a pointy stick.  So I gave that a pass, too.

I’m a little adrift (pardon the pun).  It is not fit for going out (at least, not if you don’t have to).  I don’t want to watch TV.  And now I’ve become too restless for studying and too apathetic for cleaning.  It would have been much easier for me if it hadn’t snowed.  I would have gone, taken the practice test, and maybe noodled around downtown.  Then again, life would have been easier for me if…I had decided what I wanted to do with my life 10 years ago…He had wanted to get married…blah blah blah.  Pick your poison.  The problem with that kind of thinking is that there is no end to how far you can go back.  And what the hell have you learned?  Nothing.

In my Romance Philology class, the professor has been debunking the substratum theory to describe sound changes.  This is a little dorky, but work with me here.  The substratum theory posits that sound changes in the language occur due to the influence of another prevalent, but now dead language in that area.  It’s because of the Celts, or the Etruscans or who know who else.  In theory, it makes sense, but when you prove it, it falls apart.  No one knows what celtic languages in Europe sounded like 1000 years ago.  No one knows what Etruscan sounded like.  And the kicker is that most of these sound changes happen pretty regularly all over.  You don’t need a substratum argument – these changes happen because these changes are likely to happen. 

What is the point of me blabbing about the substratum argument?  Other than I think sound changes are groovy to think about, it makes me think about my life; and by extention, the lives of others.  A good number of us after something goes awry, and say if only…whatever.  But the things that go awry are the things that go awry most of the time.  Twenty-two year olds that have been in school since they were 4 tend to have little perspective on what having a career is going to be like.  Their interests change, especially if they have a lot of them.  People don’t change tracks, because risk is scary – they might hold off on change until it is absolutely the only reasonable option.  Different people need different things out of life.  A single woman in her thirties may have different goals than a divorced man in his forties.  And you can’t really know that until you get to the point where that choice needs to be made.  Stay or go?  Marriage and children or splitting up?  You can’t make these decisions early on, you have to wait, sadly, until they hurt like hell to make them.  And lastly, in the upper Midwest, snow in February is likely to happen.  If it snows a lot, your plans will probably change.  Just like unvoiced stops in between vowels.  It’s just gonna happen.

A cold wind blows Saturday, Feb 24 2007 

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The alluring breeze of spring that blew through my corner of the Midwest has been pushed aside by an impending snowstorm.  They are saying 10-14 inches of snow over the weekend.  The old, gray, dingy crap hasn’t even finished melting.  Time to bring out the boots again.

In a proactive step, I figured I go grocery shopping today, before everything hit.  I was not the only one with such a plan.  But it is done, and I’m glad of it.  However, I keep forgetting that I signed up for a free practice GRE exam this Saturday.  During semester break, I was very diligent in practicing – especially the math, at which I am extremely rusty (despite propaganda to the contrary, I have never used algebra in “the real world”).  But once the semester started, the preparation has taken a backseat to the task at hand.  Additionally, the now ex-boyfriend was helping me refresh my math skills.  Now that we are not together (and not talking, although that was my idea to preserve my sanity and dignity), I just don’t feel like working on it.  I haven’t cracked the math notebook.  It seems a little silly to get all maudlin about high school level geometry, but that’s where I stand.

Speaking of the ex (who I have nothing but good things to say, except he has ruined me by curing me of my cynicism – now I’m alone in the big, cold world without my hard outer shell to protect me), I’m feeling a little glum right now.  About this time on a Friday night, we’d be getting dinner ready, and talking about how our respective days went.  Nothing fancy, I just miss that.  I miss the nightly phone calls when we couldn’t see each other.  I miss the goofy little e-mails.  And I hate that I got an A on an exam last week, and I couldn’t share it with him.  He’s always been my biggest cheerleader about going back to school, and I miss his support.  I realize that he still wishes me well (just like I do him), but it isn’t the same.

I’ve gotten all teary-eyed.  Damn, I hope I don’t do that during the practice test tomorrow.

Is it better to look young than to feel young? Friday, Feb 23 2007 

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I feel beat today.  I had a goodly amount of homework due today.  Last night, instead of posting a marginally entertaining (at least to me) post, I slaved over a cold paper.  Extracting words was a chore.  It was only a four page paper; so it was a sprint, not a marathon.  However, I feel like I crawled the last 10 miles of an Ironman triathalon.  I was so tired, I didn’t even like proofreading my paper, which to me violates my entire code for school and writing.

