Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Adulthood--Here I Come

By a lot of accounts, I am an adult: I can vote. I can get a drink with dinner. I could go into the military if I wanted to. I could get married if the opportunity presented itself.
By my own account. I'm about half of an adult: I have a part time job (and, trust me, it's very near a miracle). I am still working towards paying my own bills and the parentals still pay all my rent. I spend most of my time doing school things.
As of this moment, the school things dominating my time are trying to figure out if the plan I've had for the past six months is actually going to work out in the end. Just a pro-tip, it's really hard to get into English classes at Western if you're not an English major. Being a Creative Writing minor, I now have to worry about whether or not I'm going to be able to get into the classes I need. Luckily, Western's professors have been historically wonderful about helping me out when they can so, for now, I just have my fingers crossed that something works out.
Don't worry, Mom, I'm registered for a full schedule. I'm just hoping my classes change over the next two weeks.
This is what I find crazy, though: up until classes start and even for five days after they start, your schedule could change completely. I remember last September there was one day where my roommate walked into her room then came out a few hours later and announced "I'm adding a French minor to my coursework." In college, it seems like things can change in the blink of an eye. I'm sure life has its own curve balls but at least I won't be changing the classes I'm taking every ten weeks. 
Before coming to college and while I've been attending school, I've heard a lot about how "you'll never be in the same place with as many of the same-age people doing roughly the same thing as you are than in college". True and, I admit, it is nice to have a standard set of questions to ask anyone I run into on campus:
  1. What's your name?
  2. What's your year?
  3. (if they are an underclassman) How are GURs going? Do you know what you'll major in?
  4. (if they are an upperclassman) What is your major? How is that going? Do you have a minor?
  5. (if they have a minor) What's your minor?
  6. (if they happen to have some departmental overlap) Have you had Professor X or Y? What did you think? I've heard a lot about Professor Z and I'm taking my first class with them this quarter. 
  7. (if they happen to have no departmental overlap) What kinds of things are you interested in within your major? What drew you to those?
  8. Do you have post-graduation plans yet? 
...I could probably go on but then I'll spoil all of my scintillating small talk questions and, really, who wants that?
Back to what I was saying, it's nice to have all of these cards to play. But I usually want something more than their academics because, let's face it, no one is just their academics. 
I don't feel like nearly enough of my life is explained when I tell people: "Oh, yeah, I'm a Linguistics major with minors in Creative Writing and Spanish." Sure, it gives a pretty good idea of the fact that I like to think about languages but it doesn't tell you anything about why or what else I like to do.
This is all a very long winded way of saying that I am very much looking forward to graduation this spring. I'm almost chomping at the bit to see what the world outside school is even like. May I point out that I have been in school for sixteen years? Sixteen years. I have no idea what the real world is like but I know I'm getting bored of this one.
I started hitting this wall probably halfway through sophomore year, this wall of "Wait, shouldn't there be something else that I'm doing?" and I'm just about to start senior year now. I'm an intelligent, attractive twenty-something with dreams of traveling the world, and finding the perfect street side cafes in which to write my novels and ordering chai tea after chai tea. I want to learn how to weld or woodwork or both. I wonder what boxing is like. Could I run a marathon? Could I walk the Pacific Crest Trail? This seems like a prime time to be exploring everything I want to explore and, yet, I'm going to be sitting behind various school desks until June...

T-minus ten months to being a real adult.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Day Alone with Granita and a Good Book

Day 1.

Day 2.

Day 1.

Day 2.

Day 1.

Day 2.

Day Off.

And repeat.

