“Sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.”

A fool am I!

The Daily Post

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.

I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

– Ray…

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6 Lessons From My First Quarter in College

A bit delayed, but it’s true, the fist quarter has been released into the summer months, and many of the college students have retreated back to their home towns for the warmer months, destined to return in the fall.

Not this student.

In just a few short days I return to school with new classes, though not drastically different. I’ll be taking Math 98 to proceed my Math 97, and English 102 – taught by the same professor as last quarter’s 101 class (ok, he kind of grew on me and I think I can expand my mind in interesting directions with him), and I’ll be filling my needed credit of a Communications class. I’m not looking forward to the latter as I have a sneaking suspicion it will involve speaking in front of people, which I’m not a fan of.

However, I go into the shorter summer quarter with nuggets of wisdom gain from the last quarter, and I certainly hope others will find this information helpful.

  1. It’s not always necessary to buy the text books.
    The book list got jumbled this quarter, and listed the wrong book for my English class (Then when I went to return it told me they weren’t buying that one back), and didn’t list any books for my Journalism class, which in fact required three books. I bought two of the three at Barns and Nobel (one of which the bookstore bought back for $3, the other one they weren’t interested in), and the third one, the one considered to be a proper text book, our teacher said she didn’t like, but was required to use it. I never bought that book, but instead went to the library whenever we were assigned a chapter out of it.
    After I injured my back from how heavy my backpack was, I couldn’t carry my math book to class. While we didn’t use it in class, I need to do my homework as soon as I’m out so that I can solidify and commit what we just learned to memory. I was able to check out the math book from the library for two hours, which was ample time to complete my home work.
    My English teacher corrected us on the books that we bought from the book list at the beginning of the quarter, but in the end made copies of all the passages he wanted us to read and gave them to us as packets, negating the need to have bought the text book.
    It’s a gamble, but some times you can get away without buying the books. Though I should note: one of the Journalism books I did buy was extremely necessary to have, so I am quite happy that I purchased it and had it at my disposal. Feel out your classes, or ask your teacher how they plan on using the text book.
  2. Talk to Your Teachers
    They are not scary people, most of the time. I found that by chatting with my professors regularly, they had more trust in me when I came to them with a problem, and I had a better understanding of where they were coming from. At the end of the quarter, I felt comfortable enough to send an email to my math teacher to tell her the best places around to go hiking (since she’s brand new to the area), I wanted to see if my Journalism teacher wanted to go get a drink simply because she’s a neat person to talk to, and I have a list of books I want to lend to my English teacher that I think he’ll dig.
    When you go through high school, there is definitely an “Us and Them” mentality – students/kids vs. teachers/adults. They are two different worlds with a difficult bridge to walk to close the gap. However, once you enter college, it’s as an adult, and a different understanding takes place. The professors are no longer the high and mighty teachers, but other adults that have some useful information.
    Being open and honest with your teachers regularly will help you out. I had one day that I was expecting a phone call from the Unemployment office during my math class. While it’s perfectly okay to step out of class without asking permission, I still let my math teacher know at the beginning of the class what was going on. It made her feel respected, and made me feel less guilty for accepting a phone call during class.
  3. Take advantage when teachers drop names
    This is a direct tip from my English teacher. He told us that the way to be outstanding in your professor’s eyes and get those good letters of recommendations to grad school or jobs, is to listen when they name bomb. If your teacher is talking about a philosopher the class has been reading, the briefly mentions another philosopher that you’re not covering, go and look up that philosopher, read the text that was mentioned, then go to your teacher during their office hours and discuss.
    Likewise, if your math teacher is talking geometry and mentions the book Flatland, go check it out, thumb through and try and meet up with your math teacher to discuss it, see how it’s applicable to what you’re learning in class, or find out what other related material would be a good read as well.
  4. Don’t be afraid of your classmates
    Me, personally, I’m afraid of people. I don’t interact with folks very well. However, in two out of my three classes, I made friends, and I hope to catch them in times outside of campus. even if you’re not working together on projects, talking to each other about the lesson is a good way of helping to understand the subject matter better.
    Our English teacher is a philosophy teacher disguised as an English teacher, and taught us some complicated concepts. Most of the time I didn’t get it the first time around. However, I found that when I talked to others in the class, that I gained a firmer grasp on the material, and by the end of the week I could confidently write a paper on it.
    In math, talking to other students about complications they were having with the lessons helped me to look at it a different way. While I understood the material, a friend of mine who was also in the class, always had questions for the rules that were being put into play (one of the downfalls of my math teacher was that she would give us the rules, but not always explain why they were such. I think part of that was down to the short amount of time we had allotted for the class). When she would question them, it would make me question them. I was able to figure out why the rules were as such, which gave me a strong hold on the lesson.
  5. Take advantage of the Resources at the College
    Since Whatcom Community College is the only College I’ve attended, I can’t speak for all of them. However, I have to say that they have an absolute wealth of resources to support their students. The librarians are very kind and helpful, they have a station with lockers that you can charge all your electronics in, their math and writing centers are welcoming, they were handing out free snacks and bottles of water during finals weeks – I even heard tell that there was a room for naps somewhere on campus.
    The college is there so that you can learn, and the staff are there to support you so that you can succeed. There is an information desk in the library that will help students write their papers, understand the concepts of what they’re reading, and find the resources they need to complete a paper. During finals week, they put out free coffee, fruit and cookies.
    When their students succeed, they succeed. There are a great many resources available at the colleges, and some aren’t advertised on the website. It’s helpful to ask around. If you’re struggling in one area, ask a staff, and they might be able to point you in the direction of a lesser known tool.
  6. Do your homework
    No, I’m not joking. Do your homework.
    Teachers aren’t assigning it because they think you have too much free time after class. It’s to commit what you’re learning to memory, to engage you in the lesson and help you learn to apply the lesson to every day living.
    College life will, ironically, be a lot simpler if you just do your homework.

