Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Rachel Read in 2011

As I did last year, I present you with a list of what I read (outside of school-related reading, that is) this past year.  This year was a little less impressive, books- and pages-wise, than last year, due to school work, but I still managed to break my goal of 10,000 pages.  To help with my commentary this year, I kept a running journal of notes on everything I finished as I finished it.

The Professional, Robert Parker (315 pp.).  Robert Parker is an old favorite mystery author whose books my whole family likes to pass around on vacations, as they tend to be entertaining, quick reads.  This was one of his later ones, and I felt like it had too many plot lines and no clear climax.  I’d like to go back to his older stuff, and read some of the earliest Spenser novels.

Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer (288 pp.).  I put this on my notorious “list” a few years back.  (This “list” is the list I keep of books I see in stores that I want to read, but ration myself one at a time.  I created the list about six years ago, and it continues to grow much faster than it shrinks.  Maybe I’ll reach the end someday, maybe not.  But it’s a fun way to treat myself to something that caught my eye a few years back.)  Because I put in on the list back at the beginning, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, so I was a little surprised by the magical realism feel, but I loved it.  I have notes from just after finishing it that curiously read, “Haunting.  Beautiful.  But not hauntingly beautiful.”

The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, Wizard and Glass, Wolves of the Calla, and Song of Susannah, Stephen King (300, 463, 590, 672, 931, and 544 pp., respectively).  Just about a year ago my friend very nearly insisted that I read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  I’m now about a third of the way into the seventh and final novel, and I’m so glad I read it.  King is such a master story-crafter.  The whole series is sort of his magnum opus, and as a Science Fiction/Fantasy fan, it’s so refreshing to read some that’s not only got a great plot but also reads like well-written literature in parts.  Terrifically scary, as well, but I think that’s a given with King.

The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (576 pp.).  Again, from my notes just after reading: “Too body-oriented?  One of the more depressing things – yet also one of the best-written – I’ve read in a while.  Can I like any of the characters?”

The Knife of Dreams and The Gathering Storm, Robert Jordan (839 and 766 pp., respectively).  I have the bulk of my notes on this series from my reading summary post from last year.  These two read much more easily than all the ones I read last year, in part because all of the plots that the middle books in the series spent time building up are finally unraveling.  It’s exciting to know that there are only two more books (one yet to be published) yet to read in the series.

Wren Journeymage, Sherwood Smith (191 pp.).  This was another LibraryThing early reviewers book (as was the infamous Book I Stopped Reading from last year), so I’ll re-post here my review from the Library Thing site: “This was a very nice, simple read that I think many YA readers would enjoy. I was able to understand most of the plot despite not having read the first three books in the series, and I found the characters well-rounded and pleasant. A bit simplistic (especially the final chapter), but I think YA fiction has to really be extraordinary to escape that, which this, while fun enough, isn't.”

The Road, Cormac McCarthy (304 pp.).  I try not to swear on this blog (although most who know me in person know that I have a vocabulary like a sailor on leave), but this book calls for it: Damn.  (OK, it probably called for something stronger, but I’d like to keep this space relatively polite.)  This was a terrifying, bleak, depressing-as-all-hell book.  I found it to be very well-written (except for the end, which I think was extremely anti-climactic), but wow, was it hard to read.

The Solace of Leaving Early, Haven Kimmel (288 pp.).  Another entry from the list.  More religious than I anticipated, but very skillfully and beautifully done.  Kept me questioning the characters the whole time, but loving them just the same.  Very raw book emotionally, but quite wonderful.

‘Salem’s Lot, Stephen King (427 pp.).  The same friend who’s been keeping me in King all year proposed that I interrupt my reading of the Dark Tower series with this classic vampire story this summer, and I loved it.  So creepy.  So wonderful.  Enhanced my already existent fear of ghost towns.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs (348 pp.).  This was such a delight – one of the few books I’ve actually let myself buy as soon as I see it at the bookstore.  Technically a YA book, but written (and illustrated with some fantastically creepy vintage photographs) well enough to be enjoyed by an adult.  I enjoyed how well-constructed the fantasy world was, and was especially satisfied by the somewhat-unexpected ending.