This has been my schedule since August 3. To quote a few of my coworkers, "I have no concept of what day it is anymore, I just know whether it's a day 1 or day 2." For two weeks now, I've been on staff to help incoming freshman understand the ins and outs of Western's academics as well as assist them in planning their schedule for the first quarter. Thus far, it's been equal parts rewarding and exhausting--especially since we only get one day off a week.
The Sunday night before work started, I was a bridesmaid my childhood best friend's wedding in Salem. Many thanks and thousands of boxes of Good and Plentys are owed to my father for making sure I was back home in time to get to work that first Monday morning. This past Sunday was one of my roommate's birthdays, so of course we had to celebrate.
Yesterday, however, was probably my favorite August Sunday so far.
This past spring, I found a book called "I Hunt Killers" by Barry Lyga at my local library. I devoured the thing. It was the kind of book where, when I went back to the library to pick up reading material for a trip in June, I picked up the sequel, "Game", without a second thought. Similarly to the first book, I ate up the second within 48 hours of starting it--maybe less. My brother, who was on the trip with me, was so entertained/distracted/intrigued by my outbursts at the book that the series ended up being most of the dinner conversation one night.
It's dangerous to get me started on the books I'm reading. 
Mid-July, I made another trip back to the library and found the final book of the series, "Blood of My Blood" as well as five other books. I told myself that I was going to save the Barry Lyga novel until last and until I had a day to just sit down and read, but then that day didn't come for six weeks. Being an adult and actually taking care of my responsibilities takes a lot of time away from my reading.
Lemon Granita = Success
But, with the impending due date drawing nearer, I decided to make my day off--this past Sunday--a date with this book.
Of course, I'd also been feeling homesick earlier in the week so it turned out to be a date with "Blood of my Blood" and a granita recipe I received from my mother this past Christmas.
The lemony-goodness was so tasty, I could almost believe I was sitting at Old Time Bar, crashing the Saturday morning teacher breakfast. Almost.
I tend to forget how much I enjoy days set aside to do exactly what I want--whether it be read, experiment in the kitchen, or play with my craft supplies--as opposed to the things I should do. Having a Sunday to just wake up lazily then roll over and dive right into a book was amazing. It both reminds me of weekends past and has me looking forward to weekends once I don't have homework to be concerned about doing.
I'm really big on reflection. I think it's important to know how something affected you in the past so you can know whether it's worth investing in or risking in the future. In addition to the multitude of other things I've learned so far this summer, I know that taking a day to just read and stir my slowly freezing granita is as close to a perfect Sunday as yesterday could have been for me. Now if I can just find more time in the near future to relax and do rejuvenating things, I'll be quite happy.
For now, though, I have to pack.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

My Last Day of Being 20

A year ago today, I was busy moving into my current apartment.
Two years ago today, I was chilling at my brother's place in Seattle.
Three years ago today, I don't actually remember where I was.
Honestly, that's kind of weird to be thinking about--where I was a year ago and how far I've come since then. Originally, I was planning on making this a long, semi-philosophical post about this year. But the real point of all of this can be summed up pretty succinctly:

I am proud of all that I've done this year and I am beyond excited to see what I'll accomplish in the coming year.

That said, cheers to being twenty and T-minus 2 hours and 20 minutes to being 21 :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Structured Summer?

Breaking News: I have been looking forward to this summer for months. 

Okay, maybe not the most breaking of news, but hey, still true. This summer has so many things in store. To name a few, this Thursday I'm going to see my favorite comedian; my birthday is next Friday; 4th of July plans is going to be explosive (if you'll pardon the pun); and I am going to be a bridesmaid in my oldest friend's wedding.
Mind you, those are just some of the big events.
And they're actually not the point. 
The real thought that provoked this post is "Wait a second, this will be the first summer ever where I have a place I have to be every day." Never in my life have I experienced this phenomenon. Usually, as soon as school's out, there's a mad dash to see all of my friends one more time and then we all go our separate ways for the summer. A military upbringing and a college lifestyle do not make for a lot of continuity or community in the summertime. Sure, when I was a wee tot, I spent my summers chilling around my family's house. We'd go camping, work on house projects, do pretty much whatever. But there was no structure to it really. Then we moved to Italy and spent our summers traveling. Well, we spent any expendable time we had traveling but, again, no structure in the summertime. Since coming to college, this is the the first summer where it didn't completely make sense for me to go spend the summer with my parents. I already have an apartment here and my parents are going to have a pretty transient summer. That is to say that I don't summer feel like living out of a suitcase enough to join my parents on their five week trip around the northwest corner of the US.
Basically, up until this year, summer has been this weird blob of time where I don't really actually completely have to do anything. 
That is not to say I didn't get things done but nothing was ever required.  
This summer, however, that will not be the case.
For the next six weeks, I will be in class for four hours a day, Monday through Friday. After those six weeks are up, I'm working the summer orientation programs hosted by my university. Besides a few random days off and weekends, my summer just morphed into being like every other part of my year.