I was worried about going back to college as an adult ten years past high school. Though the times we live in now, it’s very common to go back to school at any stage of your life, and it can be daunting. With the time I took to get my energy out, to calm my youth a bit, I also grew, and gained the maturity I lacked to do well in school and take it seriously.

I loved this quarter of school. My journalism class terrified me, but I got through it – with an A even! The intellectual challenges I found addicting, and I can’t wait for the next quarter to start.

Spring 2014

The Beginning of Finals

I’ve been saying for a couple weeks now how lucky I am that I don’t have to stress too much about finals. Then today hit, and I realized that I have part one of my Math final and my journalism final – of which I have very little grasp of.

The last week has been a whirlwind of anxiety attacks and being overrun by pure fear – for many different reasons, though school not being one of them, except for today. Today has been surprisingly nerve-wracking. I partly wonder if it’s because I’ve become accustomed to the anxiety that I’ve been experiencing, and now that the direction of what was causing it has been soothed, I’m still producing the brain chemicals causing me to panic, but directing them at school (and justly so). Either way, nerve wracking.

I just finished Part 1 of 2 of my Math Final – and for the first time this quarter I did not feel confident going in for the test. It was just on the stuff we learned in the first part of the quarter – really easy stuff. However, it’s been a whole half a quarter since I’ve thought about any of it, and found myself confusing my rules.

Thankfully, she allowed us an index card for notes. Many of my classmates filled theirs, but as I went through my notes, I realized it wasn’t so much as not knowing how to do the problems, it was keeping in mind where I’ve stumbled in the past.

With this in mind, after going over my tests in the past, I wrote down little reminders to myself, such as remembering to change the direction of the inequality when dividing or multiplying a negative number in an inequality equation, or when figuring out how much interest each of Joe’s bank accounts accrued, remembering to actually multiply the percentage by the rest of it, and so on.

Then, to be on the safe side, I made myself a little cheat-sheet of numbers 1-15 squared, cubed, and to the fourth power, since I knew we’d be having to simplify and/or solve some roots, it would just save time.

Then, I saved the most important note for the red ink on the back:

Always Remember...

Journalism is the Uncarved Block

I found myself at the college library today. I was meant to be at a baby shower, but with my first lot of finals in just a few short days, I decided some book time was higher priority (is that bad of me to say?). 

I have to give a quick shout-out to the Whatcom Community College library – they’ve got a few late-night study days during the week, and have been advertising free coffee and cookies. However, I came in today and there was a pan of brownies, fresh coffee, hot chocolate, apple slices – all sorts, for the stressed out student. I keep enjoying being on campus more and more. 

Journalism is the class I’m having the hardest time with, which is why I’m at the library, re-reading old homework readings and retaking notes in the same notebook. I commit to memory so much better when I write my information down, opposed to just re-reading it. Our teacher sent out an email with points to study on. 

She ended it with “Really, you’ll be fine if you’ve been engaged in the subject at all. Don’t panic. Be cool.” I love it. It takes some of the pressure off since I can barely read those text book chapters without rolling my eyes. I can see why she doesn’t like that book. 

One thing that occurred to me as I was reading through the chapters though. Journalism is not complicated, which is something I have been learning through the quarter. However, I make it extremely complicated. I spent so much time on the last article we had to write for class, which was an Oso benefit concert on Friday. If I had to write it in an essay style, I could have gone on for days about it. But somehow picking out the important and relevant details made it tricky, and I struggled with the 750 word goal. If it were an essay, I’d have easily gotten to four thousand words. 