All I can guarantee is that the paper is

  1. Four pages
  2. In French
  3. On the subject of the novella Ourika.

And after I printed this miracle of miracles?  I needed to read another 20 pages before my head could hit the pillow.  At this stage in my life (almost, but not quite, middle-age), I really need at least 7 hours sleep.  Eight is better.  Sure, this means I almost never get to watch The Daily Show, not to mention The Colbert Report; but actually being alert in class seems to pay off.

 I am disappointed in myself, however.  I started this paper last week, so I would have to toss something together at the last minute.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  It drove me crazy.  I was blocked, and only sheer grit allowed me to finish it.  I just don’t like handing in half-assed work.  I will feel this keenly.  I worry the grammar is a shambles.

An interesting thing happened, though.  I was talking with some classmates (I was on the horns of a girl/woman word choice dilemna, but I chose to temporarily sidestep the issue), and we were talking about the paper.  I said that I usually didn’t have problems with literary analysis papers, having had my fill of them the first time I went to college.  As the conversation progressed, I truthfully answered their questions on when I had graduated and how old I was (which for now, I’ll keep off the internet).  They seemed genuinely surprised at my real age.  As to the extent, sure they may have been snowing me a bit.  But it does give me cause to think.  All this time, I have been assuming that I’ve been exuding an “old” aura about my person, and that all the young students could sense it (just like dogs can smell fear).

I do wonder if a lifetime of looking young for my age as delayed certain “adult” milestones in my life; if I have assumed I have more time for these things than I actually do.  Has my exterior given me a false sense of security, and because of this, I risk infertility, spending the last half of my life alone, and most troubling, spending it poor (due to slipshod financial planning).  Am I a real life Dorian Gray (I have no painting to give me away, and I’m not really a debauched shell of a person, but metaphorically)?

I may look young to others, but today I feel damn old.  My back hurts from hunching over the computer.

The sticky residue of bad dreams Wednesday, Feb 21 2007 

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I have a problem with bad dreams.  It isn’t so much that I have them more frequently than others, or that I’m subject to night terrors; I’m not even talking about nightmares, per se.  It seems that my bad dreams leave a sort of malaise that clings to me the rest of the day.  I don’t often remember my dreams – I wonder if those unexplainable, undefinable moods I get in from time to time are merely hangovers from unpleasant dreams I can never remember.  In today’s case, it was a bad dream.  What it was wasn’t important – dreams don’t fare well in the retelling – but it had to do with my broken marriage.  I’ve never been married before; I’ve historically been fairly tepid on the whole notion, until recently.  However, my last relationship changed my mind on that.  I found myself wanting to get married, to have kids (difficult while working toward a Ph.D., but certainly doable), to start a life with this man.  But, in one of those ironic kicks in the pants that make literature shiver with delight, he did not.  So, we broke up recently.  Clearly, one doesn’t need to be a mental health professional to parse these dream.

I haven’t been handling this with the dignity and aplomb I pretend I have.  I cry a lot, and I have a constant lump in my throat that feels roughly like I have tried to swallow a horse pill, but failed.  I’m easily distracted, and while my work hasn’t suffered, it could if I let myself wallow.  So I keep trying to swallow down that lump, and try not to think about it.  Needless to say (although I will say it), everything reminds me of what I’m not trying to think about.  Being at school tends to make me feel more isolated, since I’m at a completely different emotional stage than most of my fellow students.  Not that breaking up and feeling like crap is one demographic’s exclusive province, but that breaking up now has a certain significance it did not 10 or 15 years ago.

When you’re in your twenties and you break up with someone, after the initial “this sucks” portion of the grieving process, you still have the sense that life is still just around the corner.  Now, in my thirties, I get the feeling that there are decisions in my life that I may never be able to undo.  Maybe I won’t find someone else I’ll want to make that kind of commitment to.  Lord knows it took me long enough to find one man.  The fact is, I don’t want to be married and have kids to complete some sort of societal destiny.  It was always conditional – I wanted to get married and have children because I wanted them with him.  The cliché is that time heals all wounds; but ultimately, do I have that time to spare?  Quite frankly, I can’t help but feel that I’m all done with the pursuit of finding someone I want to make a life with.  Spoiled?  Childish?  I won’t argue with you if you make that case; but if I can’t even get through the day without crying a little, I’m going to make a wild guess and say that romantic optimism should not be left to me.

I guess my subconscious gets the final word for now.  Damn me and my subsconscious.  Needy bitches.