My summer has a schedule.

Seriously, I have to be up in time for class at 9 and rested enough to be able to sit through 4 hours of class. Once work starts, my schedule will shift but it'll still exist. 
I have a summer schedule. 
And I'm kind of excited about it. It means that I will actually be doing things this summer. Besides doing classes and eventually working, I want to be better about working on all of my writing projects (which likely means I'll be posting here a lot more) and getting back into running. I have goals and places to be this summer. 
Well, that's one more step on the road to adulthood. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Lessons from a 19 Credit Quarter

Holy cow. It's done. I am officially finished with my first (and hopefully only) 19 credit quarter. On top of that, I managed to swing straight As in all four of my classes. If I ever had any doubt that I'm good at school, this past quarter cleared it right up.
Honestly, I've been trying to sit down and write this post for a week and a half. Even now, I'm thinking about which Netflix flick will claim the next part of my evening. But, after a week and a half of decompression time, it's time to blog.
To kick this off, let me just say that this quarter was crazy. I call it my 19 credit quarter because that's how many credits I was taking officially but, for about half the quarter, I was also taking 2 credits of volunteer training. 19 + 2 = 21. 21 credits...until I was cracking under the pressure and, unfortunately, had to remove my 2 volunteering credits from my schedule. Did you know that someone in the professional college world suggests that students should spend 2 hours doing homework/studying for every 1 hour they spend in the class? 21*2 = 42. While 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything, I was dumbfounded after I did that math. 40 hours a week of homework? Every single week? On top of spending time in class? I get that I'm a student and that school is important. But I am also a human. Humans need time to do other things--like eat and sleep. And, okay, I'll be honest. I wasn't spending 40 hours a week on homework. Nor (after mid-quarter) was I spending 21 hours a week in class. And, let me tell you, things felt much more sane after that.
Contributing to how crazy this quarter felt were all of the surprises that popped up. Whenever I told anyone that I was taking 19 credits, they offered sympathy and/or empathy. For perspective, 15 is the average course load. So 19 credits is a lot, both to those who haven't done it and to those that have. After this quarter, though, 19 credits doesn't feel like such a big deal. Surprise. Now, see above. I'm good at school. I have been since kindergarten. Back then, it was because I loved it. Now, however, I think it's more force of habit. School is what I know, so it's very easy to be good at it. That said, I am surprised that I managed to pull all As. Two 300 level classes, a 400 hundred level and a Spanish language class--not actually an easy combination. It feels like (and maybe sounds like) I'm bragging but I am seriously shocked at this quarter's grades. It makes me wonder what would happen if I enjoyed a higher percentage of the work and applied myself more. Not gonna lie, I did most of my reading for these classes with this or that TV show playing in the background. Except Spanish. Focusing on Spanish anything was too hard with an English audio soundtrack in the background.
But not all surprises were academic. Eventually (perhaps inevitably), most of these surprises became situations that had to be dealt with. For this or that reason, I'm sure that the others involved wouldn't super appreciate the details of those social situations appearing here but I will say that I learned a lot about my friends--both old-ish, brand new and every where in between. I learned a lot about who values me, how they value me, and who is just completely full of it. Pro-tip for anyone who is earnestly interested in being my friend: don't tell me you want to hang out and never pull through on it. It gets really boring to hear. 
On the flip side, however, I would like to say a thing or two to my baby dragon and my live-in cat:
I am dearly pleased to have met and become friends with both of you. It was a much livelier quarter with you two in it and I am grateful for all the cuddles in addition to the experiences. I hope that you are both enjoying your respective summers but, also, hurry back. I miss you.

