Friday, October 19, 2012

Idiot Rabbits and Inbound Balls

I haven't written in over a month. I hadn't even journaled in almost that long, until I sat down to write last night. I stared at a blank page for ten minutes -- it was like I'd completely forgotten how to write. Things that used to "flow" like central Ohio freeway traffic now "flow"like Austin traffic on I-35. Really, this city has the worst freeway system of anywhere I've lived. Austinites should stop telling everyone else how cool this place is, because no one else should move here unless we add another freeway, or another bridge across the river. What should be a 15-minute drive home from campus turns into a 45-minute drive around rush hour -- and that's not even freeway driving!

Anyway, I have not a clue what to make this post about. I'm thinking elephants, rabbits, flying objects, and fire are about as good as any, as far as topics go. So. I have a professor who specializes in bringing personal problems into the classroom and projecting them onto students. Like a madwoman. "Mad" in both senses of the word. The other day, she told me I needed to "change my attitude". I'm a perfectly reasonable student (keep in mind that being a perfectly reasonable student can be a very different thing from being a perfectly reasonable human being). I appreciated the irony, but I did have to leave the room so I wouldn't tell her to fuck off. (I also appreciate the irony there.) She also thinks I'm stressing myself out too much, and unless I change what I'm doing, I'm "going to have a heart attack". I also apparently need to move, because I'm "wasting my time living too far away". I live three miles from campus. Too far away? I think not. Okay, so the above mentioned rush hour traffic... Still, I think not. Also, I "want to live near students, and have coffee shops within walking distance". I'm so glad I have someone I barely know who can tell me what I want. Since, you know, she's so qualified in that regard.

I have a tendency to listen everyone. Not that I necessarily do what they say (okay, I rarely do what they say), but I listen. Despite the left-field nature of this professor's comments, it was a useful reminder that I need to make time for myself. Whether that means writing more, camping more, or remembering that stars exist. Stars are my favorite things in the entire universe. And they ground me more than anything else. Even though they're... you know... in the sky and stuff. So I'm starting to try to do that more. At the beginning, as with any beginning, I suppose, it's difficult. And it looks absolutely pathetic. It means letting myself use swinging doors when I go into the library, rather than using revolving doors, which I despise. Seriously, everyone who goes into the door before me is stronger than me, so I have to practically run once I'm inside the claustrophobic-death-compartment so I don't get knocked over. Then I have to perfectly time when to slow down my pace once the world class weight lifter has fully exited the death compartment. Then I have to be mad for the next twenty minutes. That's at a minimum.

It means things like taking time to appreciate the Jewish-eyed elephants who are gracious enough to lend their trunks as purse hooks on the back of bathroom doors:

It means trying to come up with a name for this sky-color, which I fail to do, and then realize it's better that way, that there are some things that just shouldn't have names. Ever. Because names change things. They add and take away. Sometimes we should just let things "be". See? I don't know how to write anymore. I'm losing track of how many times I've used the word "thing" in the past five minutes. Incidentally, the "things" in this picture that look like clouds are actually rays of sunshine. (Hmm. That's enough metaphor for a whole new blog post, just right there.)

Sometimes this means taking a camping trip and finding animals that I'm embarrassed I don't know the names for, though I don't object to their having names. This picture makes me think egret, although as with ibex and bobcat, I have no real idea of what egret means. I didn't even know that cougar, puma, and mountain lion were the same thing until two years ago. And that was only because one of them wandered into my neighborhood. (Then it got shot by a cop, causing a week-long North Berkeley outrage, which culminated in a lion shrine by Walgreens.) 

But even then, most of the camping trip looked more like this:

Which, though caffeine-less and on fire, bears a striking resemblance to the rest of my life:

One thing I've been working on lately is improving my Arabic writing by adding more transition words/phrases to my repertoire. There's a book of transition phrases called Adawaat al-Rabt, which literally means something like "tools of connecting". My advisor likes to refer to this book as the "Idiot Rabbit" book. How does this relate? Like at all? Something like tortoise and hare and which of them is being dumb. Hint: It's not the one with the shell. What's the point? One: Life isn't a race. Two: Don't run so fast you get lost. If you do, you won't win the race that doesn't exist. Three: Life isn't a race. (Did I make the point yet?) One thing that makes it feel race-y to me is homework. Well, not really homework, per se, but the American educational system's insistence on discretizing the fluid learning process. Weekly assignments are about "getting it done". Education is... not. It's a process. It's about learning how, not learning that. Actually, maybe it's not even about knowing. That's a very goal-focused way of framing it. I mean goals are great, as long as I realize it's not actually about getting there.

Something I've surprised myself by doing better with is staying focused on what's right in front of me. I've occasionally been attending juggling club meetings, both on campus and out in the community, and that provides such low-hanging-delicious-metaphor-fruit that I can't keep my hands off it. One of the many amazing jugglers in Austin (and there are many, and they are amazing) has been helping me with ball passing drills, adding more balls into the pattern, and picking up the pace. If I start to lose focus and my throws start landing in frustratingly wrong places, he'll say "watch the inbound ball". This objectively helps with the complicated physical-mental-hybrid process that is juggling, but it also reminds me that I can't control where my tenth throw will land if I don't focus on catching the ball that's right in front of me. This whole beast of a semester is kind of unmanageable if I call it a beast. But it's really just a series of baby beasts. Baby beasts are totally manageable. As if that means anything at all.

There's a department non-alcoholic happy hour tonight (I wanted to put the "non-alcoholic" before "department" to modify the whole noun phrase, but that would be ambiguous and might suggest that there's actually an academic department devoted to absence of alcohol. Hmm.) and I think happy hour, and not my Hebrew homework, is Friday night's baby beast. I'll leave you with campus's brightly-colored reminder that it's okay to treat a Friday like a Friday:

Oh yeah, and I'm moving across town next week...

1 comment:

  1. I read the "Jewish-eyed elephants" line out loud and then laughed out loud.

    That life is not a race is one tough lesson to learn and then to hold on to once you've learned it. You might need reminding later.