The Fool’s Girl, Celia Rees (297 pp.).  This was the other book I let myself buy at first sight this year.  It was another YA novel, this one about what happens for the characters in Illyria after Twelfth Night ends.  It was actually more engaging than I expected from the summary or the first few pages.  There were a few key issues strangely ignored – y’know, like the fact that the heroine’s love interest is her cousin – but on the whole, a very good book.

Tortall and Other Lands, Tamora Pierce (379 pp.).  Oh, how I loves my Tammy.  I’ve been reading Tamora Pierce books since I was eleven.  I have an entire shelf on my desk at my mom’s house devoted to all of her books.  I’ve aged out of them very slightly, but I still love her, and loved most of this collection of short stories.  The longer stories were excellent, but I thought some of the shorter ones were totally too short to be satisfying.

The Door to December, Dean Koontz (518 pp.).  Loaned by a friend for some fun thriller reading.  I figured out the twist fairly early on, but it was still highly entertaining and gripping.  Fun read.

The Liminal People, Ayize Jama-Everett (205).  This was one of the most interesting and surprising books I’ve read in a long while.  Jama-Everett (who just so happens to have been my high school counselor!) has constructed an X-Men-esque world of people with super-powers, like the protagonist Taggert, who exist in a constant power struggle among each other.  While there were some character inconsistencies (at some moments, Taggert is purely impulsive and violent, and at others, prone to over-thinking things), I was thoroughly engrossed by the world and mythos created.  This was the first book I’ve read in a long while to which I’d really like to see a sequel – I want to know what happens in this world next!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick (525 pp.).  This was absolutely beautiful, both in its magnificent illustrations, which make up a large portion of the book, and its storytelling.  It actually brought me to tears, which is unusual for a book, especially a YA book, to do.  The movie was beautiful, too, but not as much as the book.  Really wonderful celebration of the visual imagination.

An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears (725 pp.).  Which brings us to the last book I finished this year.  It took me a long time to read it (primarily because of The Quarter That Tried to Eat Me), which made negotiating the multiple narrators a little but difficult, but it was worth it.  Pears did some really interesting things with the use of multiple and conflicting narrators to explore the idea of unreliable narration.  Also a very fun plot.

Ok, so 22 books and 10,489 pages.  It’s not as impressive as last year, but it’s pretty darn good.  I’ve got a good line-up for 2012 (which I can’t believe starts in a paltry seven and some hours!), assuming I can actually get some time to read anything other than what I have to read for my quals! Ha!  Anyway, Happy New Year (and happy reading!) to you and yours!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Quarter That Tried to Eat Me

When I was younger, my dad used to tell me bedtime stories every night.  I didn’t get traditional bedtime stories about Goldilocks or Snow White, though.  No, I got bedtime stories with titles like, “The Banana That Ate San Francisco,” or “The Orange That Ate Chicago.”  I bring this up because the reason I’ve been absent from this blog for four freakin’ months is that this past quarter was The Quarter That Tried to Eat Rachel.

Why was this The Quarter That Tried to Eat Me?  Well, for one thing, I was taking three seminars, rather than the more typical workload of two.  To be fair, I was auditing one of them, but all that really meant practically was that I didn’t write a paper for that course, even though I still did all the reading.  Another way in which this quarter tried to eat me was via my really bright idea to take Old French.  Now, as you can probably tell from the title of my blog and my little bio on the side, I’m a medievalist.  That is, I study medieval English literature.  I can read Middle English (that’s the variety of English that Chaucer wrote in, for example) with only a glossary needed.  I took Old English – which is an entirely different language from Modern English – last year, and had a relatively easy time with it.  Old French, for fluent speakers of Modern French, is not as hard as Old English, but harder than Middle English is for fluent speakers of Modern English.  Which sounded great, until I realized that two quarters of learning how to read Modern French, while a good enough background to make the class possible, was little enough to make it the hardest I’ve had to work in a long while.  I don’t think I’ve felt the kind of relief I felt when I walked out of that final in one piece since I learned that I got into grad school.  The third factor contributing to my near demise at the teeth of this quarter was the fact that it was the first quarter that I was working as a TA, or a teaching assistant.