I guess the concise way of expressing the feeling that this quarter has left me with is, when I look back on this quarter, I can see how much it inspired me to (and sometimes demanded that I) change. Scratch that, not change, but come more into my own. You know that joke "Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she'll conquer the world"? Well, I think I found the shoes. I'm just waiting to put them on. 
Why wait? Because, for the moment, my path is planned: finish college. After that, we'll see what happens :)
I'll tell you a secret, though...I bet I'll try them on a lot more often now. 
Look out, world. I am Robyn. Here me roar.

Monday, May 11, 2015

29 Days Left

Okay, so yesterday I decided to/made the mistake of counting how many days we have left in the quarter. Then I made a list of all the papers/projects/tests that I will end up completing before I turn in my last final. Want to see how crazy it is?
Over the next 29 days (21 of which contain some version of class) I will do the following things: 
  • English Final
  • Morphology and Syntax Paper
  • Morphology and Syntax Wikipedia Project
  • Capítulo 14 examen (Chapter 14 test)
  • Capítulo 15 examen (I trust you to figure it out)
  • Advising labs
  • ASA Final
Suffice it to say that 19 credits is treating me about as well as I had expected: rudely. I'm finally hitting that point in my life when I don't want my life to be revolving around school anymore. Admittedly, that's a bit scary because (like most Western society 20 year olds), I can barely remember a time when my life wasn't dictated by what was happening at school.
But that also drives my curiosity to find out what in the world the world is like when I'm not always thinking about this or that assignment that I have to get done for this or that class. What is the like to go on a trip during the fall but not over Thanksgiving weekend? What is it like to wake up on a Saturday morning and ask yourself what needs to be done around your house before thinking about your homework? Honestly, what is it like to not have homework? What is it like to be working full time and being able to use (most) of that paycheck to fuel my hobbies? What hobbies will I discover when I have the time and energy to explore?
This myriad of questions is just a sampling of the barrage in my head. The point of all of them, though, is that schools is not the end-all-be-all I've been taught to think of it as. This is to say that school has been a big deal all of my life. And I'm smart so getting good grades was more fun than not, doing my homework was better than not, and paying attention in class ensured that teachers didn't scold me in front of everyone. Looking back, I don't actually know how I got through middle and high school. I had a huge list of extracurriculars and still managed to graduate with honors. I know that's not going to happen in college because I've been slowly coming to the realization that getting straights As isn't what I was made to do or should be doing or should be worried about doing. Honestly, I am much more interested in sorting out the social whirlwind I tend to find myself in. Knocking over some of those dominoes will have an affect; maybe it'll be good, maybe it'll be bad but something will happen. Contrast that with studying the word and sentence structure of Native American languages.
Sidebar: That is not to say that I think studying Native American language isn't valuable or worth the time. It's just not what I want to do with my time.
I'm just saying that figuring out my social whirlwind currently feels more valuable to me than spending 19 hours a week sitting about in class. My fingers are super crossed that taking fewer credits for the rest of my college career will help balance out this feeling of "I am so ready to get out of here". And, for those moments when my social life is progressing on a happy and linear path, I would still much rather be spending my time working on my writing endeavors, reading new books, crocheting as many things as I have yarn for, and watching all of my TV shows.
Devoting this much energy to school is taxing and I am so ready for a time in my life when I can devote all of my energy to something besides assigned reading and paper writing.
Here's hoping the rest of this quarter treats me kindly.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What Does Learning Mean to You?

It's about that time of year again, time to be applying to scholarships. The following is my submission to the 2015 Fall CourseHorse Learner's Scholarship, coursehorse.com/scholarship.

