Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More Leaps of Faith

When I started my program at the end of August, I had full confidence in my ability to work full-time and attend school full-time.

Pride, my friends, cometh before the fall.

(Yes, Caroline. You were right. I tried to do too much. Please refrain from gloating.)

When the Relief Society presidency of our new ward came to visit my roommates and me on Sunday, they asked what we all did. One of my roommates, after I mentioned my insanely busy schedule, said: "Yep. She works full-time and goes to school full-time. She's Superwoman!"

It's a phrase she has repeated to various new acquaintances, and I cringe every time she says it. Because I'm not. I've been sleep-deprived, apathetic, and unable to shine at my homework assignments in all the ways I've wanted. I've stayed up late to finish papers, awakened early to make sure I had all of my reading done, and spent some of my time in class fiercely battling sleep.

My migraines have proliferated. I've been fighting off colds and the flu far earlier in the semester than I should have to . . . And I knew all along that if anything would fall by the wayside, it would be working full-time.

I handed in my notice today, and both of my bosses took it surprisingly well. (I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop . . .)

But now I find myself in a familiar employment situation: I need part-time work. I don't have anything lined up yet. But I have faith something will come up. Especially since I know this is what I need to do.

Just as the situation is familiar, so is this immense feeling of relief . . .

Friday, September 26, 2008


I don't know how I managed it, but somehow I lost sight of the way I write essays until approximately two hours ago.

This is rather funny, because my preferred methodology actually came as a direct result of learning, my freshman year, one of the ways Petra chose to organize her essays: by jotting ideas on index cards and then arranging the cards to mirror how she would structure her essay. And even funnier: it was not too long that I mentioned, in chatting with Petra, how I still used that particular methodology when organizing essays.

Due on Monday: a seminar paper about House of Leaves. But for a couple of days, I felt I'd hit a roadblock. Until I remembered this method. I spew out an amalgam of ideas, one per index card. And then I spew out a bunch of quotes from the text itself and a couple of analyses of the text.

Then I start playing feng shui with the index cards. Before I know it . . . there's a paper there! Magically appearing. I just have to fill in the blanks . . .

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How I (Unintentionally) Provide Amusement

I should really clean my room more often.

In my last job, my boss liked to give gift certificates to restaurants as gifts--for Administrative Professionals day ("Secretaries Day" is, I don't know if you know, not as politically correct as it once was.), for birthdays, and for any major holidays.

Anyway, last night I remembered I still had two unexpired Pei Wei gift certificates, so I sent a text message to my roommate, asking if she wanted to go out to dinner.

I admit it: I didn't want to cook.

When I arrived home, I started to hunt for the gift certificates. I found one of them easily; it resided in the precise spot on my desk where I remembered placing both of them. But I didn't see the other one.

The hunt was on.

And my floor was--and is, for that matter--completely covered with stuff. Clothes. Notebooks. Books. Boxes. My printer. (I don't have the room to fit it on my desk, and even when my room gets messy, I have a very clear path from my bed to my door. And I've never bumped my printer hard enough to do any particular damage. I just tend to accidentally nudge the tray with my foot sometimes.)

I looked through everything on my desk. Didn't see it. And then, like an anxious little mole, I started digging. Not on the floor. But since my floor is home to such large quantities of clutter, I determined the only way to verify the missing gift certificate was not on the floor was to clear off one corner, thus ensuring it wasn't there, and then shift all of the clutter to that corner.

My roommate came into my room to see if I'd found the gift certificates, and I explained the situation to her. She offered to help search as I told her what I was doing and detailed how I'd looked on my desk four times and under my desk four times . . . how I knew I'd had the gift certificates me with my little brother and I had gone to see Wall-E in Bountiful just a couple of weeks ago (we didn't use them then, because my little brother wrinkled his nose at Asian food, so we ate at Rumbi instead . . .)

Furthermore, I remembered pulling them out of my purse together and setting them both on the desk. As I threw around more objects and more clothing items, I got increasingly frustrated. Yea, verily, I do believe some actual growling may have occurred.

