Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hello, my name is Disillusioned.

I haven't blogged in over six months. I blame grad school. And so this first post back will be dedicated to my new-found disillusionment.

Don't get me wrong-- I'm glad I'm going to grad school, if only because I would have constantly wondered "what if" if I hadn't. Plus, I don't (always) hate it. As a janitor, I was working 20 hours a week and hating constantly because of it. Now I'm working >60 and I only hate my life most of the time (I'm doing a quality of life assessment because a salary assessment between the two comes out highly in favor of janitoring). Another reason I'm glad I'm here is that my disillusionment is, I believe, a product of my ability to question institutions and ideas-- ironically, a skill I wouldn't have learned had I not been a part of the humanities.

I was reading Marx for my theory class and came upon this passage: "Capital oversteps not only the moral, but even the merely physical maximum bounds of the working day. It usurps the time for growth, development, and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight. It higgles over a meal-time, incorporating it where possible with the process of production itself... It reduces the sound sleep needed for the restoration, reparation, refreshment of the bodily powers to just so many hours of torpor as the revival of an organism, absolutely exhausted, renders essential."

This is grad school. I was struck by the irony that here I was learning to critique capitalism's extreme working day in a class that got over at 9:00pm, giving me eight hours to drive home, shower, and get to bed before waking up at 5:00am to get ready to teach. Grad school is teaching us to recognize the oppression of those without power while propagating that same oppression on its subjects. That was the moment of my disillusionment.

My friend Rebecca and I were talking a few weeks after that, and I said, "I would enjoy teaching a lot more if I didn't have to go to school on top of it." To which she replied, "I would enjoy school a lot more if I didn't have to teach on top of it." Perhaps it is the perfectionist side of me, but I can't get over the fact that I am being asked to do so much that I can't do anything really well. Each and every aspect of my life suffers because I am expected to do so much in so many different areas.

I'm not sure how to conclude this (maybe I will talk more about my hatred of conclusions later), but maybe my ending idea is that I have a life to live. I have a passion for doing things well and having pride in my work. Struggling to maintain a notch above mediocrity is not for me. I'd rather be indirectly oppressed by the capitalist workforce than directly oppressed by the institutions of higher learning AND indirectly oppressed by the capitalist workforce. I really believe that academia offers intellectual freedom and expansion to those that pass through it, but for those that stay... I wonder what it offers?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On Getting Older

“I'm old, Gandalf. I know I don't look it, but I'm beginning to feel it in my heart. I feel... thin. Sort of stretched, like... butter scraped over too much bread.” –Bilbo Baggins, Fellowship of the Ring, 2001

After I staggered to the bathroom this morning, I stared blearily at myself in the mirror while brushing my teeth. I realized something. I’ve gotten old. Last weekend, Brian and I left a friend’s birthday party about 10:30 when everyone else was just starting a movie. This Friday night I stayed up “late” with him watching the last episode of The Stand miniseries. We stayed up until midnight. On Saturday, we crashed a little past eleven o’clock.

I spend my days working (not enough), cooking, and cleaning. Our house is currently free from alcohol, desserts, and pop. I entertain myself by comparing my shopping cart to those of the people around me—if I have more healthy food than they do, I win. I’ve never been addicted to caffeine. The most I’ve ever had tea or coffee regularly is a couple of times a week. The craziest thing I’ve done in months is go watch The King’s Speech on dollar movie Tuesday all by myself. The really crazy part? I sneaked in concessions I had bought at Wal-Mart a few minutes earlier.

I have become a tired and mindless drone of indifference.

I was telling this to Brian on our way to church when it suddenly hit me. “Brian, I’ve always been like this. It’s just that there’s no way that a 21 year old college student can be ‘old,’ so when I acted this way, it just came off as being responsible. I wasted my youth!”

He tried to console me. “Well, you’ve had your fair share of all-nighters in your time.”

And then came my big confession.

I’ve never pulled an all-nighter.

When I was young, I got terrible anxiety when I couldn’t fall asleep. Like, panic attack anxiety. Despite the fact that I was pretty sure I was over it, I always tried my best to avoid all-nighters because of that nagging fear the sleep anxiety would come back. Because of this, I’ve always slept at night. There have been a handful of times I’ve fallen asleep at five or six o’clock or even slept only an hour or two around midnight before getting up again, but sleep has always happened before I start another day.

Brian was forced to admit that I had, in fact, never been a young adult. I got lost in responsibility. I said “no” to friends and “yes” to homework. I never pulled a prank in college. I never climbed up the fieldhouse roof. I never broke a Big Three. I was responsible at the cost of my soul. Okay, I’ll admit that last line is a little overdramatic. But this is serious business!