The above quote from Mark Twain is one of the most apt ways of wording how I feel about education or, rather, learning.
One misconception that I notice people have about learning is that it always happens in an academic setting, textbook open and pencil in hand. Currently, I am working through my sixteenth year in some sort of academic institution and I can say with perfect certainty that many of the most important lessons I have learned have not been related to my academic studies.
From the moment we are born, we are perceiving and processing the world around us. We start learning practically as soon as we open our eyes and that process never stops. Our first lessons are simple: how to eat, when to sleep, what noises inspire us to laugh (even if we don't understand the concept of "funny" yet). From there we progress to rudimentary communication; children often use their hands to communicate before they can produce speech. As small and fragile as babies are, they find a way to tell the adults around them what they want. They are able to do this because of what they have observed the adults around them doing.
As soon as we are able to communicate with spoken words, the lessons we must learn increase in difficulty: learning "please" and "thank you", learning not to throw temper tantrums when we don't get what we want, learning how to tie our shoes. Most of these lessons are taught to us by those nearest to us, usually our families. In this sense, our families become our first teachers.
I had five first teachers: my mom, my dad, and my three older siblings. I quickly learned about sharing, about playing nice with others, and that my mother's cookies are as close to magic as food can get. I remember sitting at the dinner table as a child and just watching the rest of my family interact with each other. Through those nights of observation, I learned that mild teasing was a form of affection, listening to others would always be appreciated, and lively discussions was a sign of a healthy set of relationships. Obviously, it took me a long while to be able to articulate what the lessons were and what their consequences on my life looked like.
As is the case with most American children, I entered kindergarten at the age of five and was instantly overwhelmed with the new environment. While simple lessons like my ABC's set the foundation for my ability to communicate successfully later in life, being in a classroom with other students gave me one of my first chances to try communicating with relatively unfamiliar people. I learned that I liked people who wanted to run around at recess and follow the rules during class time; I learned what kinds of people I enjoyed people around. As I grew and moved up in school, I continued to learn about the subjects set forward in the curriculum of my classes but I also continued learning about the people I spent time with and, through that, had some of my first realization about the kind of person I wanted to be. As an example, I saw the class bully and didn't want to be mean like that; but I saw the student who brought cupcakes to share on their birthday and wanted to be nice like that.
Once I entered high school, I had a firm understanding of the person I wanted to be and how I wanted to be involved with the world--namely, I was an introvert that just wanted to read, write, and spend time with her few quality friends. However, my school had other plans for me, which resulted in me holding various leadership roles. Through those positions, I learned about my own quiet style of leading.
Referring again to the above quote from Mark Twain, it is worth nothing that many of my high school lessons that have stuck with me were not directly related to the course material. My AP Calc teacher must have taught me about integrals but I remember the speeches he gave to my classmates and me about taking care ourselves once we were on our own. That said, the fact that I always loved walking into my English classes and spent a fair amount of my spare time working on non-academia related fiction stories gave everyone around me a clear idea of my ideal future career path as a writer.
As I work on completing my sixteenth year of schooling, my learning goals are almost equally balanced between academic, professional and social: progressing through the requirements of my major and minors, trying to gain more work experience, and figuring out the best way to navigate my personal relationships, respectively.
Learning, to me, means acquiring the knowledge it takes to be a useful member of society. This can happen in school academically but it is also happening every minute of every day. If someone refuses to learn, they will inevitably become a drain on productive society. My parents always taught all of their children to be intelligent, independent, and innovative. My siblings and I were encouraged to learn because our parents knew learning would give us the tools to achieve our goals while also adding something positive to the world around us. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spring Quarter, Here I Come

I'm always surprised when I start missing elements of previous life stages. People always say that change is good so I tend to think "I've changed, life's changed, shouldn't it be better now?"
Well, yeah, it's true. I am happier in my current life place than I was a year and a half ago or two and a half years ago or four years...you get it. But I do find myself missing things about previous life stages. Having thought about this quite a lot, I think what I miss about these previous stages are the simplicity.
For example, I'm a junior now, which means that getting into certain classes is crucial but also occasionally difficult. It also means that, this quarter, I have to do the thing I always call people crazy for doing and take 19 credits.
Let me say that again:
I'm taking 19 credits.
And those are just my official credits, mind you. I have two extra class hours a week so I can be trained for a volunteer position I'm taking on (fingers crossed) next year. My supervisor wants me to start this quarter. :O We'll see how that goes. And then there's dancing and writing group. Suffice it to say that I am going to be very busy this quarter.
Being that busy is something that I've been nervous about but, also, I'm kind of looking forward to it. It'll be a good challenge. Before this academic year started, I think I underestimated how restless/bored/unsatisfied not having a job/something besides school to do would leave me. Granted, most of my busy will be school related but there's more to be doing now.