Now, to clarify: yes, being a TA is a lot of time and work.  There’s keeping up with your students’ reading, lesson planning, and grading, not to mention time spent holding office hours and responding to student e-mails.  That being said, being a TA is my favorite.thing.ever.  I love explaining something a student didn’t understand before, and seeing the moment when it “clicks.”  I love being in front of a classroom and getting the students to engage.  I love listening to some of the ideas the students bring up in discussion or in their papers.  All quarter long, I found that I could be having a really crappy day, but after two hours of leading discussion section, my mood would be drastically improved.  I maintain that this is actually why the quarter, despite its many valiant and toothy attempts, was ultimately unsuccessful at devouring me.

The next two quarters are looming somewhat ominously, if slightly less busy schedule-wise than last quarter, but it’s good to know now that I can survive the process.  My first qualifying exams are in June, and I have somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000-50,000 pages to read for those.  I’ll try to break up the hours upon hours of reading, reading, taking notes, and then reading some more with some short-ish blog posts.  I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Not On Stage

I took myself to see the Glee movie this afternoon.  I’ll start by owning to the fact that I am a complete and total geek.  I went by myself to see a 3D movie of a live concert of a TV show that, just by itself, easily qualifies me for serious geek status.  That’s not the point of this post, though.  The movie interspersed footage of the concert with stories of or brief interviews or clips of fans of the show, primarily teenagers positively affected by the show, which I thought was very sweet.  One particular person, shown for only a short moment, however, was the one who I really related to. 

I’ll pause here to explain a few things about the show – only enough to make this story make sense for those who’ve never seen it.  First of all, one of the central characters of the show is Rachel Berry.  Rachel is, above all else, a performer, and intends to let nothing get in her way of fulfilling her dream and becoming a star on Broadway.  Second of all, this past season, there was a special episode titled “Born This Way” that focused on the students dealing with and embracing those aspects of themselves that they’ve wrestled with, or been unhappy about.  The final musical number, using the eponymous Lady Gaga song, had all the choir members (and their teacher) wearing white t-shirts emblazoned with a word or phrase naming that something that they struggle with.  Unsurprisingly, many of the fans pictured in the movie were wearing similar shirts.  Some of them wore shirts identical to those in the show – “Likes Boys” was particularly popular, although I think it loses most, if not all, of its significance, when it’s worn by a girl, not a teenage boy, as it was on the show; but I digress – but a few were original, and the one that caught my eye and attention was one that read “Not On Stage.”  The wearer was given a few seconds on screen; “In high school, I wanted to be just like Rachel Berry,” she said, “but I’ve now joined the Marines, so I’m not on stage.”  She then saluted the camera, and that was that.

What was unspoken, or at least un-shown in the film, was the thought that, while the Marines might be exactly where she wants to be, not being on stage was a sacrifice she had to make to get there, and, while no-one has to worry about my joining the Marines or any branch of the military in this lifetime, I know exactly how she feels.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Death of Dating?

Quick – what do you think of when you see the phrase “the dating life of the 20-something woman?”  Did you picture fun Friday and Saturday nights spent at the bar and/or club with fellow single ladies, drinking fruity cocktails and flirting and being flirted with by attractive young guys?  Are there lots of laughing, perfect hair, perfect make-up, and fabulous shoes?

Or did you picture a classy young woman meeting an equally classy young man at a similarly classy establishment – say, a hip coffee shop, or a trendy eco-friendly wine bar?  Chatting animatedly about their interests and funny travel stories?  Parting ways with a kiss on the cheek and a genuine “I’ll call you soon,” but without any sense that anyone will be devastated if said call is never made?

