Returning to Student Life: Hello, Grad School!

Goodbye, free time.  Hello, higher education.

Last week, I started grad school!  I’m pursuing my Masters in Library and Information Science through the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  My classes are all online, which enables me to do school while continuing to work full time.

All week, people in my life have been asking how it’s been so far.  My reply has usually been a dubious expression and a weird, semi-coherent grunt. I knew that grad school would be a lot of work, but there’s intellectual knowledge and experiential knowledge.  And, boy, am I learning experientially!

It’s not that my classes are anything I can’t handle.  The workload is large, but definitely doable.  The challenge is adjusting to new pressures and a new routine.  Significant portions of my weekends and days off are now spent hunched over my laptop and pouring through textbooks.

As I learn to be a student remotely, I have to learn to be intentional about taking care of daily business.  I’ve taken for granted having time to cook, shop, clean, do laundry, exercise, etc.  I now have to think about when I’m going to get those things accomplished. Continue reading

Top Ten Assigned Reads

In honor of the kiddos and college students hitting the books once more, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a list of the best books I read during my school days.  This was a toughie–being an English major, I could easily make a list as long as my arm.  I was always the weird kid who liked what the teachers made us read.  So while this isn’t a comprehensive list, it’s a smattering of books from high school and college that I loved.

  1. Dracula by Brahm Stoker
  2. Coming Up for Air by George Orwell
  3. Idyls of the King by Tennyson
  4. As You Like It by William Shakespeare
  5. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  7. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  8. The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
  9. Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
  10. The Hidden Hand by E.D.E.N. Southworth

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly link-up hosted at The Broke and the Bookish

Moments of Transition (Writing 101, Day 13)

As I stood in the crowded hallway clutching my trapper-keeper, the writhing in my belly felt less like butterflies and more like a jar of wriggling worms.  I huddled near the haven of my locker, cringing as the unfamiliar bell clanged, longing for the safety of Mrs. Klinke’s fifth grade class.  But the happy days of recess and snack time were gone.  Unfamiliar faces pressed in from all sides.  They all seemed to know each other.  I took a deep breath.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

“All right, girls, is everyone in their bunks?”  I watched as my ten-year-old charges clambered up under sheets.  An occasional fluffy stuffed animal could be seen, clutched tightly to the campers’ chests.  “Lights are going out in five… four… three… two… “ I flipped the switch to a chorus of giggles.  I groped for my flashlight, finding my way to the counselor’s bunk.  Wiggling into my slippery sleeping bag, I pulled out my journal and pen.  Eyelids heavy, I began to recount the day’s adventures, scribbling memories into the wee hours.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

The air felt stale, like plastic and greasy pizza.  The sun had sunk beyond the prairie horizon hours ago.  You couldn’t see them, but plastic packing boxes littered the floor of my new dorm room.  Clothing and books were piled on every free surface.  The endless stream of faces at the door had finally ceased.  Huddled in my lofted bed, I listened as the stranger who I now lived with snored noisily and tried not to think about the way my parents held hands as I watched them from my fourth floor window.  I blinked back tears.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Pushing against the surge of people outside the Tube station, I stepped into the unexpected sunlight.  I thought it always rained here?  A tall clock tower gleamed ahead, proudly surveying the stately streets.  A pang of pleasure surged in my chest.  I would recognize this place anywhere.  After a lifetime of dreaming, I had finally crossed the pond.  My face broke into a silly grin as I stepped in with the crowd.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Hunched slightly from an afternoon of packing apples and harvesting pumpkins, my fingers dart quickly across the laptop keys.  My eyelids feel sluggish, product of too many hours at work and too little sleep, but I continue to write.  In the next room, Dad’s voice orders everyone to be quiet so he can hear the weather report on the news.  Mom calls from the kitchen to make salads for dinner.  I’m about to respond when an unexpected softness brushes my calf and I look down to find my yellow cat, Paco, watching me expectantly.  With a sigh, I hit “save” in my document and reach down to give his head a scratch.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Today’s assignment was to write a series of vignettes.  I chose to capture different times of transition throughout my life, starting with my first day of middle school and ending with the present day.  It’s been a long time since I did any kind of creative writing.  What do you think?

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

In Review: August 2015

In order to help me reflect as a blogger, I’ve been thinking a lot about adopting monthly reviews.  I’ve seen other bloggers pull off the feature effectively.  I feel like it’s a good step towards regularity–it’s a way to look back on my blogging habits and find ways of improving.  It’s also a good way to help me position myself in life.  By reflecting on where I’ve been, I can figure out where I’m going.  Which is one of my primary reasons for blogging.