Now to finish with the procrastination and write that paper for my Modern French Lit class.  I’m writing about a novella, Ourika.  Ourika is saved from a life of slavery in Senegal, raised in the upper eschelons of French society, and wastes away to her death in a convent, once she realizes that she is destined to be alone, due to divisions of race and class.  Makes me sound like a bit of a whiner, no?  Maybe Ourika should kick my ass.  Although, considering the progress I’ve made on this paper so far, maybe she has already.

Getting all Naomi Campbell on someone’s ass Monday, Feb 19 2007 

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I feel compelled to write a screed on my contempt for cell phones.  Not an original thought, I know, but due to my status as a campus oldster, I am more acutely aware of the menace the rotten little things have become.

 Back in my day (cue sepia toned file footage and a jaunty rag), no one but drug lords had cell phones.  They were the size of…well, quite frankly I can’t think of anything that size, as electronic things keep getting smaller.  We waited until we got home until we called someone.  If we weren’t home – the answering machine took the message.  O, those halcyon days.  Apparently you can’t ask anyone to spend more than five minutes off the phone.

 Cell phone infractions I have encountered recently:

  1. Endless babble by the girl sitting behind me in lecture about how her “phone is dying.”  It seems as though charging the phone takes an act of intellectual prowess which she is incapable of performing.
  2. Talking while walking – slowing one’s pace and meandering all over a densely packed sidewalk.
  3. Phone going off in lecture – this happens so often, it is more notable when it doesn’t happen.
  4. Texting someone throughout lecture – the last time this happened, I thought the constant tap-tap-tapping of phone keys was going to drive me homicidal.

I’m not a Luddite, I do have a cell phone (although it spends more of its time turned off than turned on).  I just don’t understand the attraction of being attached to it.  I like going out and about, I prefer to be unreachable sometimes.

 I’m not that all het up on phones today, I’m more annoyed with the girl from item #1 on my list.  She and her little chum gab on and on before class on their tedious topics.  Which they have every right to do, but they like to announce everything, as though they would like everyone in class to know every insipid detail of their lives.  I’m just not that interested.  I wasn’t that interested in teen-aged binge drinkers when I was one, and my interest has only decreased.  Of course, if that were all, I wouldn’t even bother to kvetch.  They feel the need to continue the conversation well into lecture.

 I have a funny thing about lectures:  even if I’m not particularly engrossed, I don’t like to be disturbed during them.  Tuition is expensive, and the idea that I might have paid good money to hear the non-germane prattlings of others bothers me.  I was like that in the good old days (cue Charleston music).

Speaking the good old days, I have been thinking about “Frying Pan.”  Frying Pan was the not-so-affectionate name my friend Nicole and I gave to a woman in our English classes.  Frying Pan (so called because that was the item with which we longed to hit her), specialized in rephrasing what the professor had just said, and passing it off as one of her own deep comments in discussion.  Now you can stand up for old Frying Pan, and you might as well, because I won’t.  She wasn’t paraphrasing to make sure she got the gist of what was being said.  She did it merely to suck up.

Now here I am, like Frying Pan, a non-traditional student in a roomful of wise-ass punks.  Have I acquired new-found sympathy for her?  Absolutely not.  I suppose that doesn’t speak well for my character.  I’m in a pissy enough mood not to care.

Why bother? Monday, Feb 19 2007 

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I remember, back in the day before everyone yammered on endlessly about blogs, coming across one written by some guy (I believe he was from Iowa).  This guy’s blog focused entirely on the topic of…pudding.  Now, I enjoy pudding as much as the next gal, but really?  Just about pudding?  And the kicker was that it wasn’t about how to make pudding, which could be considered slightly useful.  No, it was an inventory on pudding he had eaten, and his enjoyment level of these puddings.

Why bring up this Pudding Putz?  As an example on why I have avoided starting a blog.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, and I am fairly certain that I am soooo clever; but who would read it?

 While I am at sea as to who would enjoy musing on puddings some guy has eaten, I’m confident that those of us who are older than the other students; if they are anything like me, feel a little isolated.  Maybe we feel a little strange trying to make friends with our classmates, maybe our friends are having a little difficulty remembering what it was like to study for a mid-term.  Maybe our friends are feeling a little resentful at being left behind (I have been fortunate not to have this happen, but I’m sure it’s common enough).  At any rate, I might be the only one interested in my blabbings, but if the rest of you have something to say, this might be the place for you to say it.  I welcome the input.