In a precursor to conceding defeat and either just making dinner or just buying dinner, I sat down on my bed, nudged a paper or two on the desk, and saw . . . the remaining gift certificate. It had been sitting on my desk the entire time.

(At this point, I almost complained about turning my room upside down. But then thought better of it, when I realized that I couldn't have maintained my room was right side up--so to speak--to begin with.)

In my defense, I was looking for the yellow of the front side of the gift card cover thingie (I don't know what you'd call it, it's certainly not really an envelope). And the side facing down was white.

I still felt more than a little stupid.

But at least it provided enough laugh therapy for my roommate to last two weeks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Addendum to Previous Post

There was, actually, one additional quirk of mine I was going to mention:

Given the right person and the right circumstances, I can have an entire conversation (that makes sense, no less) quoting Stargate: SG-1 or Gilmore Girls.

It's true; I really am that talented :)

Confuzzled's Quirkiness

I'm doing this because, well, Annie tagged me.

Lest you think I'm some sort of lemming (and if you think I'm some sort of lemming, you obviously don't know me well at all), I found the idea intriguing. I'm not going to tag anyone, because I get far more enjoyment about telling you how I'm quirky. But if you see this and have the urge to follow suit, consider yourself tagged.

And anyway, I'm just a quirky person. So here are six quirks of mine:

1. I think chips and guacamole are one of the ultimate brain foods. If I feel hungry but I know I need to keep studying, I'll smash up a couple of avocados and add some magically miraculous seasoning packet . . . and proceed to eat all of the guacamole while I study.

2. If you've ever seen my bookshelves up close and personal, you already know this. (And if you're Steve, then you've probably exploited this small instance of OCD to drive me crazy. Even though I tried not to be driven crazy . . .) But my books are very specifically arranged from shortest to tallest. (Major B, as I recall, called this a crime because I separated "book families." Not all of the Card is adjacent, nor is all of the Rowling. Nor is all of the Tolkien, for that matter.)

3. Sometimes, when I'm in church and having difficulties paying attention, I make snarky or sarcastic (or snarkastic!) comments. Like the day in one of my old wards when the Sunday School teacher was talking about the story of Rebekah at the well. He asked, "What do we learn from this?" I muttered to my friend: "That to find a husband we should go hang out by the drinking fountain?"

4. Cleaning things is my primary form of procrastination. And at the beginning of this school year, I vowed I would keep my room clean so that I would not be able to engage in this particular form of procrastination. That hasn't worked out so well for me. Right now, I cannot see my bedroom floor.

5. Spending a couple of years in marching band has permanently affected me. Now, whenever I hear music, I find myself automatically adjusting my pace to walk to the beat.

6. In my entire lifetime, I can only think of two times I've walked out of a bookstore empty-handed. It seems like a betrayal to so many good books to not buy them. Also: I like to smell books.

I definitely have more quirks than that, but I'm not going to tell you what they are. Those are for me to know and you to (maybe) find out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Random: An In-Class Interaction between Student and Professor that Made My Whole Yesterday

We were discussing the Rhetorica Ad Herennium, and how it says a person involved in a debate (or really, in a speech of any kind) should order their points--if the points are strong, stronger, strongest, the speaker should order them strongest, strong, stronger.

There's a lady in that class who's probably in her fifties or so, and she annoys me. (Which might be why I found this so humorous) And just to be clear: she doesn't annoy me because she's in her fifties. It's her personality that annoys me. I can't even put an exact finger on why, but her personality in someone the age of twenty would bug me just as much.

Anyway, yesterday, she talked about how many years ago she worked with kids with autism.

"We always wanted to give them choices," she said, "but we always wanted them to choose what we wanted them to choose. So we'd always offer our choice as the second choice, and that was the choice they usually took. Do you think it relates."

"Did anyone ever tell you that you were going to hell for that?" The professor asked. "Did they mention the word 'manipulation' at all?"

If I Had a Camera . . .

