Trucking

It’s been a shaky day.  I’m overtired and stressed and feel generally that my mental health is hanging by a thread.  I’ve also been struggling to write that darn Woolf paper, and when I went to talk to my professor about it, he was so kind (he told me that he knows that I’m responsible, and that I want my paper to be good, and that he’d give me more time if I needed it) that I almost burst into tears.  I had to make a quick exit and cry in the stairwell because this has been such a hard week, and there are two more hard weeks ahead, and frankly, I don’t see how I can possibly get everything done.

I’m sorry that my last few posts have been so piteous: I know that everything will be fine, and that I’ll manage in the end, as I always have.

It will be another late night tonight, but tomorrow I’ll be attending the UMM Concert Choir’s annual Carol Concert, which is held in the Catholic Church in town, and which is always festive and candlelit and beautiful.  And I’ll probably forget, temporarily, about all the above.

In Which I Learn a Lesson

This afternoon, my friend George and I were sitting in the MCSA office, talking about a couple who had just broken up.

“I don’t mean to be nosy (who was I kidding?  I totally wanted the scoop), but what happened between Clara and Marlon?”  I asked.  “They seemed so happy together!”

“Well, I texted Marlon after it happened, saying that I was sorry and that I’m here to talk if he feels like it, and he replied that he was confused.  Apparently, Clara said she loved him and two hours later she broke up with him,” said George.

Shocked, I wondered aloud what had gone wrong.  “Clara doesn’t seem like the type!” I exclaimed finally, “I don’t know her very well, but I don’t think she would hurt him like that without a good reason.”

We speculated back and forth for some time.  Then lunchtime rolled around and we parted ways.

Tonight is University Register night.  It’s the last issue of the semester, so spirits are high and Peace Tea is flowing like wine.  I went upstairs to use the restroom, and while I washed my hands, I heard someone else clomp up the stairs.  Then I heard sobbing.  And Clara talking, presumably on the phone.  “I feel like everyone is talking about us, and Marlon keeps telling me how sad he is, and I know I did the right thing, but it’s hard!  I just want to go home!”

Drying my hands on a half-ply paper towel, I exited slowly, not wanting Clara to know that I had heard.  She was sitting on the top of the stairs, but stood up quickly as I approached, turning her puffy face toward the wall.  I put my hand on her shoulder and smiled what I hope was an understanding smile, and then went back downstairs to the U.R. office, where Joey was wearing his panda hat, and Zak was grinning, and Sam was toasting with his coffee thermos.  It smelled like pizza rolls and Pine Sol (Miles cleaned).

But as I rejoined the copy-editing minions, I reminded myself, for the thousandth time, to think before I speak, and to reserve speculation for the gold fields.

Marathoning

I needed to write my Virginia Woolf final paper last night, and my friends, I was struck down by apathy.  Otherwise known as senioritis, otherwise known as the senior slide, otherwise known as post-Thanksgiving culture shock.  Suddenly, it all seemed futile: writing papers, doing readings, sitting through lectures, even serving on student government.  How would any of this help me with my life’s work?  I wondered.  How was it relevant, and why was I killing myself with stress and fatigue juggling it all?  Further, why did my intelligence have to be dependent on a literary paper, or a history exam?  Why are we forcing our young people to compete like this, and to stretch themselves so thin that they can hardly breathe?

Giving up, I went to bed at eleven.

I skipped two classes today so that I could stay home and write, but still, I couldn’t come up with a good idea.  A little of the apathy was gone, but the desperation that replaced it was even more paralyzing.

Now, sitting in an empty classroom in the social science building, To the Lighthouse propped open with my cell phone, Mrs. Dalloway marked over with pencil, I finally have an idea that could potentially become a ten page paper.

This is a small gain, however, as there are five more papers ahead.  And two exams. And a senior seminar presentation.  And a job interview.