Each month, I plan on discussing three primary subjects: Blogging, Books, and Life.  At the end of each post, I hope to make some kind of goal for the next month.  So, here we go…

Month in Review blog heading

I. Blogging

Regarding posting, August was a decent month.  My registration for Writing 101 must not have processed, because I never recieved any emails.  Instead of making inquiries, I shrugged it off and went on with life.  I’ve registered for the class this next month instead.  Hopefully, September will bring a new wave of inspiration.

One thing I’m still terrible at is engaging with other bloggers.  I follow many sites that I really enjoy, but only comment on a few of them.  I’ve always been a fairly reserved person in the company of strangers and acquaintances–if I don’t have something to say that contributes something substantial, I usually opt for silence.  This inclination doesn’t do me many favors regarding getting to know the WordPress community.  Hopefully, this month’s Blogging University class will help push me in a more chatty direction.

Something I’m incredibly proud of is that I managed to publish regular On the Shelf reviews!  Over the past few weeks, I covered Fairest by Marissa Meyer, The Silmarillion by Tolkien, and Wildlife by Fiona Wood.  I worked hard to pour thought and substance into these posts–something I hope to continue into next month.

I also started participating in the weekly #WeekedCoffeeShare feature sponsored by Part Time Monster.  These are fun ways to chat about life and generate conversation.  I posted one yesterday about my trip to the Minnesota State Fair and a wedding I attended this past weekend, so definitely check that out.

Slowly, I’m becoming a more organized blogger.  Instead of relying purely on inspired, spur-of-the-moment posts, I’ve been planning ahead, drafting, and keeping a notebook.  I’m reworking my posting schedule for the next few months, which will help me produce the content I want at a pace that will work well with my schedule.  But more on that tomorrow!

II. Books

Some things never change… like my reading habits.  Here are some of the titles I’ve delved into over the past month:

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Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, The Silmarilion by J.R.R. Tolkien, Fairest by Marissa Meyer, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, and the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.  Several of these, such as the Austen novels, were consumed via audiobook.  The rest I read in physical copies.

III. Life

A lot of good things happened this month.  I attended the Global Leadership Summit, a two day conference where some of the world’s best leaders share their wisdom, with my family.  Unexpectedly, I got to see my Austrian friends again before they flew back to Europe.  My older brother and I saw Brandi Carlile live in Minneapolis, which I posted about.  My mom and I took a short vacation on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  We spent some relaxing days wandering the town of Grand Marais and hiking to waterfalls.

I also started attending a Bible study for twenty-somethings in my community.  It’s been a challenging summer for my faith.  For the first time in years, I’m not surrounded by a group of Christians to grow and learn with.  It’s still a bit awkward attending The Calling (that’s the name of the Bible study) since I don’t know anyone well, but with time, I hope to forge friendships.

For the first time in sixteen years, I didn’t go back to school.  I thought this was going to be weird.  I thought I’d get sad and miss it.  My heart still flutters when I pass the school supply section at Target, but I think that’s just because I have a deep love of office products.  I know that in time, I’ll miss classroom learning, assigned reading, and paper writing because I’m a nerd like that.  I’ll definitely miss the thrill of academia and being surrounded by intelligent people who think critically about the world.  Right now, though, I’m still glorying in the freedom of reading whatever I want.  I really enjoy working during the day and not having to deal with assignments and deadlines.

September blogging goals:

  • Stick to my revamped posting schedule
  • Participate in Blogging University’s Writing 101 challenge
  • Follow at least five new blogs
  • Comment on at least three new blogs

How was your August?

Time for some Real Talk.

Hey there.  Amelia here.

At the camp I used to work at, Real Talk is what we call deep, heart-to-heart conversations about things that matter.  This post has been churning around in my head for a long time.  The words have finally formed into coherent sentences.  So let’s just dive on in.

I seem to be in a bit of a slump.  The dog days of summer render me lazy, unproductive, and a bit disheartened.  I’ve lost touch with so many things–my faith, my goals, and even my blog.  I find myself going for days without opening my computer to avoid facing the inevitability of adulthood.

These days, I spend a great deal of time in my head.  My job entails endless hours of field labor, so when I’m not marathoning the Harry Potter series via audiobook (for the tenth time), I find myself asking questions.  Mainly…

What next?

Where?

When?