That I carried with me everywhere, I would have taken a picture of myself and my friend this morning--because how we were dressed encapsulates, I think, the differences between an MBA student and an English master's student.

Today, he is wearing a suit.

I am wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and flip flops.

The visual would be that much better if there were actually a visual. Sigh . . .

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why I Love My Critical Theory Class

I won't lie: graduate school did, at first, overwhelm me. But as time goes on, I find myself able to settle into a rhythm (albeit an ever-shifting one) balancing school, work, and a sort-of social life. (Give me some credit! I took time to go to a rodeo last weekend!)

As I had suspected, though, it was only a matter of time before I found myself getting acclimated. Before I readjusted to how school life works. Granted, this time around I'm juggling a more demanding job, but I'm back into school mode and it feels good.

Anyway, while I enjoy my Narrative Theory class and I find my Composition Theory class intriguing and frustrating in turns, I adore my Critical Theory class. And it isn't because I particularly adore critical theory.

I love the way this particular professor teaches it.

As I discussed with a couple of fellow students on Monday: when I was taught these theories as an undergraduate student, the professors had the tendency to treat each individual theorist as God. (I'm sorry if you find this blasphemous, but I just can't think of a better way to put it.) They were the Ultimate Experts on their theories, and we should not question them. Because they were brilliant! That's why we learned their theories!

(This by the way, is the line of reasoning people followed. Just to clarify. I didn't particularly subscribe to this line of reasoning.)

Any questions about problems inherent to the theories were quickly disposed in whatever way the professor chose, and class continued on back then. As I said, questioning wasn't an option. Unless you were questioning the methods of applying the theories--and even that, sometimes, was kind of a gray zone.

This professor encourages the questioning. Asks us to reason our way through the arguments if we can . . . and then proceeds to tell us why the argument is faulty. Or not faulty. But usually, why the argument is faulty.

My roommate, I can tell you, still exists in the theorist-as-God paradigm, because last week when I declared Plato to be nuts, she told me: "You can't do that. He's Plato." That's right. He's Plato. He's not God. Just because some people thought his ideas were good or important does not mean I can't question those same ideas.

You can imagine how validated I felt when I went to class the next day, and our professor declared Plato to be completely insane. So far: Plato is starking raving mad, Saussure had kinda a good idea, Aristotle sort of got it . . . but sort of didn't. Right now, we're discussing Descartes. Who is also bonkers.

When it comes to learning, I have always been a questioner. That is one of my fundamental ways of learning. I have sometimes questioned the basic premises of theorists (which some professors found interesting and some found annoying) when I didn't understand how they arrived at their basic premise.

I don't care what anyone says, it's very rare for a basic premise to just exist (voila! basic premise! like magic!) in its own natural right and be so intuitive that it can be proven. I'm sure some of you might be itching to disagree with this statement. Disagree away.

I thrive on disagreement. That's why I like this particular class.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Methods of Procrastination

I already knew myself to be a master of procrastination, but until last night, it had been a while since I reminded myself of it.

Today, I have a paper due by 3 PM. (To be submitted, thank heaven, by e-mail . . . I so dearly love that this particular professor enjoys being in the loop electronically and finds it far more handy and convenient to receive essays, print them off on his paper, scribble notes on them and return them.)

Since I work full-time and I don't exactly have time in the course of my work day to pause long enough to figure out why, exactly, Plato argues that written communication is inferior to spoken communication . . . I knew I needed to do it last night.

So here is the sequence of what I did when I got home.

