December 2013

“I am getting older. My skin is less taut. My skin is less smooth. My bones and muscles are less reliable. I am getting older, and someday I will die. And all these things–all these thoughts and secrets and words–all these worlds that constantly float through my mind, they will all die with me. And that is the saddest thing to me. Not the loss of my body, because what is my body? We all have one — and mine is not so different or unique. But my words…these are mine and mine alone. And as I struggle to say them and struggle to write them–to get them out– I panic. Because someday I’ll be gone and once I’m gone they will be gone–forever. Irreplaceable. And then no one will ever know, ever. What I thought or who I was or what made me unique. What made me different. These words that could mean so much to another person will die with me. And that will be all. That will be it. So in the meantime, what do I do with them? Who can I be with them? In the meantime, what should I say? What should I write? How will you know I care? Cared?”

Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. Some people say there are true things to be found, some people say all kinds of things can be proved. I don’t believe them. The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like string full of knots. It’s all there but hard to find the beginning and impossible to fathom the end. The best you can do is admire the cat’s cradle, and maybe knot it up a bit more.

I didn’t want to tell the story of myself, but someone I called myself. If you read yourself as fiction, it’s rather more liberating than reading yourself as fact. -Jeanette Winterson

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The study abroad complex

I love what I do. Truly. Every day, I’m amazed that I get to wake up and go some place that will pay me to do something I am obsessed with, something that I am passionate about, something that I fully 100% believe in. #blessed

All that aside, and in all seriousness, there is a certain amount of privilege tied into study abroad. I’ve known this all along, but I’m finding I’m better able to articulate what exactly that privilege is which enables students to study abroad.

In order for a student to pursue a traditional semester abroad, they have to know about it pretty early-on in their college career, and they have to be encouraged to explore the possibility early-on. You have to be empowered to do that–and then empowered to follow through on it, because you will undoubtedly be met with additional obstacles you have to overcome–and this empowerment is dependent on so many factors.

1. Your major- can you manipulate your semester/4 year plan to be off campus for the entire semester? What about your post grad plans? Do those allow you to be away for a semester?

2. Your financial situation-Can you afford the expense of being gone for an entire semester–living and traveling abroad and most likely not working (unless you’re thinking Australia). Do you have the means to rebuild your savings or commit to a budget after spending and not earning for approximately 6 months?

3. Your family situation/support network- Are you comfortable being away from that for 6 months? Is your family situation stable enough to allow you to thrive while abroad? And continue to develop upon your return? (Will you only be made to feel guilty for being gone?)

4. Time-Can you miss out on all the things that will happen while you’re abroad? Weddings, births, deaths, relocation? What about practical experience you would gain? Can you miss out on job opportunities or internship possibilities while abroad? How can you know the practical experience you would gain will be matched by your time abroad?

5. Your phase of development- Are you mentally and emotionally ready to live in a new country and immerse yourself in a new culture? If not, what will help you prepare, or when will you be ready? How do you know? How will you know if you’re ready? What are the signs of being ready?

I didn’t study abroad for a semester because I had “no” responses to all of these questions. I went to community college for two years, so my knowledge of study abroad was nil. I transferred into a four-year institution and convinced myself I didn’t have the money, time or opportunity to study abroad. I picked up a minor late my junior year–no way I could be off campus. I had to graduate on time because I was on scholarship. I couldn’t leave my younger siblings for that long. I picked up a semester paid internship my senior year and definitely didn’t see the benefit of skipping that. I wasn’t mentally or emotionally ready to live far away and be on my own for a semester. (At least…I didn’t think I was. No one told me any differently.) I had plans to go to grad school after graduation and spent all of junior year figuring out where and how. Then I had to apply and prepare for the GRE. Then I had to find a place to live and work once I was accepted to grad school.

I realize now I didn’t have to commit myself to all, if not most, of the things above. Hindsight is 20/20. It would have worked out, and it would have been great. But to my college-age self, yes, those were my priorities, and I couldn’t justify a semester abroad. In the years since, I’ve developed a bit of a study abroad complex. And I have to remind myself of this change in my demeanor, and what my students might be struggling with when they avoid me or seek me out.

Outrageous

Bookmarking this here: The year of outrage from Slate

You know me:
We used to yell at the TV but it couldn’t hear us. Finally someone can. So you turn to all the people next to you, all the friends and followers, and you are typing and then you are hitting send, post, tweet, submit.

You have spoken. (Or so you think. Actually, you have published.) Maybe you were guided by fury. Maybe even as you cried out your emotion was moving on to Ferguson or Dogs Welcoming Soldiers Home. Maybe you were exhausted and ironic. Maybe you were playing to the cheap seats, broadcasting a simulacrum of a human response because you, without realizing it, have become a strange magazine of one, a media brand of yourself. Whichever, there are many hearts or stars or likes bestowed. There are LOLs.