You see, during the past year, I finally figured out what I want to do with my life.  I feel called to pursue a life of Christian ministry in Europe.  Although I didn’t attend a Christian school, I’ve got plenty of experience under my belt due to three summers working at a Bible camp and heavy involvement with campus ministry.  I spent a semester abroad in Europe a few years back and, ever since, feel a tugging in my heart to go back to serve.  My English degree has made me a good writer and grammarian, has given me a sharp analytical eye, and has shown me that most of the world’s problems can be solved through learning to see things through the eyes of others.  (Or, as Atticus Finch says, walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.)

But I’m still left with questions.

What next?

Where?

When?

Doing ministry in Europe can mean a LOT of things.  Really, it could mean anything.  Teaching.  Translating.  Secretary work.  Counseling.  I’d add more to the list, but the possibilities are so endless that I don’t even know what to write.  Poking around the internet for potential jobs only makes me more frustrated.

I don’t know where to look, but I feel it.  I feel the call to go.  And it’s maddening not knowing where I’ll be going.

What irks me most about the whole situation is that I’m afraid of looking like a failure.  I’m afraid people will look at me and see the stereotypical college grad who lives at home and isn’t going anywhere.  When people ask me what I plan on doing with my life now that school is over, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can be honest with them.  I say, “I want to do ministry in Europe.  What that means and where that will be, I don’t yet know.”  But the responses… I hate the responses.  Most people are polite.  They smile, nod, and wish me the best.  But behind their smiles, I can see the doubt.  “Good luck with that,” their eyes seem to say condescendingly.  “That’s the type of thing people dream about, but never actually do.  You’re not going anywhere.”  It’s downright disheartening.

I’m definitely in a slump… But I’m trying.

I have a job.  Yes, it’s working for my parents.  Yes, it’s below my education level.  But work is work and every bit counts in the face of student loans.

I read.  In addition to marathoning Harry Potter on audiobook, pounding through a 700 page long fantasy novel on my Kindle, and slowly creeping through the copy of The Silmarilion I received for Christmas, I’m currently reading the book Get Wise by Bobb Merrit, pastor of the church I attend with my family.  Based on the book of Proverbs in the Bible, Merrit discusses how to make wise choices.  When I finish, I plan on picking up The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now by Meg Jay.  My older brother read it when he graduated college and gifted me a copy for Christmas.  Talk about relevant books for a season of transition!

I blog.  In fact, to get me out of the WordPress aspect of my current slump, I signed up for Blogging 201 to help give me tasks to work on.  At this point, any kind of goal feels like a valuable one.

I do other things–I pray a lot.  I spend time with family and friends.  I recently saw one of my favorite bands (Rend Collective) live and have tickets to another concert (Brandi Carlile and Iron & Wine) in a few weeks.  I saw an outdoor, in-the-park production of Hamlet the other day.  I go to movies.  I make art.  I try to get enough sleep each night.

My biggest step in the Europe plan has been registering for Urbana, one of the largest Christian student missions conferences in the world.  Taking place every three years in St. Louis, Missouri, it’s a gathering of over 16,000 young people who are interested in missions.  It’s a five-day event spanning from Christmas to New Years, filled with speakers, seminars, worship, and fellowship.  Hundreds of missions organizations come and set up tables.  For a girl interested in dedicating her life to missions in Europe, it’s the perfect place to go.

The problem is… Urbana is in December.  It is currently July.  Which means… I’m stuck where I’m at for five months.  I don’t want to get a full-time real-adult job if I’m going to be gone for such a big period of time.  Plus, I don’t want to lay down too deep of roots.  This means getting my own place, buying a car, etc. are out of the question.  You see, when the opportunity comes to go, I want to be as free as possible.

So I’m living at home.  I’m guaranteed a job through November.  I read, I blog, I pray, I do things.  I wait.  I wonder.  I spend time in my head.

Despite everything, I know that I’ll get there.  If missions in Europe is something I’m called to do and I’m willing to go, there is no way God won’t provide the chance.  But being in the slump, the in-between, the transition is absolutely maddening.

So there you go.  That’s what’s going on in my life at the moment.  Thanks for listening.

Next stop, Blogging 201.

Update

Woah.  You know you’re busy when you completely forget to blog for two weeks.  OOPS.

Life continues to push forward at a steady pace.  During the week, I find myself up to my neck in Shakespeare, Tennyson, and biographical novels.  Hours and hours pass while reading in the library.  I walked out the other day with my arms filled with books–research for my senior seminar is now in swing.  Throughout the day, I flit in and out of classes, giving presentations and crossing things off my to-do list.

