Friday, August 29, 2014

Quiet in the Noisy Swirl

My life this past week turned into a noisy swirl.  I led an ordered life during the summer: in June, I read during the day and attended class in the evening.  In July, I spent carefree days in Williamsburg, reading in the mornings, watching movies during the afternoons, and visiting friends in the evenings.  In August, I spent a lovely week at the beach, finishing a book for my thesis, completing a Rosetta Stone unit, and starting on a cross-stitch sampler.  Then it all changed, and suddenly the noise came back to my head, telling me to read more and do more and that I'm not enough.

This week, I had meetings to go to, appointments to attend, interviews, and events to plan.  Suddenly the rapidly approaching change of seasons started to agitate me; how will I withstand the cold of another winter?  Why are we drinking pumpkin spice lattes in August?  Then I begin to have anxiety about how will I ever learn Spanish and have all these hours been for nothing, because I can't even read children's books without stumbling over at least a few words, and why am I not perfectly fluent yet, and will I ever be? (My perfectionism won't let me appreciate my small accomplishments as I learn more and more words.)  Mostly, I began to panic again about my thesis project and the seeming impossibility of it, and dread that seeps into my bones when I try to imagine writing another thesis.  I know this dread is of the moment, and will dissipate as I read and formulate ideas (better-- will turn into joy! I do love the eighteenth century) but that doesn't stop it from feeling awful now.

So on Wednesday I decided to try to quiet my mind.  I walked up the hill listening to my Frankenstein audiobook, feeling productive (I am loving audiobooks).  I stepped inside the Bayou Bakery, where zydeco music is always playing and the smell of chicory coffee and beignets fills the air.  I ordered a glass of sweet tea and a slice of freshly made blackberry-almond coffee cake, still warm from the oven.  One gooey bite of warm blackberry dispelled most of my worry.  I opened my new book, the one I really didn't need to buy at the beach, but that I felt I needed to buy at the beach, and I began to read.  Then I stopped, because this book is too good and I don't want it to ever end, plus I needed another bite of that warm crunchy coffee-cake top.  With a bit of blackberry, too.  Then I read a bit more, and I think some odd sixth-sense must have led me to this book, or maybe this book-- like the house it's about-- is magic and it knew that I needed it and it placed itself on the shelf just so, that my eye might catch its bright cover.  I'm only twenty-two pages in, but already I think this may be a book I read again and again, like Eat Pray Love or The Alchemist.  I feel comfortable in its pages, even though I'm still new to it.

Then I finished my tea and coffee cake, and I walked further up the hill, listening to Frankenstein, and I bought a pair of crop jeans and I used up the last of a Barnes and Noble gift card on a Spanish children's book full of illustrations and some words I understand and lots of words I don't understand, but have faith that I will learn.  Then I walked home in the warm-but-not-too-warm evening sunshine, and I cleaned up the apartment a bit, which helped my mood considerably.  The noisy swirl inside my head felt calmer; my mind felt clearer.  And even now, as anxiety again tugs at the corners of my thoughts, whispering horrible things about my academic preparedness and the state of my thesis research, I try to remember that my adviser told me not to harden my thoughts, and that I'm on track, and that I have two books ILLed that should arrive at the library anyday, and in the meantime I'm just a short walk from sweet tea and just a few pages from a magical house full of hope.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pumpkin Ale and Research Plans

It's the end of August.  The weather has been shockingly mild this summer, so the air already feels like a Virginia September.  The light quality is changing, too.  I'm noticing the days getting shorter; I see the way the sunbeams slant in the afternoons a bit more richly than in high summer.  I caved; despite saying I would wait until September, I've bought both Woodchuck Fall cider (my favorite) and pumpkin ale.  I even drank a pumpkin ale last night at our back-to-school Pizza/BBQ party that EGSA hosted.  It ended up being a great party-- we got pizza from Pizza Paradiso, everyone mingled, lots of laughter, new faces, old faces.  I still haven't seen a few of my closest friends, as they are spread across the world currently (they don't have class 'til next week, either), so I'm still looking forward to a few joyous reunions.