You are speaking, first, into the echo chamber of your friends. But not everyone is in your silo. And so then some stranger is mad at you; then some friend is noticeably silent. You are blocked or you are yelled at. Spiraling conversations come from realms unexpected and unwanted. You are embarrassed, or you are angrier, defensive or passive-aggressive, or laughing at them all. It is a rush of emotion that stretches long but is only an instant. Then, with a slithery zip, the moment is sealed shut.

We don’t even exist together in dialogue. The Internet.

Clack Clack

Sometimes I wonder if I had a typewriter if I would take the things I write more seriously. If the process would somehow be more significant and if I would say less frivolous things. I remember sitting in my great grandmother’s office, memorizing the keys of her typewriter, “Qwerty.” She wrote a lot. So I’ll imagine this is some striking hulking typewriter with presence, and maybe this will be worthwhile.

“People are unknowable.”

Why do you think so? I mean, you can know things about me. You can know that I hate olives; that my favorite color is navy; that I’m afraid of zombies, spiders, and heights; that I binge watch British TV dramas when I’m alone.

“You can never really know what goes on inside someone else’s heart.”

Why do you think that is?

I like someone before they’ve branded themselves. That’s when you get all of them. Once they find their brand…you’ll never get in, not really. You’ll never find the grooves in the record; you’ll never find out what makes them click; you’ll never catch them not posing, unguarded, safe.

Sometimes I do get invited in…sometimes they open the gate and for a brief moment I’m given all the passwords and the treasures and the fancy desserts. But it’s too much. I get flooded out.

“I don’t want that, I want you instead.”

I’m thinking of all of you. I’m talking about all of you. People see what they want.

Jolly

My, my, what a chipper blog I’ve created. Death, destruction, tragedy. Feast your eyes on this beaut of a read. I will eventually someday make you laugh. Just not today, nope, not yet.

I’ll be returning to Tucson soon. My forever home and my never home. Beer will flow like the rivers that don’t run in the desert. Mexican flavors will make me feel bloated and happy and satiated. I’ll pick up that weird southwestern spanglish tinge in my words. I’ll talk faster and quieter and move a little slower. I’ll also be there for the anniversary of the day Gabby Giffords was shot in the supermarket parking lot. At the Safeway about 15 minutes from my sister’s–halfway between my sister’s home and my father’s apartment. I was in grad school the first time around then. It was a Saturday after the holidays. There’s that feeling of coming out of the holiday season, but you’re a bit hungover with dry Christmas tree needles and leftover lights and stale Christmas cookies and wrinkled shreds of wrapping paper in the recycling bins. We were lounging about in our sweats; drinking coffee with vanilla creamer; my sister was making eggs and tortillas and hashbrowns. My father was fixing some piece of hardware that needed mending.

I knew of Gabby Giffords, but I don’t follow Arizona politics regularly. I didn’t know she would be at the Safeway that morning greeting her constituents. The news alert interrupted our regularly scheduled programming. I think my sister got a call from her mother right away. She was crying. I remember standing in the kitchen and looking over at my father who was standing behind the couch in the small entryway…shocked, still, serious.

My niece wasn’t home with us. She had spent the night at her dad’s. There was a brief bit of panic as my sister reassured us that my niece wasn’t at the Safeway. She sometimes shopped there with her stepmom. They had not gone to the store that morning. My niece was amused at the sound of panic creeping in on the edges of my sister’s phone call to her. On Friday, the day before, we had ordered soup and sandwiches at the Beyond Bread across the street from the Safeway. I remember I was starting to get sick and only felt like soup. The before and the after. How quickly it formulates in your mind. We drove by later to pick up my niece from her dad’s. The yellow police tape hanging, loosening, a strange melancholy symbol of the calm that had reconvened after the violence of the morning. The rest of the week was spent slightly on edge. The usual why, why, why. The vigils and the candles and the flowers and the teddy bears at the office of Giffords around the corner from my sister’s neighborhood. I don’t think of that morning often. I’ve filed it away in things you won’t forget. On a muggy summer night in 2012, I was sitting on a futon in West Lafayette, Indiana watching The Newsroom with my friends. I wasn’t expecting the episode to feature those scenes of distress and terror in Tucson. I wasn’t expecting to feel sickened and panicked and sad without a moment’s notice. Sweaty palmed and helpless. I withdrew into myself as the company around me engaged with the footage on the screen. And it’s because of this particular moment, this secondary, maybe even tertiary memory, that I can relate to the article Emily Floros wrote for The Chronicle about her lived experience in Newtown:
http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2014/12/11/reliving-newtown-in-a-college-classroom/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

Sometimes I don’t think people consider the non abstract of the events or the feelings they discuss. They can’t imagine horrible things happening in their circle, in the lives of those around them, so they don’t couch their language to address the potential. It’s like during my study abroad meeting with students when we had to give them our obligatory spiel about the repatriation benefits of their health insurance, and everyone got caught up on the idea of shipping a body overseas and there were awkward uncomfortable giggles pinging about the room. I wanted to stand up and glare at all of them, for not considering the person I knew whose parents weren’t lucky enough to ever see his body again.

None of this. Not that. But other parts of my life are in fact quite funny.