Tag Archives: college

Loneliness

I once read that the terror of stage fright doesn’t go away with practice. You just get very comfortable with being terrified. Butterflies, sweaty palms, all of it. Practice makes you able to function despite fear.

Loneliness is like that.

Move away for the first time and live alone. Wake up alone. Go to sleep alone. Experience chronic loneliness like never before. And you do get used to it. Eventually you don’t notice it so much. You function despite it. Until, one day, you find your way home, and that’s when you realize how you’ve been aching all along.

Lonely becomes normal. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

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Chasing Dreams

They say travel changes you. Maybe it does, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it just puts the same old you in a different light.

Some people travel to chase their dreams. Some stay put and do the same. Some are just running, and they don’t realize it for a long, long time.

Dreams aren’t for chasing. They’re for living. They’re not big nebulous things like clouds, up in the sky and floating around with rainbows and sunshine. They’re daisies you pick one at a time, in manageable little steps, to make a bouquet.

Dream chasers have the right idea, but they’re always running. Dream catchers are doers who take the small steps, building castles one brick at a time. They get where they’re going.

Why You Should Write When There’s No Time

If you don’t write when you don’t have time for it, you won’t write when you do have time for it.” ― Katerina Stoykova Klemer

When I became busy with college, I didn’t like this quote. First of all, as a homeschooled high schooler I’d had plenty of time to write, and write I did. Poems, novels, far-fetched tales of adventure in Africa, and letters—so many letters. Take that, Katerina. I wrote even when I had time.

Then college started. I valued grades over words on the page. All of a sudden, college ended and a career began. I start to see that I’ll never have time to write, at least not in the foreseeable future. What’s a writer to do?

Write when there’s no time. Up to 15 minutes of creative free-writing a day, just to get words on the page and a blog post out. I’ve finally learned that practice makes better, no matter how much raw talent you do or don’t have. Through practice, you can better understand your craft and yourself. No practice, and you’re a seed without soil.

I’ve noticed something interesting about writing when there’s no time. Katerina’s right. After a busy weekday, it’s easier for me to write than on a free weekend. The pressure is a motivator. And, against all indications to the contrary, writers aren’t hermits. A big part of the job is spending time out in the world with other people, interacting with them, exchanging ideas, getting to know the readers.

Even when there’s no time, if you want to write, write. For five minutes. Maybe just ten words. If you love it like I do, this will be enough. It’ll remind you what writing’s like. And if you ever get the time to write more, you’ll be ready.

What If

The clock chimes eleven times. Your back aches, but not so much as your mind. The screen grows relentlessly, twenty tabs open. Your fingers clasp the uni-ball pen, unwilling to let go. Unwilling to give up this project.

You barely remember nights when you slept deeply. The ideas from your thesis come with you to your dreams, wrestling inside your head throughout the night. Your advisor’s words echo, bounce from thread to counterthread. This argument is weak. This idea needs exploring. You know he’s right. You blink, eyes dry. Dry long ago.

Alone in your apartment, working. You’re 29 years old. Your thesis is nearly finished. You’ve been fighting for it for years, ripping apart arguments, consuming and digesting ideas quicker than M&Ms. Your mind is sharp as a whip. Your hand cramped from notetaking. You’ve time for nothing else. This paper must be finished.

The clock chimes. Once. You drop the pen. Press the button. Turn off the monitor. You drop into bed, alone. Right before sleep swallows your mind, you wonder. What if?


You’re exhausted. You can’t move, you’re so tired. And you didn’t even get anything done. Hair in your eyes, plastered to your forehead. One child hanging onto your ankles, another asleep in your lap. You feel heavier than lead.

Dishes weren’t done. You remember when you hear a clank come from the kitchen. He’s cleaning them again, Old Reliable. You stroke the angel’s down head of your babe, admire the soft face, clenched fists, button nose. Your head falls back against the sofa.

A warm hand on your arm. You jerk awake.

“Hey,” he says, a pile of leftovers in hand. He plops down on the couch beside you. “Long day?”

You nod. Motion for quiet, glance at your lap. He eats in silence. You’re pretty sure the little girl on your ankles is asleep too.

Hours after sunset, you drag yourself up to the bedroom. Cranky kids, too sleepy to go to bed. By the time you’ve got everyone settled, you’re a zombie, circles hanging under your eyes. Hubby’s long been asleep. He’s lucky you don’t have the energy to wake him. You collapse into bed.

Right before you’re gone, you remember, for just a moment, all the ideas you had, all the research papers you could have torn apart, all the brilliant academic arguments you could have fought and won. You had so much potential. What if?


You’re still young. You refuse to do anything half-heartedly. Two roads diverge. You look down both. You will choose. One, or the other. There is no both. Not for you.


You did it. The diploma says PhD. The final grades are in. You’re even employed! You feel infinitely relieved, want to shout, “I’m done!” You’re ready to start teaching. You’re the leading expert in your field. Your paper already got referenced. You’re ready to take on the world.