1. Dropped bag on floor, grabbed laptop, and checked e-mail and Facebook.
2. Ate dinner. While skimming Plato.
3. Returned to room, where I picked up my laptop again. And visited YouTube, where I discovered the trailer for Nick and Norah's Infinite Play List, a movie based on a book recommended by a former roommate.
4. Decided I was in the mood to watch Ewan McGregor sing. Therefore, searched "Moulin Rouge--Elephant Love Medley" . . . and viewed four different incarnations. (I was enriching my linguistic experience! One of the videos was in French!)
5. Hid my head in shame when roommate came home and brought my keys to me, because I'd been so absorbed in thinking about my assignment I'd left them in the door. (Note to self: no more teasing her about the absentminded things she does)
6. Thought Plato might be easier to digest with a side of guacamole and chips. Hoped deliciousness would prompt a wonderful stream of thought and cause me to finish essay in a matter of mere minutes. (Mere minutes=twenty or so)
7. Returned to room. Vowed to knuckle down. Started typing outline of points Plato makes.
8. Got bored and started writing a stream of consciousness about how graduate school is far different than I expect, about how I do and don't wish my fellow students were as smart as me, about how I'm beginning to learn to get creative with my time management.
9. And another visit to YouTube. This time because I felt a spontaneous impulse to watch the Nerdfighters vlog with the Harry Potter song. (You know: "I need Harry Potter like a grindylow needs a water . . . accio, Harry Potter!")
10. Followed by an urge (resisted) to look up my favorite Potter passages.
11. By now, we have reached 10:15, when my thoughts started to congeal, but were still only in a semi-gelatinous state.
12. Which--of course!--could be cemented by eating more chips and guacamole.
13. Other roommate arrives home. Must chat!
14. Already home roommate starts chatting too.
15. 10:40: the thoughts are solidified. But the words aren't coming.
16. Write.
17. Growl at Word 2007, because what's up with the spacing??
18. Figure out spacing.
19. Erase everything I'd written that's formal and review notes again.
20. Write. Get on a roll. Reach conclusion of essay at 12:05 AM.
21. Get stuck. Decide to e-mail to self at office and use ten minutes this morning to finish conclusion.

It's just a good thing I'd already cleaned my room and it's super-tidy. Otherwise, the procrastination list would have been much, much longer. As it was, I resisted vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, and wiping down the mini-blinds. All things, mind you, which need to be done. (Unlike much of what I did to procrastinate yesterday . . . Hmmm . . .)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I Was So Impatient Because . . .?

This winter and spring, as I worked at a job I loathed and (im)patiently waited for letters of acceptance or rejection in order to know when, exactly, I could quit said job, I had a wonderfully idealized vision of what the graduate school experience would be like. (And when I say idealized, please know that I'm in no way, shape, or form exaggerating. I was expecting a large-scale experience that would phenomenally change my life.) I looked forward to the witty talk, the bantering with fellow students, the absorbing of new information, and--of course--me stunning my professors.

In the course of my undergraduate work, I was used to being one of the brightest, most vocal people in the class. The sort of student people think of as consistently intelligent with episodic epiphanies of brilliance. You know, nothing special.

And don't get me wrong: I don't hate graduate school. But I certainly wish someone had managed to completely quash my expectations. You know why? There isn't much witty talk and banter, and I highly doubt I'm stunning my professors. Rather, I'm now the student who is episodically intelligent but otherwise quiet.

As for the absorbing of new information: there is a lot of information involved in taking 3 graduate classes. A lot. Which is probably why we're not all witty and in bantering moods--we're tired from reading and reading and reading some more.

(Incidentally, my Composition Theory professor says that is what graduate students do: they read. And read. And read some more. And, every few hours, they look up from their texts to verify their own existence. Then they continue reading.)

It's interesting for me to think about my expectations for this experience, because they were far off the mark. The funny thing about school is this: junior high teachers attempt to prepare you for your high school workload by telling you that you'll have teachers who act like theirs is the only class. That didn't happen to me so much. High school was like junior high, but with more advanced materials.

Then high school teachers told me that undergraduate professors would act like their class is the only class in the world. And again, I didn't have that experience as an undergraduate. I did my fair share of work, sure, but it didn't seem that any of my professors harbored the delusion they taught the only class I was taking.

The undergraduate professors didn't really give me much feedback about how grad school works. But grad school is finally the point where professors acts like their class is the only class students are taking.

It makes for an interesting work load. I have yet to determine whether the job will or won't fall by the way side. I'm giving it a couple more weeks . . .