Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's not my fault! Except it is.

Disclaimer: this post turned out 100x more depressing than I intended for it to be. So, here's a picture of a beautiful sunrise to compensate for that, and also for the fact that I'm not posting pictures.

There's a difference between a groove and a rut. Maybe there's also a difference between routines and habits, although I think I just want that to be true because it would be nicely rhetorical, and I love when things are parallel. I'm starting to get into a nice routine as far as school is concerned. I finally sorted out my class schedule, and I'm figuring out where (and when) I work best. I've been fairly good about not working after 10 pm. If I try to write too late at night, I start thinking school is the priority. Turns out, life is more important than that. And if you don't do the things you need to do in order to have a reasonably sustainable lifestyle, you're not gonna do very well in school anyways. I'm re-discovering something I think I knew in college, which is that I am useless if I try to write at home, but if I'm at the library or at a coffee shop, I'm almost always laser focused. The classes and the teaching seem to be reasonably under control now. But other parts of life? Not so much. Socializing and figuring out how to eat well are the two main things. Part of it has to do with long days at school -- most days, I'm on campus from 7 am to 7 pm, and when I'm done with class, I just want to go home, finish up my homework, and collapse. But a lot of it has to do with just not being proactive. I start blaming anything -- or anyone -- else for the fact that I'm not doing the things I should be doing, instead of just doing the things.

Within the department, I'm "No, not that Katie, the brunette one. Oh, you mean the one who's in our class and barely says anything? Yeah, that one." (This is the class that's entirely in Arabic. I've been getting surprisingly positive feedback on my writing assignments, but the improvement in speaking is slow. Steady, I think, but slow.) I've been invited to dinner or to other social events several times in the past couple weeks. I almost invariably decline. It's like an automatic setting. A horrible habit. It doesn't even occur to me to think about going. I was raised that way, I guess. And what do I do instead? I go home and stare at my computer screen and feel pathetic because I only have two friends here, and everyone else seems to know each other. And somehow, this is everyone else's fault. Really, it's just (1) me being egocentric, and (2) me not accepting that I actually really truly live here now, and will for the next x number of years, and therefore, need to make friends and find food. 

And this is a domino effect. (Does anyone even play dominoes anymore? Or do they just play online dominoes? Is the next generation going to understand what the domino effect even is? Oh well.) One domino is that I take it personally when I have to park six rows away from the entrance to the grocery store. Everyone else is getting the close parking spots, why can't I! And then, in a really effed up Freudian way, I choose to park at least four spots away from the closest available spot. But the fact that I even went to the grocery store is huge, never mind that I've lived here almost a month and had to use Google Maps to figure out where the grocery store even is. And then there's the "not buying vegetables" thing, because I think vegetables are what real adults buy, and somehow since I don't believe I qualify as a "real adult" (basically because I don't do things like buy vegetables) I didn't buy vegetables. But, I did buy Viva paper towels, which, like dryer sheets, I don't feel entitled to, for equally effed up Freudian reasons. I've been this way as long as I can remember, but I usually don't realize how delusional and insane these kinds of things are until I say them out loud. Robert calls it "Katie sense." Well, awareness is the first step to change, right? Hmm. At least I no longer get upset if people don't take me seriously when I say nonsensical things like that. And, maybe more importantly, I don't take myself seriously when I catch myself thinking this way.

Then there's other stuff, peripherally domino-caused kinds of things, like buying buying a bunch of cookie dough I don't have any intention of turning into cookies, and buying nail polish... I know I just painted my nails half an hour ago, and I know this color looks identical to three other ones I already have, but it's different, I promise! It's a different brand! And, in the right lighting, it's sparklier! And the driving thing. My California response to times like this was to impulsively drive hours to my favorite beach and go camping. I'm trying not to do that tonight, because it somehow feels like an avoidance tactic or an isolation tactic. And I should try to get better about acting (rather, not acting) on impulses all the time anyway. But, camping at the Gulf does seem really appealing, and long drives seem to work magic as far as clearing my head goes... Anyway. 

