Monday, December 17, 2012

End of a semester

Disclaimer: This post is selfish, even moreso than usual. But again, it's my blog. I'm allowed.

So I'm having an internal debate on how long I can go between posts without my blog being considered dead and revived, Lazarus style. Morbid thoughts aside, I've finally finished school work for the semester and have time to sit down in my hammock chair with a cup of tea and breathe. I mean, not a cup of breathe. You get the point. My syntax course this semester has, to paraphrase Steinbeck, been a bitch that has laid pups in my brain, preventing me from reading an ambiguous sentence without (1) immediately noticing the ambiguity, and (2) drawing syntactic trees on the fabric of my brain. (For the record, I will deny ever having drilled a rod into the beam bisecting my living room in order to hang said hammock chair.) Also, having just finished up a fellowship application, I'm in writing mode, and might as well channel the extra words floating around in my head into a blog post, since I'm procrastinating much-needed, much-dreaded journal writing.

The scene this morning, accompanied by imaginary blasting of Queen's "We are the Champions": I smugly walked past the Tower and across the West Mall, opened the unnecessarily heavy door of Calhoun Hall, climbed three flights of stairs, and unceremoniously slipped my epic 10-page take-home syntax final under the door of my professor's empty, dark office. (This final, Jesus H, took me 20 hours to complete, over the span of 48 hours.) I guess I expected it to "bang" when it hit the floor, but it just kind of whimpered. I guess that's the way the world fall semester ends. (Look how much I amuse myself. It comes from spending weeks living entirely in my own head, and being born with terminal nerdiness.) I don't think it's hit me yet that I've finished 25% of my coursework for my Master's. Here's a shameless self-pic, in which my expression communicates my feelings about the end of the semester better than my words can, and in which I inadvertently show off my alien hands. No really, check out how long these fingers are:

As is clear to anyone who's been a semi-loyal reader of my blog, the theme of my life this year has been change. And lots of it. I'm like shockingly good at dealing with change, so long as I stay busy and don't have time to process it, but now that I have nearly a month off from school, I have nothing but time--to work on knitting my winter cardigan, to watch silly documentaries on animals invading places they shouldn't, and, yes, to start figuring out how to adapt the narrative of my life to account for all this change. (Life narratives: one of the most revolutionary concepts I've picked up over the past year. I somehow had always implicitly thought that there was absolute truth regarding definition of self and interpretation of life events. How silly of me. And how silly that it took me 24 years to figure this out. Got it now, and waiting on the next revolutionary epiphany.) Rewriting the story means stepping out of the forest for a minute and walking far enough away to take a good look at it. Since I'm on a roll with allusions, let's quote Kill Bill: "Revenge is never a straight line." Wait, no. Let's take out the revenge part and just say the rest. "It's a forest, and like a forest, it's easy to lose your way. To get lost. To forget where you came in." In case you forget what a forest looks like, here's one near Dripping Springs, Texas:

And if you're forgetting where you came in, you probably came in on a path of some sort. This is what a path looks like:

Yes, it curves, and no, you can't see where it goes. Tough luck. We deal with that. And it's more fun that way. There's adrenaline and puzzles and guessing and being wrong and then figuring it out and stuff. And if you've never been to Hamilton Park, you should go there, and here's why:

Luckily, I can read old blog posts when I need to remember where I came in. In particular, this post, in which I told you to stay tuned, and to come back and ask me at the end of the semester how I felt about studying Arabic. (Incidentally, I'm just as naive as I was when I wrote that, and I know this because I'm looking forward to spending large parts of my break reading LOTR in Arabic and letting Mahmoud Darwish poetry seep into my normally poetry-repellent bones.) Reading that post takes me back to where I was when I wrote it, what I was thinking, what my expectations were for coming to UT, what my fears were and what my hopes were. I've taken to writing down fears around big changes like this, so that I can go back later and write next to them how either the things I was afraid of never actually happened, or how they did but everything still turned out just fine. I guess I expected to feel more like a fish out of water. Or, since I really need an excuse to post these next photos, a grackle off a telephone wire:

But I'm just a fish in a new pond. As usual, I'll vomit if I take this metaphor too far, so I'll let you infer that the algae is different, the other fish swim differently, and all that. But there's more sunlight here, and more oxygen. In real-life terms: Yes, it's been difficult. Yes, it's taking some time to adjust to, in a way, reinventing myself. But the decision to come to UT, and to get on a path to making a living doing something I love, has been so rewarding already, and now that I'm starting to get settled in somewhere I'll get to stay for a while, I can't wait to see what the next year will bring.

So maybe I can't change the fact that I need to do some absorbing, some processing of all this change. But I do have the power to change the backdrop. So I'm going to get away for a few days over Christmas and take a mini, week-long camping trip in southern Arizona. Something about long drives and wide open spaces. Deserts and quiet. I was born with a little bit of that in my blood. We all were, I think. And the only cure is more... Christmas cookies! Wait, what?

I went to a cookie decorating party the other night--here's my favorite of my creations:

And the happy family of Christmas cookies when we were all done:

And, just to shake things up a bit more, I've accepted a TA position for Analytical Chemistry lab next semester. Didn't see that one coming!

The end! See you in 2013!

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