This past weekend, I judged my final speech meet for the local high school team.  It’s been a wonderful job to have these past few years.  I’m going to miss critique sheets, judge’s lounge food, and managing speakers that are double-entered, but am ready to be done.  Spring Break aside, it’s been two months since I’ve had a Saturday fully to myself.  I’m tired of waking up before the crack of dawn.

When the day is over, unless I have a student org meeting, I’ve taken to binge watching Downton Abbey (fourth time through!) and playing The Sims 2.  “Treat yo self” has become my new motto.  For the first time in college, I indulge in mochas from the coffee shop and ice cream from the late night on-campus convenience store.

The weeks until graduation continue to pass.  Only 43 days until I finally have my degree!

Hopefully I’ll get better at remembering to post…

TBT: Words from my eighteen-year-old self

This afternoon, I spent some time looking through my very first blog.  (Yes, it still exists.  No, I will not provide a link.)  Most of the time, when I think about that blog, I shake my head in shame at fifteen year old Amelia and ask, “Why did you think that was okay to post on the Internet?”  As I perused all the old posts, however, I found one that stood out.

Four years ago, I was a high school senior.  All I knew about the future was that I was going to Morris in the fall to major in English.  The rest was a mystery.

Here are some words by my eighteen year old self.  Mind you, it’s not a very organized post.  I go off on random tangents.  What can I say?  I was eighteen and hadn’t studied how to write well.  High school writing classes are a joke.

But I think, overall, I hit the nail on the head regarding what it feels like to be on the verge of moving on.  Life moves quickly.  If you don’t take time to capture the little things, you will forget about them.  A lot of what I say continues to resonate.  Because the little things matter and, in no time at all, they will be gone.

Anyways, just read it.  I liked it.  Maybe you will too.

It’s approximately 10:54 P.M. and I just finished watching the movie Morning Glory with my family.

My response:
OH MY GOODNESS.  THE GUY WHO PLAYS RAOUL IN PHANTOM OF THE OPERA IS IN IT.  AND HE HAS SHORT HAIR AND ISN’T UGLY.

Shocker, I know.

Anyways.  I feel like I haven’t offered anything deep and insightful to the world lately.  Every day is just the same old routine.  Get up when the alarm goes off, pedal through another day of classes, and then spend my afternoon and evening twiddling away on the computer and consuming books.  I haven’t written any poetry in ages.  I haven’t hung out with my best friends outside of school since prom.  I can’t even find something better to do than hang out with my family on a Friday night.
I’m not saying that spending time with family isn’t a good thing… it definitely is.  I just feel like I should be savoring my last few weeks of high school, you know?  I should be out raiding WalMart or star tipping.  I should be laughing so hard I’m almost crying.  I should be sitting around a bonfire reminiscing about good times and making vague plans for the future.

But, you know what?  I’m not.

Right now, it’s 10:59 P.M. on Friday, May 13.
I’m sitting on my bed, typing on my mom’s crappy old laptop, thinking about Rachel McAdams and the guy who plays Raoul.  I’m thinking about the purple dress my mom bought me for graduation.  I’m thinking about Le Morte d’Arthur and all the ways Sir Thomas Malory describes knights valiantly slaughtering each other.  I’m thinking about Morris and I’m thinking about what life will be like on my own.  I’m thinking about getting my third perfect score on a College Sociology test in a row.  I’m thinking about the picture of babies in egg cartons I found in a magazine.  I’m thinking about how, yesterday, I was sitting on my phone, and it suddenly goes, “It’s a fez.  I wear a fez now.  Fezzes are cool”, and I was surprised because I forgot that I changed my texting ring tone to this.
I’m thinking all these things and wondering why I don’t just stop my fingers from typing.  I’m wondering why I’m still going on and on and on about things nobody probably cares about.  And if nobody cares… then I’m wondering why I’m still blabbing.

I guess I think of this blog as my life story.  Every month is another chapter.  Every post is another page.  Maybe I keep writing about all the random crap going on because… one day… I’m not going to remember tonight.  I’m not going to remember watching Morning Glory or those three perfect Sociology tests or hearing the Eleventh Doctor’s voice coming from under my butt as I read Le Morte d’Arthur.  Tonight will fade away and blabbing on is the only way I can keep it from getting lost.

It’s like dreams.  When you first wake up,  they’re clear and fresh in your brain.  As the day goes on, reality takes over and the edges become blurred and fuzzy.  You try to tell someone about your dream and find yourself saying, “I remember it was exciting and crazy and didn’t make any sense… but I just can’t figure out what it was.”  The only way to make sure the dream lives past ten o’clock in the morning is by writing it down the second you wake up.