(Incidentally, the title of this post reminds me of when my sister and I were teenagers and I asked her if she deleted all my AIM contacts, back before Facebook, when people actually used AIM. She said, "I didn't do it, it was an accident!" How can my little sister be 22 now? And how can I be 25? I had a dream last night that I was 25 and hated it, because I thought I should have accomplished something in my life by now. And then I woke up and realized, wait, I am 25. My dream self seems to be a lot more worried about that than my real-life self, though.)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

To Do: Breathe

Once again, it's been too long since I've written a post. Life has been chaotic, to say the least, since I got back from Jordan. I got to spend a few hours at my parents' place with the whole family -- human, canine, and feline -- before hitting the road and driving to Texas. Road Trip Part 2 was much less eventful than the first. Made a beeline for Austin, finished the drive in two days. I stayed in a hotel downtown for the first week and a half and moved into my sublet the night before classes started. Between compulsively making lists (really, you should see them) and checking things off the lists, I feel like I hardly have a moment to breathe. It's like I need to constantly be busy either running errands or doing school stuff, or else I feel guilty because I know there are so many things I need to get done. Is it okay to put "relaxation" on a to-do list? I would, but I don't think I'd be able to check it off. Ha.

My good friend drove down from California to keep me company the week before school started and to help me move into my new place. On the weekend, we went to a beach near Corpus Christi, a little over four hours south of Austin. Would you believe that you can drive down there on a whim and camp right on the beach without a prior reservation? It was a Friday night in August and there was hardly anyone there! A perfect weekend getaway. Tailgate camping meters from the water. Falling asleep to the sound of the crashing waves. Waking up to the sunrise. 

And the water is warm enough to swim in! As much as I whine about missing the ocean and the redwoods, there are more than a few good things about being here. This is one of them:

I learned that it's actually possible for me to get a sunburn. There must be a limit to how much sunlight my body can absorb, but I apparently haven't reached it. Just when I think I can't possibly get more tan, this happens:

I'm starting to get settled into my new place. I'm staying in a fully-furnished sublet for a few months until I find somewhere more permanent. Because I found out about this place the day after I left Austin during my visit in May, I didn't get a chance to see it until the day I moved in, and I knew almost nothing about the neighborhood. I got really lucky. It's a great space. Nice to have my pillows back, my teddy bears, my books, and the alarm clock my mom got me when I was in high school:

The one downside is that it's almost an hour commute from campus. A mile walk to the bus stop, then two bus transfers. And, as luck would have it, I have class at 9:00 every morning. But the walk is a nice chance to force myself to slow down and breathe, and the bus rides are convenient for last-minute Hebrew vocabulary review. A positive about the location: it's a five-or-so minute walk from a beautiful park with an amazing jogging trail. The trail tracks with the river on both the north and south sides of the city. I've hesitantly started running again, after giving myself a few months off to recover from the pesky IT band injury, and it will be hard to take it slow at the beginning, and frustrating to be slower than I used to be. But I look forward to getting my mileage back up and enjoying this scenery on weekend mornings.

Getting adjusted to being in such a demanding graduate program after a year of being unemployed and lazy is decidedly more difficult than getting adjusted to living in a new place. When I think about all of the school-related responsibilities I have, whether it's doing the reading for my linguistics class, or studying for my first content course conducted entirely in Arabic, or leading discussion sections, my brain automatically goes to its familiar negative place. I tell myself there's no way I can possibly pull any of this off, much less all of it at once. There's a little objective justification for that sort of thinking -- for instance, I don't have any of the prereqs needed for my linguistics class. Half of the students in my Arabic class are native speakers, and the other half have been studying the language at least twice as long as I have. I have almost no background in the material for the course I'm TA'ing. Etc. Despite all that, even if it's true, what good does it do me to tell myself I can't do it? I used to think humility meant putting myself down, telling myself -- and others -- that I really wasn't much good at whatever it was I was doing. I thought I was the least egotistical person I knew, because I never believed in my ability to do much of anything. But it occurs to me now that maybe ego isn't just false confidence or self-seeking.  Maybe this sort of "humility" isn't really humility at all; it is just another manifestation of ego. Who am I to say whether I'm smart enough or organized enough or experienced enough to be here? Who am I to say that my efforts are destined to fail? Maybe the truly humble thing to do is to stop telling myself I'm going to fail and start accepting the reality of the situation and just do the best I can with what I have. I just made a huge career change and am now studying something I have very little experience in but have an interest in and an aptitude for. And I'm at the very beginning of this new thing. (Is there a square before square one?) Of course I feel overwhelmed and inadequate sometimes. But I also know that I don't have to take those feelings too seriously.