The Sleep of Reason Produces Bears

It is 9:18 a.m. and I am awake.

This is practically a record, for the summer at least: summer nights are for staying up into the wee hours, and summer days are for sleeping until noon and then deciding upon awakening whether to eat breakfast or lunch.

What happened was that I fell asleep at midnight, and then woke up at 9:18 from a nightmare about a grizzly bear massacring people first in a city, and then a team of scientists in a high school gym.  Just as I was running from it, trying to get to the roof of the school, because somehow that was the only safe place, I woke up.  Or rather, I became aware that I was dreaming, and that if I wanted to wake up, I could.  And believe it or not, I considered staying in the nightmare.  Because I wanted to see how the story ended.

Do you ever feel like that about nightmares?  That while they’re terrifying and often torturous, they’re also fascinating?  It’s amazing what our brains can come up with as we sleep.

The other point I want to make is that I dream about bloodthirsty bears an awful lot.  Or rather, I don’t have nightmares an awful lot, but when I do, they’re often about bloodthirsty bears.  Even when I was little.  For whatever deeply buried, subconscious reason, bears are my bogeyman.

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The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, by Francisco Goya

When I woke up from this lapse of reason, my nightstand lamp was on.  I distinctly remember turning if off before I fell asleep, so I like to think that when things got particularly grim in the nightmare, I half woke up and turned it on.  Just for the comfort that a bit of light provides.  Either that, or some passing ghost took pity on me.

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Awards

The reason why–in the midst of scrambling for meaning in To the Lighthouse, scrambling to find a job, and scrambling for enough sleep to get me (upright) through the next day–I keep plodding on, is because amazing things seem to keep happening, despite my frazzled mental state.

I am receiving three awards from the University of Minnesota, Morris:

Outstanding English Major

Curtis H. Larson (which means I’ll be my class’s student commencement speaker)

Allen W. Edson (for total contribution to campus life)

I’m humbled and excited and so, so happy that the school I adore seems to love me back.

What Went Down

I want to talk to you about Wednesday and Thursday, as I’ve been building up those two days since the dawn of time (or since last week, at least).

Wednesday was my senior seminar presentation.  Basically, having cut down my twelve page research paper about fortune’s role in Pandosto down to eight pages, I proceeded to read those eight pages to an audience of professors, classmates, friends, and (bless them) my parents.  It sounds boring, doesn’t it, to read an eight page literary analysis to a crowd of people (many of whom were not, nor had any desire to be, English majors)?  Well, it sort of was, but I tried to use everything that I learned in high school speech.  I stood up straight, I used my clearest, loudest voice, and I tried to put feeling into my words.  I care a great deal about my topic, and I viewed my presentation as a chance to make the audience care as well, at least a little bit.

My legs were shaking for the first few pages, but then I began to enjoy myself (as I always do), and when I would look up from the page, I would see my advisor listening carefully in the back, or my friend Ben grinning, or my Dad enduring nobly.  It felt a great deal like my birthday party in that I felt supported and celebrated and (I’ll admit only to you) a tad teary.  Then there was applause, and it was over.

A few days later, I got an email from my professor containing my presentation rubric: I got a 99%.  The 1% deduction, she explained, was because I had pronounced a word wrong.  I’m not overly upset about that one, however, as it was spelled strangely in the citation I read it from, and thus I didn’t recognize it to be the word it actually was, and thus pronounced it the way I saw it, and not the way I knew the word it actually was should be pronounced (whew).

Thursday was my Teach for America final interview.  I’m not going to go into detail about this one, as we’re under an oath of confidentiality, but I think I can tell you that I rocked it.  That sounds arrogant.  I know it does.  But honestly, there’s no other way to describe how well I feel I did.  Despite having gotten five hours of sleep both Tuesday night and Wednesday night, and despite having had to navigate to/through Minneapolis at the crack of dawn, I was at the absolute top of my game.  I was confident and energetic in every step of the interview, and am now even more convinced that Teach for America is what I want to be doing a year from now.  I won’t find out until early January if I got into the corps.  If I got in, further, the same email will also tell me which region I’ll be teaching in, and which grade/subject I’ll be teaching.

It’s a long wait, but I’m not anxious about the results.  I’ve done my best, and have sought to represent myself accurately and positively throughout the admissions process.  It’s nice to know that if I don’t make the cut, then there must be a qualification or trait that I don’t possess.  It won’t be because I didn’t perform as well as I could have.

Those were the “biggies,” if you will.  I still have one five-page and one ten-page paper to write, my senior seminar paper to turn in (after some fairly minor editing), and two final exams to take.

I also want to mention that I’ve noticed more and more people have been following my blog lately.  Thank you!  I get excited with every single new follow I see, and I encourage you to comment on a post if you have a question/opinion or want to say hi.

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.

Second Snow

I’ve been grinning like a fool all morning, ever since I opened my eyes at 8:15, when my alarm sounded.  I didn’t get out of bed right away; my legs were curled perfectly under mounds of blankets, and my arms inside my sweatshirt and my toes inside my thick socks were warm.  But I knew right away what had happened.

A trip out to the hall window confirmed it.

Snow changes everything.  Even our gravel alley lined with garbage cans looks sufficiently magical.

I was stopped by two trains on my walk to campus, but how could I care with slush at my feet and heavy clouds hanging promisingly above my head?

And then, and then, I walked into work.  Sharon handed me, as she does every few mornings, signs to be posted on specific classroom doors.  The signs announce that a class has been cancelled, and I always imagine this task of mine to be a noble one, for what other announcement causes so much joy amongst students?  But on this particular day, as I posted the signs, I read them: “Cancelled: Latin American History, 2:00-3:40.”  It was my class.  My only class for today has been cancelled.

I suspect I don’t have to tell you that I squealed with delight and jumped up and down and bounded outside to make a snow angel, and then wasn’t even disappointed that there’s not quite enough ground coverage for that kind of joyful expression.

I still have a paper to write today, friends, but Thursday has come through again.

Story Departing

Besides pitching our platform to so very many fine people, guess what I did today?

I finally turned in the darn story.

12 pages long.

Officially the longest (by far) story I’ve ever written.  Actually, the longest anything I’ve ever written.

I have yet to reach the 20 page research paper stage of college, but oh my, it’s coming.

Now to bed.  I really should start studying for Friday’s quiz, but sleep is much more important; I’m still recovering from Monday’s almost-all-nighter, and it’s difficult to be charming and persuasive whilst campaigning when one is only half-conscious.

P.S. Hunger Games premiere tomorrow night (technically Friday morning).  Who’s excited?