Journalism is the Uncarved Block, like Pooh. 

Taoism is about things being what they are. Everything simply is. The Tao of Pooh talks about how Pooh is the uncarved block. He simply is. THere is nothing complex to him, nor does he make things complex. He simply is. That that’s what Journalism is. It is simply facts that are arranged by formula on the paper. 

Then why is it so hard?

As a Western society, we are programed to constantly think, constantly question, constantly be on the go. The art of letting things be is not something that is regularly practiced. As a result, many of us over complicate things. 

Math used to be problematic for me, then I realized I was thinking too hard, and all I had to do was look at the numbers and the sentence they formed and translate into english then back into math. 

I wish I could have given myself this advice at the beginning of the quarter about Journalism, that after gathering the facts that the quotes, it’s just cutting and pasting them in the right order. News writing for a newspaper simply is.

Living the Dream

As I may or may not have mentioned, my boyfriend is on tour for five weeks. He’s been gone two weeks today, and I miss him terribly. I thought this would be a breeze since I have so much going on with school and work (I’m currently in a 23-day straight stint of no days off – school during the week and work on the weekends), that time would just fly since I have a lot to focus on.

But I’m really feeling his absence. I’m so used to having him here to talk to, having him available to answer my texts, just having him available. I’m used to being able to cuddle with him in the evening as I wind down from the day, run my ideas by him for papers, and he’s not here. He’s in a different time zone and has to follow different rules. I don’t have access to him like I did. 

It’s really difficult being without him.

Last night I had a dream that the tour came through the area, that he was home for just 24 hours before he headed on to the next spot. It was so vivid. I was so happy I kept saying, “I must be dreaming, this can’t be real.” To test myself I would look at the clock, which I could read perfectly (it read 11:41pm), I could read titles on the spines of books. I stubbed my toe. It hurt. We went out. Did things. Drove around. Ate. I was so convinced that I had him back just for a little bit. I saw him off, saw him climb back in the tour van and leave to the next destination. 

I woke up. It had been a dream. I hadn’t had him for a day. I don’t know if I should be grateful for the illusion that I was convinced was real to briefly satisfy my longing, or if it just increased how much I miss him. 

I don’t know how those married to spouses in the military handle it. Five weeks, and it’s just about half way done, and I’m already a wreck. Sometimes you take for granted how much a person is there until they’re gone. 

Never Did Like Sundays

Not a very good start to the day.

While my new roommate still gets used to the paper thinness of the walls of house, it is I that suffers for the learning experience. I keep getting woken up by her phone, alarm, video games, and so on. It’s not her fault, I don’t think she realizes just how well sound travels in this house. 

I told myself I would get up at 5 this morning so I could go jogging before work. While forgetting to set my alarm, I did manage to wake up at 5 on the dot and get up. I even was good and gathered all my laundry and shoved a load in – all the necessary stuff like my work clothes, underwear and all my bra’s. 

I couldn’t muster the energy to go jogging. I guess I’m an evening jogger, if you can consider me a jogger after one attempt. So I made some coffee before jumping into the shower. 

I went to swap over the laundry and get it dried – I had just enough time for it to run before I had to leave for work. 

Except the drier decided it didn’t want to work. Doesn’t want to work. Still haven’t gotten the damn thing going. 

So here I sit, in my towel, completely uncertain as to what clothes to wear to work since everything is very dirty or not work appropriate. Never mind that I haven’t any bra’s – and those are essential for me. 

Not a very good start to the morning.

Second Attempt Failed

While a persistent cough followed me through the rest of the evening after my jog last evening, I was feeling pretty good. Sure my calves have been feeling pretty rough, and these blisters are a little bit more than concerning, I genuinely was looking forward to this morning’s repeat.

However, lack of sleep did not allow it.

I woke when my roommate was playing video games loudly across the hall. Our house doesn’t mute sound too well, so she might has well have been playing in my room. This was at 3:45. About that time, a continuing rumble began. It of course was the train going by. Except that apparently the trains never stop during the night. Every time I thought I was dozing off, I could hear the horn going off. I was sleeping with the window open because it was just too warm not to.

As a result, I slept through my 5am alarm. And my 7am alarm. In fact, I didn’t actually make it out of bed until 7:30.

However, if tonight runs on time, and the show doesn’t keep me out too late (I’m filing The Trees, a Rush tribute band at an Oso benefit show this evening – solo! Which I’ve never done), I might go for another attempt when I get home. However, it’s a little less than likely.

One day, it will be part of my routine.