The worst part about finals, let me tell you, is not the actual work: it’s the anticipation of the work, and of the effects said work will have on your well-being.  It’s knowing that you won’t sleep, will eat whatever’s quick, and will not have any social contact outside of class and the library.  It’s like a marathon:  We prepare ourselves for it, we put ourselves through the intense stress of the actual event, and then when it’s over, we feel triumph, but we also wonder (maybe in the back of our minds) why we ran in the first place, and whether we’re really better for it.

I don’t know, folks, but I’m gearing up at the starting line regardless.

The Hazards of Crafting

We didn’t go Black Friday shopping, per se.  Mom and I patrolled Grand Avenue in St. Paul, where we did some (utterly justifiable, I tell you!) damage at Pottery Barn, Patina, and at Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books (new location).  We may have also made an unrecorded Caribou Coffee stop, and we may have had to return ten minutes after leaving to retrieve mom’s sunglasses.

We swung home in the late afternoon to pick up my sister, who was back from her Target shift.  She’s currently taking an introductory clothing design/construction class at UW Madison, and needed to go to the fabric warehouse to pick up supplies for her final project.

I am not a crafty person, my friends.  There was an embroidery phase in middle school, and a knitting phase in high school, but both were short-lived, and neither produced particularly exemplary results.  To me, then, this scene looked rather bleak, and bordered on terrifying:

 

The labyrinth of fleece.

Tassels the likes of which I’ve never seen. If Quasimodo ever decides to do some remodeling in the belfry, I think these would serve him well.

Taken before being nudged out of the way by a woman who clearly respected the subtle distinction between cotton 111 and cotton 112 (a magnifying glass was produced for color confirmation).

“Why so cheap?” Holly wondered, peering dubiously over the rim of the barrel. The plastic circles glinted ominously, and Holly quickly decided that there must be something buried beneath, something that fed on the fingers of unsuspecting crafters. Just then, her sister Amy thrust her hand into the barrel. “Noooooooooo!” Holly screamed, not pausing even as two women in green smocks dragged her toward the exit.

Why I Will Never Be “Athletic People”

I’ve been watching my mother run races and triathlons for years now.  I arrive with my dad and sister, crusty-eyed and cold in the early morning.  I almost always feel self-conscious amongst all of the “athletic people.”  They flex in their spandex and their calves ripple.  They pinch their bike tires, calloused fingers feeling the subtle swell and fall of the air inside, like a rubber heart beat.  They laugh and smile with their families, but soon, they are determined, and they are focused.  They do not pause, and they only smile again to encourage a fellow racer, and at the moment of their final stride under the balloon-marked finish line.

But this morning, albeit still bleary-eyed and chilled, I ran amongst them.  I ran an entire 5k, with a little bit of walking because I was stupid and ate half of a Lara Bar this morning, and then had to throw it up in the tunnel along the route.  That was gross.  It also made me feel slightly tough.  As in, my stomach is pretending to be Shawn Johnson right now, so I’m simply going to toss my cookies in a corner of a public pathway and continue on my merry way.

Despite the pause, and despite the attained toughness, the last mile was hard.  There were hills, and there were 85-year-old men passing me (humbling and awe-inspiring), and I was sweaty inside my oven of an Under Armour shirt.  But as I rounded the last bend, behind the grocery store, behind the dentist I switched from because he was a little drill happy for my taste, behind the car wash, the crowd came into view.  It was parted, and a narrow path — the path I was on — lay in the middle.  Let me tell you something I learned today: it is difficult to stop and walk when your mother is holding a camera, when people you know are cheering your name and people you don’t are simply cheering.  It is difficult, also, to pick up your pace and hurtle toward the finish with the best form you can muster.  But that’s what I did, because I have a — often deeply-buried — competitive streak.  I also just wanted to finish quickly so that I could stop running.

And so it’s over, and my legs are sore, and my running tights are streaked with vomit, but my friends, I ran a 5K.

Happy Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for bleach and for legs that can carry me farther than I ever thought possible.  And for pie, of which I partook with a relish that surely further deepened the gorge between me and “athletic people.”