Or did you, instead, picture a frustrated, frazzled young woman sitting at home alone, clicking through endless, and endlessly predictable and unimpressive profiles on a dating website, only to go out the next night with her 20-something friends, most of whom are in relationships, missing the guys they want to flirt with, and getting flirted on and felt up by creepers? 

I’ll give you three guesses as to which scenario most closely resembles my own current experience, and the first two don’t count.  (By the way, I’ve never really understood that expression.  Why give the first two chances if they don’t count?  Why not just offer the one, since the correct answer is, when that expression is used, assumed to be painfully obvious?  But this is irrelevant.)  My point here is not to bemoan my current lack of a love life.  That is a topic best saved for late-night, alcohol-fueled conversations with my best friends, preferably held behind closed doors, and it is far too unproductive and unimaginative, and consequently has no place here.  My point here is rather to point to what to I’ve recently observed, both among my friends and my own perception and experience, of the Death of Dating.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bad Habits My Favorite Movies Taught Me

So I was planning to do a post on the end of my first year of graduate school – a post-mortem, if you will. I told myself I’d write it as soon as my papers were in, and then I said I’d write it as soon as I went on vacation back up to my home country, the Yay Area (the SF Bay Area, for the uninformed). And then I said I’d write it as soon as I got back to Santa Barbara, and, well, that was more than two weeks ago. I’m guessing from the fact that I never summoned the motivation to write the post, and that all I had planned for it was the title – Down the Rabbit Hole and out the Other Side – the post was just not meant to be. Suffice it to say that my first year of grad school was everything I needed and wanted it to be. While I’m certainly enjoying my summer off, I also can’t wait for school to start again, to go back to classes with the brilliant professors and fabulous classmates/colleagues, and to continue my studies. But that’s really all I have to say about that, without risking getting trite.

So I’ll switch to the topic of this post, one that I actually feel I have a lot to say about, mostly non-trite: The bad lessons my favorite movies taught me, and my slow process of unlearning them. As an introduction, for those who aren’t part of my inner circle (thought I still have a hard time believing that anyone not in my crazy inner circle is reading this blog) and don’t already know, my two favorite movies are The Wizard of Oz and When Harry Met Sally. Oz has been my favorite movie since I was two years old and my father brought home the 50th-anniversary video. I wore that video tape out by over-playing long ago, and am now the proud owner of the 3-disc Collector’s Edition DVD. When Harry Met Sally was introduced to me my freshman year of high school, and it just sort of took over my head. I tend to watch it when I’m feeling down, and I know most of the dialogue by heart, and not just the famous bits. So how could two such wonderful movies let me down? In the following ways:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mixing It Up, or, The Cheesecake Post

When I was growing up, there were two kinds of cake my mom made for nearly every celebration – a delicious, super-rich chocolate cake, and an equally delicious rum cake, both of which came from newspaper recipes, and involved a box of cake mix.  These were the first two things I learned to bake and they were, for a long time, other than from-the-bag chocolate chip cookies or from-the-box brownies (and also my sister’s favorite butterscotch chip oatmeal cookies) the only things I ever really baked.  But then, back in November, a friend of mine had a birthday party, and since I discovered a while ago that bringing home-made food to a party is a damn good gift, I offered to bake something, asking what flavors in particular he liked.  He told me he was a sucker for chocolate and mint, which sounded easy enough to deal with, and I went on a search for a mint brownie recipe, a search that would, in some totally unexpected ways, lead to a whole new hobby and part of my life.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Grad Student Diet

Let me begin this post by sharing a few anecdotes regarding the feeding habits of the Graduate Student.

Two weeks ago, while my companions and I were on spring break, one of my friends had a birthday.  When I got back to Santa Barbara from the Bay Area, as his birthday present, I made him a cake.  A Southern Comfort red velvet cake, to be exact.  (I've somehow become The Girl Who Bakes With Booze.  I don't really know why, but it's fun.)  The cake, horrifically decorated (it turns out I'm a much better baker than icer) got sent home with my friend after a get-together.  I was overjoyed, and vastly amused, to see him post on Twitter, three days later, that he was eating the last piece of cake for breakfast.