Today, too, is the first day of classes, so perhaps it's alright that I'm embracing that autumn feeling and those autumn flavors.  I don't technically have a class until next week, but I have spent the past two days on campus, and yesterday I had a meeting with my thesis adviser.  It was a reassuring meeting.  Just after it, I felt very confident in my lack of solid direction, but last night the anxiety started to return a bit.  I know I've been instructed to read, think, and make notes for the next month-- without hardening my thoughts and feelings-- but I want to have hard feelings.  I'd feel so much more secure-- even though I know my adviser is right, and the more reading I do this month, the better my words will be when I do finally start writing.  Looks like I'm going to become very well acquainted with the library this September.  I also want to become familiar with the Library of Congress.  A few of my classmates mentioned getting a reader card there, and I think I will, too.

Plus, I have a bit of personal research to do on some very interesting eighteenth-century personas and the history of science...and I can't wait to dig in!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back-to-School Feeling

Wow.  In the past couple of days, my calendar has really filled up.  Must mean that it's time to go back to school!  I have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR orientation events to attend/organize between now and Tuesday.  I have coffee with a former teacher, an interview (!), brunch with a friend, and more.  Meanwhile, I'm trying not to have a panic attack about my thesis and (what I perceive as) my woeful state of preparedness.  I know once I get into it I'll be fine, but if last semester and this summer were anything to go by, I'm not sure when I will feel into it.  On the other hand, the last paper that I wrote for my adviser was one that I really loved-- and loved writing.  I just need to latch onto what kinds of questions I want to ask of my subject... and why those questions matter.

But, yesterday I had a mini-EGSA meeting with two other board members, which got me kind of got excited about the semester starting up.  It's just nice to see people again.  We have such a good cohort, and I can't wait to make memories together as second years.  So, between the meeting, planning events for the first week of classes, and Pumpkin Spice Latte suddenly showing up in my Twitter newsfeed, I'm beginning to think maybe I'm ready for this autumn after all.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The First Young Love Baby Shower

On Saturday, the girls of Nunes House Flat 5, Spring 2008 reunited at Shea's baby shower.  Yes, one of our own is pregnant!  She's set to have a baby boy in October.  We haven't all four of us been together at the same time since Shea's wedding in 2010.

Shea's mother hosted a lovely shower.  We played three games.  First, we had to identify by feel ten baby items in sealed bags.  The first three items were easy-- a bottle, a pacifier, and a rattle-- but that pretty much exhausted my knowledge of baby items.  In the second game, we taste-tested baby food, trying to guess the flavor by the smell, color, and taste.  I only missed banana; for whatever reason, the banana one tasted too tart to me.  The third game took place as Shea opened her gifts: it was a BINGO game, and we put a sticker on each time she opened an item on our card (such as teddy bear, changing mat, onesie, monitor, bath items, etc.).  I got the last BINGO prize!  Ten dollars to Dunkin Donuts!  So excited.  Shea's mother also put out a lovely lunch for all of the guests, with tuna and chicken salad sandwiches, homemade meatballs, coleslaw, deviled eggs, chicken nuggets, chips with a homemade layer dip, potato salad, and more!  For dessert we had sheet cake and homemade chocolate-covered strawberries.  My favorite touch was the rubber duckies floating in blue punch.

After the shower itself ended and most of the guests took their leave, Shea, Ali, Danielle and I sat out by the pool catching up on life.  We reminisced about England, and about other get-togethers we've had since 2008-- the wedding, a trip to NYC, last year's housewarming party, etc.  We planned for a Christmas get-together after Shea's baby is born, so we can meet him.  The sun set, and more food came out for dinner, then we broke out a board game called Moods.  We played out on the screened in porch, in the warm summer night air.  There was much laughter, and instead of finishing the game at one round, we decided that to win we needed to get around the board two, no three, times.  Danielle and I tied and had a 'tie-breaker' round that elicited even more laughter.

Now, we're all again many miles apart... looking forward to a December reunion.  Young Love!