The same can be said for memories.  One day, even a year from now, what is real today isn’t going to be a reality anymore.  In a year, I won’t be a high school senior with only a few short weeks left.  I won’t be living with my parents.  I won’t be sleeping in the bed I’ve always slept in.  I won’t even have this crappy laptop to write on.  These days, these meaningless days where all I do is wake up when the alarm goes off, pedal through classes, and twiddle away time on the Internet will be nothing more than a memory.  They’ll be a reality that has come and gone.

Don’t you get it?  I need to write about my life.  I need to write about seemingly meaningless days.  I need to write about parties and friends and ordinary experiences.  If I don’t, I’ll move on to the next reality and forget.  I’ll wake up and, by ten o’clock, my senior year will be nothing but a fuzzy blur in the land of days gone by.

It’s now 11:18 P.M.  I’m sitting here, typing away on my mom’s old, crappy laptop, covered in the soft, fuzzy blanket my aunt and uncle gave me for Christmas, and thinking about dresses and movies and King Arthur.

Welcome to my life

I’ve become a hermit and I don’t even care

These days, I don’t seem to get out much.  It’s been a month since I moved back into the dorms and it took until tonight for me to actually meet my floor-mates.  I rarely see my friends anymore.

At times, flying solo is a bit lonesome.  I go hours without talking to anyone but myself.  It’s easy to let myself get all sad and mopey about this, but I do my best to remain positive.  When it comes down to it, I don’t really mind.

After all, life continues to steamroll by and I’m moving with it.  Even if there are moments when I wouldn’t mind company, I’m staying busy and thriving.  I’ve been working hard and am ahead on homework.  In the evenings, I’ve got Bible studies, prayer meetings, and worship nights to attend.  Between work and study, I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the library.   I’m organizing a letter-writing program for college students and elderly in the community for a group project.  On Saturdays, I judge speech meets for the local high school team.

Then, there are quiet nights like this one.  The homework is done, library shifts completed, the meetings have been attended and there is only me, my paint, a jar of Nutella, and a Wes Anderson film.

Life, my friends, is good.

 

It’s all acting

When it comes to academics, there are honestly some days where I feel like one big phony.

At this point, it’s all a game.  Go to class, speak up, do the readings, write the papers, give the professors what they want.  It’s funny how the deeper I have gotten in my upper-level courses, the more I know this isn’t what I want to do with my life.  Academia isn’t for me.  I don’t want to be a student anymore.   When I speak up in class, when I write papers, when I look like I’m so on top of things, it’s all an act.  It’s me playing the game to get the grade.

I want to do something meaningful with my life.  I’m sick of sitting around.  I’m sick of playing the game.  There are times when I feel like Rapunzel, trapped in her tower, singing about all the mindless things she does to pass the time.  The parallel isn’t perfect, of course.  I lack magic hair, an emotionally abusive mother figure, and am certainly not trapped in a tower.  But I’m tired of waiting.

I’m so close to graduating.  There’s just a couple of months standing between me and finally getting my degree.  My life is going places–big, exciting, unknown places.

Do I have it in me to play the game for just a few more months?  I sure hope so.

Day of rest

Sundays are the best days of the week.

During the week, I’m constantly on the go.  Pair that with volunteering on Friday night, speech judging on Saturday, and a visit from Mom… Sunday is a well-needed break.

My Sundays start by attending church with my old roommates.  It’s so good to set aside all my cares and rest in God’s presence.  It’s the re-fueling I need to get me through another week.  I love my church.  I’ve gone there all four years of school and it’s beginning to sink in that I have to start afresh come May.

When church is done, I usually make the trek over to the gym.  (I skipped working out today, though, ’cause it was -45 degrees and being outside longer than necessary was not okay.)

Sunday afternoons bring a balance of homework and relaxation.  I usually throw on leggings, a comfy sweater, and spend a few hours in the basement of the library pumping out essay drafts.  Today, I managed to snag the poetry room.  It was absolutely divine.

After all the homework is out of the way, I return to my dorm, make dinner, and spend an evening in introvert paradise.  Tonight, I’ll be snacking on chips and salsa while catching up on episodes of Arrow.  (I tried for an hour to figure out how to livestream the Oscars on my computer… it ended in failure.  I’m pretty cut up about it.)

Yes, I do stay busy on Sundays.  But, overall, it’s the most relaxing day of the week.  I can choose where I go, what I do, and who I’m with.  For once, I have control over my schedule.  It’s wonderful to have at least one day of the week to spend quality time resting.

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Studying in the poetry room. In my happy place.

 

What is your ideal Sunday?