Speaking of which, I should get back to my homework. 

Dear friends, your love, support, and understanding will be greatly appreciated this quarter. 
Love, Robyn

Monday, April 6, 2015

Post College Is On the Horizon

Do you want to know a secret? I've been trying to write a new blog post for three months but (for this or that reason) it keeps not happening. So today I'm determined to create a post.
Here we go--
Last night, as I sat at my kitchen counter working on job applications, I looked over to my roommate and said, "Do you realize that, in a year, we will have just started our last quarter of college?" Suffice it to say that we had a mutual freak out moment that this phase of our lives is actually that close to ending. Yes, we still have a calender year with five quarters to get through (this spring quarter is included in that count as is this summer quarter) but that's not really that long.
Well, it is long and it's not.
Right before this school year started, I ran into a dancing friend who was entering her senior year. I asked her if she had any plans for post-college. Her response was something along the lines of, "Graduation is nine months away. If I got pregnant right now, I could have a child by the time I graduate. It's still too far away to really think about." She went on to clarify that she was not planning to get pregnant and that she had a few ideas about what she might do once she had her diploma in hand, but the "it's still nine months away" comment was great for a laugh and to remind me that senior year is about more than graduating.
While I am still a junior, I can feel senior year approaching fast and I'm doing my best not to be terrified of everything that it means. I mean, really, junior year comes with its own set of worries that I'm trying to tackle at the moment. Why take on senior year worries now?
Though, I do admit that one of my favorite pastimes recently is pondering what I might once I'm out in the real world. Here's my list of ideas so far:

  • Author of novels (probably YA fiction) 
  • Flight Attendant
  • Vagabond
  • Something in the marketing/communications field
  • Travel Writer 
For any who don't know, I'm studying Linguistics as my major, Creative Writing as my minor, and am planning to also complete a Spanish language minor. The summation of these are that I'm into language(s). The logic train in my head goes: languages -> cultures -> people -> travel. I'm also a very people-centric person, which is to say that I need to have people in my life pretty constantly. That's probably kind of a ridiculous thing to state verbatim because we, as humans, are social creatures, but I'm a fan of extra clarification so ta-da. Being as mobile as most of these aforementioned ideas would allow me to be is both wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful because I would presumably be in constant contact with lots of different people. Terrifying because I don't know how likely it would be that I'd be in regular contact friends and I care very dearly for my friends.
My dream, pretty much
Again with the obvious statements but being out of college is going to be such a new experience. School has been an integral part of my life since I was five years old. I'm nearly twenty-one years of life on this planet so some quick math leaves us with the fact that I've been school-centric for sixteen years. And I'm still preparing to add one more year to that count before I find a new norm. 
A new norm. Really, that's what graduating is going to mean for me (and what I'm guessing it means for a fair number of my predecessors.) I know there's an ideal that people who attend universities will learn not only their chosen subject matter but also how to adapt, grow, and do both productively, possibly with other people present. I'm also hoping that I have learned how to adapt better than I mastered (or perhaps "mastered") my chosen subject matter. While I am curious about linguistics, love creative writing, and desire to know more about the Spanish language, the skills taught to me in those classes may not always be directly applicable to life in the real world. (No, I don't really consider college to be the 'real world' but it's a good stepping stone). That said being able to adapt to new situations will always serve me well.
In short, it's hard to believe that the college part of my life is so close to being over and I am very curious to see what post-college has in store for me.