Your kid hands you a piece of paper, late afternoon, your hands in the sink. Colorful crayon marks all over it. She points to one of the circles with the wide grins spreading outside their faces, an abstract tree behind it. “You,” she says.

“Lovely,” you tell her.

The drawing isn’t yours. Ungraded, unfit for academic attack. The kid is a being all her own, grinning up at you. She’s alive.

Inhibited

Dim fluorescent lights flicker over our half-empty classroom with pale windowless walls on all sides. It’s creative writing class, and students scribble all around me, writing impromptu stories. After the exercise, those that dare are invited to read their mini-tales aloud. I dare, take a breath, and plow ahead.

It’s a silly, crazy type of story about someone’s lost shirt, inspired by the stories I used to amuse my family with about themselves blown all out of proportion. Like most of my goofy stories, telling it right involves a bit of yelling. My classmates don’t know what to think. When I finish, there’s dead silence. To everyone’s relief we move on, and I’m left to consider my sin of uninhibited goofiness.

Over time, I learned to hide my freshman self under a protective shell. I became a chameleon, changing colors to match my surroundings, sometimes hoping someone would come up and talk to me, sometimes hoping I’d be left alone. And though I’ve learned a lot about writing through college, becoming a chameleon hurt my writing ability. Instead of taking joy in the act of writing itself I became preoccupied with what readers will think. A writer can’t be this way.

Good writers let go. They give up fear and inhibition and throw caution to the wind. They write their heart, be it goofy or weird or sweet or aching. They keep writing and worry about the audience later, if ever. This is how something meaningful is made.

justbleed
When I wrote my first NaNoWriMo novel, I lived the story through my characters. I laughed and cried with them, spoke their words, felt everything. My heart was in that story and it’s worth reading. However, my subsequent attempts at noveling are sad imitations of good stories. I was busy with college at the time and just “made stuff up,” never really getting in touch with my characters. This just doesn’t cut it—good writing is heartfelt.

Don’t be afraid to put your heart in your writing, and shine!

Not Made for a Classroom

“We’ll create this project for an imaginary client.”797266

“Here are the instructions, now get started on your film.”

“Imagine the client wants this type of design. Think about the audience, and start researching.”

As a senior Communication major, I’m starting to notice a pattern in my class projects: that is, a glaring absence of an actual client and real world experience. There are reasons for this absence, and perhaps the most significant is America’s widespread mindset that education is synonymous with a classroom setting. This is strange—and inaccurate—and tends to result in practice-based subjects getting the short end of the stick.

My major is attempting to straddle the line between practical professional development (which you learn only by doing) and academic rigor (which isn’t related to practical skill—for example, think of these master writers and filmmakers who didn’t learn their craft in college). In my opinion, a four year COM major should be made up of at least two years of legitimate real-world on-the-job high-stakes achievement—maybe like trade school—as well as the option of a media theory course. In order to add academic rigor, COM majors should pick a separate subject to specialize in (bio, psych, physics, sociology, history, tech, etc.) so that they’ll have a pool of knowledge to draw from when creating media.

We’re trying to train communicators, right? Is being able to explore within a sheltered environment for four years really a beneficial experience, disconnected from real clients and all the associated challenges of working with them? When do you learn how to deal with humanity—the demanding client, the client of prolonged silences, the client who can’t make up their mind? Many communicators are freelancers. These are legitimate concerns.

On the other hand, some subjects do seem to fit right into the classroom environment. In my personal case, I’m only motivated to learn mathematics while in a classroom setting. However, when I think about this I start to wonder . . . I know a few students who take joy in learning math on their own, and they hardly get anything valuable from these classes. Is it possible that classrooms are made specifically for those who are not already accomplished in the subject area?

A classroom is an academic arena. It’s a place for ideas and arguments to grow as they encounter one another, a place separate and distinct from the outside world. Sometimes it’s a padded starting ground for those who are beginning to learn their craft-based professions, but no matter your initial writing ability or your filmmaking ability (graphic design is a bit of another story in my opinion), the classroom will not be an ideal skill-honing environment. In fact, I don’t think people with professional communication aspirations go to college to learn their trade (at least I hope not…), but rather to get a broader base of knowledge, new experiences, a respected credential, and practice navigating the world as an adult.

The Moment

I haven’t posted for a while (for 13 weeks!) but I’m keeping track of these unborn posts. I’m a senior in college now, taking 20 credits, trying to figure out the graduate school application process, and life’s been getting beyond hectic. It’s at times like this—in the middle of the semester, right before the tests, when it seems there’s barely time to breathe—that I remember something.

Life isn’t about trying to get through things and leave them behind. It’s not about pushing through all the assignments just so I can say “done.” It’s about savoring the moment, because that’s all there is. Soon my senior year will be over and this will be past. I’ll be on to new adventures, but if I don’t enjoy the moment, what will I enjoy?

In the midst of chaos, take a moment and hold it. Enjoy the sunlight and the fall leaves. Savor the feeling of helplessness that comes just before an intellectual growth spurt, and know you’ll never be the same.

Don’t live to put life behind you—take time for the present.