Yesterday was my department's Open House for admitted students.  All the brilliant, lucky future scholars who have been accepted to the program were invited to come visit campus, meet professors and current grad students, and be wooed by the fantastic weather (which, by the way, apparently decided to vanish as soon as the event was over).  Lunch was served to the prospective students, and was offered to current grad students as well, in order to provide a lunch hour for mingling.  Lunch went until 1.  I had a graduate seminar that lasted until 12:50.  We all knew there was free food.  At 12:49 we had our pens back into our book bags, and as soon as the professor ended class we literally elbowed each other out of the way to get down the hall to the free sandwiches.  It turns out there were plenty left, but the rush for the free food was only light-hearted because of that.  I shudder to think what would have happened had the four of us reached the room only to find fewer than four sandwiches left.

Last night, after the prospective students had been given the official open house, the current grad students treated them to a bit of the non-campus centered life, and we went out for drinks downtown.  As the evening went on, a group of us adjourned to the house of one of my colleagues.  As he was making drinks for his guests, another colleague opened his refrigerator in search of something to snack on.  We all laughed at the sight of a fridge containing eggs, milk, bread, cat medicine, water, and a jar of olives.  "This," I said, "is going in my next blog post about the Grad Student Diet."

The Grad Student Diet is not a way to lose weight, or a way to get healthier in some aspect, or to honor particular moral choices.  Certainly, those can affect the GSD.  Several of my friends and colleagues are vegetarians or vegans, and they manage, with perhaps a bit more ingenuity needed, to commit to the GSD.  (On a related note, but a topic that may be explored more fully in another post, as it doesn't quite fit here, I am contemplating making a switch, or at least a shift, towards a vegetarian diet.  But more on that another time.)  The GSD, above all, favors one type of food: the food that you did not have to pay for.  This phenomenon has been noted before; Jorge Cham, in his fabulous comic PhD Comics (Piled Higher and Deeper), has made plenty of note of the grad student drive to find free food.  But it bears repeating here, especially since I believe I have at least a few readers who may be unfamiliar with the GSD.  The GSD works, in a rather wonderful way, to foster co-operation and community among fellow grad students.  I will give you free food now, goes the tacit agreement, and you will then give me free food at some later date.  Potlucks, BYO-whatevers, and similar get-togethers all help us feed ourselves and each other at (hopefully) minimal cost.

"Can you get by in Santa Barbara," a prospective student asked yesterday, "on the TA-ship/fellowship you get as a grad student at UCSB?"  I'd say the answer is Yes, so long as you have a good community to support your new GSD lifestyle, and so long as you can fully commit to being what I think I'll start calling Freetarian.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Holy Flypaper, Batman! It's a new post!

I am aware that it has been more than six weeks since my last blog post.  I feel shameful about it, but I have some pretty good excuses.  For one, I caught the nastiest flu bug ever in the middle of February, right before an exciting Medieval Studies conference hosted here at UCSB, which was, in turn, right before a visit from my wonderful mother, all of which took me out of the blogosphere for all of...umm...about a week.  Okay, so maybe that's not enough to explain away my six-week absence.  Really, all I can offer in the way of explanation is that I had a Tough Quarter.

When I say I had a Tough Quarter, I don't mean I had a super-busy, stressful quarter.  In fact, it was closer to the opposite.  I took two seminars, one of which was closer to a language class than a literature seminar; for some people, that would probably mean more work and headaches, since we had to do obnoxious things like memorize how many different classes of Old English strong verbs there are, and what they are.  (The answer, by the way, is Too Many.)  We also had lots of translations, also tough for a lot of people.  As I've mentioned before, however, I minored in Latin in undergrad, which means I have a pretty good grasp already of how to translate inflected languages, and translations come fairly easily to me.  So, in other words, while I had two seminars full of reading, plus French class in the fall quarter, this past quarter I really only had one seminar, with an average amount of reading, and translations.  Which left me with a lot of time on my hands.

Had I been responsible, I could have put that time towards reviewing my Latin in preparation for the language exam; or volunteering somewhere; or going to the gym three days a week.  However, I have a propensity towards procrastination and laziness, so I spent the majority of that time bumming around on the internet and cuddling with my cat while watching TV, all of which led to a mind wide open for such existential crises as "Is this really what I should be doing?" "Do I have any idea what I'm doing here?" "Do all of my colleagues know what they're doing, when I don't?" and "Maybe I should just move back to the Bay Area and attend baking school."

The good news is that, by the end of the quarter, I was able to pull myself out of the dungeon of those terrifying thoughts.  I do know what I'm doing here, I am not categorically behind all of my colleagues, this is really what I should be doing, and baking should definitely remain simply my hobby.  The introspection this quarter was painful at times, but it really did help me get closer to understanding more fully what I really am doing here.  Every time I forced myself to actually answer one of those questions, instead of flailing and shoving my head under the pillow, I learned something new about what I'm interested in that I'd never "thought out loud," as it were, before.  Now, at the end of this tough quarter, I have a greater sense of what specific goals and interests I have, not to mention a much better idea of how to use any excess of free time I find myself with (ie, Get Out Of The House).

Winter Quarter is nearly done; I've turned in my paper, and my final is tomorrow evening.  Thursday, I'm headed back up to the Yay Area to spend a week with some of my nearest and dearest, and then I get to bring one of those dear ones back to SB with me for the last four days of Spring Break!  Next quarter looks exciting and busy from where I'm sitting, which is good news, but the even better news is that now I know how to cope with the moments when it's not.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Car Crash Dreams and Existential Crises

A promise: Although it doesn't start out that way, this blog post has a happy ending.  I swear.

About a month or so ago, I started having particularly vivid dreams of being behind the wheel of my car, realizing too late that I was going far too fast, unintentionally zooming through red lights and making wildly too-wide turns.  In each of these dreams, I would have a moment in which I would think to myself, "Wow.  I've been having all those dreams about losing control of the car, but now it's actually happening."  And each morning, I'd wake up and find myself wondering if the crazy loss of vehicular control had been a dream or a fuzzy memory from the day before.  (But given that I haven't found any new dents on my car or had my license taken away and ripped up, I think I'm safe in assuming that these have just been dreams.)

A few weeks ago, I talked about these dreams to a member of my family who makes a living helping people figure out what's going on inside their heads.  "I've read that 'losing control of the car' dreams can mean the dreamer feels like he or she is out of control in waking life," I said, "but I just don't feel that way.  Is there something else these dreams could be about?"  And like any responsible head shrinker, my family member offered a few explanations, gauging my reaction, until we both caught the one that made things click into place for me: "Sometimes dreams like that can mean that everything's going so well in your life, a part of you is ready for the other shoe to drop and for the world to come crumbling down."

Oh.  Well, yeah.  I mean, as anyone who's been within 10 yards of me in the past four and a half months knows, I've been raving non-stop about how wonderful grad school is, and how much I love being here, and how fabulous the people are, and how good a fit the program is for me, and how beautiful Santa Barbara is, etc., etc., etc.  I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I said, "This is the happiest I've ever been" first quarter.  So yes, it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that, given how wonderfully things were going, I might be a bit concerned, even subconsciously, that they were/are about to be very not wonderful.  So I felt accomplished, having identified the source of my frightening automobile dreams.

But it turns out that expecting a downturn isn't always a good idea.  Because in my anticipation that things were about to get nasty, the existential crisis (I know, how cliche can I get?) hit me.  And it went a little like this: Wait a minute.  Why do I feel like I'm the only one in this department who doesn't already have a favorite theorist whom I can quote at will?  Why haven't I done more reading in my field?  Why didn't I go to that huge conference, the biggest conference in my profession?  Why don't I get that joke the professor just made?  Why can't I understand this heavily theoretical reading?  How can I possibly memorize all of the pronouns in Old English?  And then, the big one: Is this really what I should be doing?

And so it went for a few days, along with the requisite sleepless nights, headaches, and, of course, additional dreams of losing control of my trusty old Volvo Alice.  And then I made a comment about a part of a reading that a classmate hadn't understood quite as well as I had.  And then I learned that some of my friends who are the best at theory hadn't read some of my favorite works of literature.  And then I remembered how easily translation comes to me, and how much I appreciated the quirks of literature in my field, and by the end of the week, when I found myself giggling like a middle schooler with one of my classmates over Old English vocabulary (did you know that Old English had at least ten different, very specific verbs for how to kill someone?  and that they all start with "of-"?), I remembered something my mother used to say: Everyone gets something, but no-one gets everything.  No, I don't have a theorist I can pull out of my back pocket yet.  But I'm a first year grad student, and that's okay.  And no, I haven't read all of the literature in my field yet.  Of course, if I had, grad school would seem rather redundant and a waste of time, no?  But I can translate like a ... well, like something that translates really well, and the literature I have read I know really well, and the rest....well, the rest will come later.

So, thanks to a week spent with my amazingly talented and flawed (this is a compliment, I swear!) colleagues, in which I remembered that no-one has everything yet, existential crisis number one is solved: Is this really what I should be doing?  Hells yes it is!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Babies Getting Married

Welcome to 2011, dear readers, and my second quarter of grad school!  This quarter seems to be more relaxed than last quarter (knock wood!), which is nice, since I know that next quarter I'll be taking more classes, and from there the stress level will only go up.  I have an amazing schedule (I only have class Monday and Wednesday which means, due to this weekend's holiday, that I'm in the middle of a glorious six day weekend!) and a relatively light reading load, which means I can really go in depth into those readings I do have, and take the time to refresh my Latin, which I minored in in college but haven't looked at since May 2009, in hopes of taking my language exam in the spring.  At least that's my plan.

Since it's only week two of the quarter and I don't have too much exciting on the school front to discuss yet, I thought I'd talk about something only tangentially related to grad school and career: Babies Getting Married.

Now, when I talk about Babies Getting Married, I'm not referring to actual infants undergoing nuptial ceremonies.  I am, however, talking about people my age (I'm less than a quarter century old) tying the knot.  I have attended two weddings of my peers and dear, dear friends in the last seven months alone, and I know of several other friends, acquaintances, and former classmates who are engaged or married.  All of this has been a little overwhelming for me and my other as-yet-unmarried friends, and one of them coined the term, as she mentioned to me at the last wedding we attended (her second in less than two weeks!) that "Babies need to stop getting married!"

It's not that I have a particular reason for not wanting my friends to get married.  In fact, I'm not stressed out or unhappy about any one particular of my friends' marriages.  All of my married or engaged friends are wonderful people, and they joy I've been a part of at the weddings I have attended has brought even cynical me to tears.  I have no doubts that these marriages will last; they're all unions of adults who made the wonderful decision to commit to sharing their lives with each other.  But did you catch the word in the last sentence that has me freaked out about this whole situation?  I'll give you a hint: it starts with "a."

What terrifies me about the idea of my friends and other peers getting married is that all of a sudden I'm realizing that people my age are adults.  And if they're my age, and they're adults, well...that means I'm an adult.  And I'm not sure how to deal with that.  Certainly, I've been carrying out adult responsibilities (taking care of a pet, working a job, paying my own rent and bills, cleaning my own dishes, etc.) and enjoying adult privileges (these need not be listed here) for quite some time.  But the enormity of the idea of being a full-fledged adult - picking a partner, settling into a career, starting a family, picking the path that the rest of my life is going to follow - is still frightening.  And so long as these weddings keep making me face that looming adulthood, I'll keep (loving them and dabbing at my eyes and wishing so many congratulations and good thoughts to my lucky friends but also) making slightly snarky comments about too many Babies Getting Married.