To be honest, I’m not sure what to do. If I just realized I was growing old faster than I’d like, I could simply pick up some habits I had as a young and wild college student, but since I missed out on this stage completely, I’m not exactly sure how to go about reclaiming it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Books I've "Read" Recently

I've been cleaning toilets for the past five months. It's a bit of an ego buster to graduate from college with honors and then to find you are no more employable than high school drop-outs. But I realized early on in my janitoring career that I needed to do something to make myself feel like I wasn't totally wasting my time/life. So I read. Obviously I couldn't carry a book around with me and read while dusting, but I got myself an iPod and began downloading books from Librivox. Now that I have only a week more of this job ahead of me, I thought I'd share all the classics I've been able to listen to. These are in no particular order, and there's a good chance I'm omitting a few.

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Loved it. I had never read this before, surprisingly... nor had I read any other Mark Twain novels. In my defense, we were assigned almost no books to read in high school, and everyone in college assumed we'd already read him. Being a janitor for five months was worth it for this book alone.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
Mark Twain was one of the only authors I doubled up on. I was working on getting a wide range of reading in. Anyway, this book surprised me. I think I was expecting something more similar in tone to the Disney movie loosely based on this book. It was hilarious in the beginning, and while it was funny the whole way through it got very political and very dark towards the middle and end. Still a great read, of course.

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
How can you not like this book? It was a fun, quick way to spend a shift.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Dark and awesome. I was quite disappointed by the movie version which I ran into on Netflix a few months after I listened to the book.

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas
Loved this one as well. This one was published in serial form, so each chapter was exciting and included some sort of climax to keep the reader interested for next time. Also, it has one of the best female villains I have ever read.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I went into this one not knowing what to expect. I know Austen is a brilliant author, but I'd never read her and wasn't really sure she was my type. I'm not going to begin an Austen obsession after this book, but it was still good... good enough that I very may well read another of her books eventually.

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
I tried to stick mostly to "you'll find them in SparkNotes classic books," but in this instance I strayed away from that. Vic Bobb was right. Hilarious. It was a good way to spend a week.

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
I blame my inability to understand written descriptions of battles, but this book bored me.

Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
Meh, okay. It didn't really make me hunger for more fairy tales, though.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
So good! I almost cried at the end... the only thing that stopped me was that people would have been very confused as to why the janitor was bawling at work.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Also great. I wish they'd spent a little more time actually talking about the awesome rescues that the Scarlet Pimpernel made, but it was an awesome romance novel that I didn't have to feel like a lamewad for liking. I'm a little in love with Sir Percy, I'll be honest.

The Princess and the Goblin by George Macdonald
Regardless of the fact that this is a children's book, it was totally awesome. It totally captured my imagination and is very highly ranked on my "what I will read my children" list.

The Princess and Curdie by George Macdonald
The sequel to the above book. While it's not quite as good as the original, it was still well worth reading.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
There's not much better than a cocaine-using genius detective!

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
I'd heard that people were angry enough at Hardy after writing this book that he gave up novels for good after. I always wondered what could be so terrible. I totally understand after reading the book. I loved it, but sometimes I think Hardy is some sort of creepy masochist who only escaped being a serial killer by taking out his sick urges on characters instead of real life. I went to work the day I was going to start this book feeling down about the fact that I was intelligent and capable but just couldn't get my foot in the door anywhere. And then for six hours I listen to the story of Jude who only wants to be in academia but can't because he doesn't have the right family background so he spends years working as a laborer. Talk about depressing. Of course, that was nothing compared to the rest of the book, but you'll have to read it yourself to find out more.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Weird, but pretty good. Carroll does a great job capturing the essence of a dream.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Do you know how many hours this book is? It's sixty. I've been listening to this book for five weeks, and I just finished it on Thursday. Despite the ridiculously long digressions on Waterloo and convents, I really enjoyed it. I never would have read this book otherwise, and it was a great life decision.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This brings us to the last book. I just started this book on Friday and will finish it next week. It's quite good so far. I feel bad for poor Jane and feel quite similar to her in a lot of ways.

So that's how I made the best of my time as a janitor. Even though I am super stoked to be done with that, I will miss the steady stream of classic literature.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Polyps and Taxes and Car Wrecks, Oh My!

I know I haven't written in awhile, mostly because my life has been ridiculously boring. Not so this week.

On Monday, I found out my hours at my job were cut down by 33%. Because I work for such a small company, I wanted to let them know I was looking for a job so that they could just have a heads up. I've learned my lesson. Employers don't like it when employees decide to leave. This loss of hours will cut my monthly income significantly, so I promptly freaked out. I sobbed the rest of the day and spent Tuesday in a depressive fit filled with sobbing, food, and submitting applications everywhere I could. I was considering staying at both my jobs until grad school in the fall, but that option has obviously been removed, so finding another job became very important.

On Thursday, Brian went to the doctor. He'd be having headaches and sinus problems. Like we expected, his nasal polyps are back. The doctor started him on steroids and nasal flushes to try to shrink them without surgery, but he's likely going to need surgery soon regardless. Thank goodness for insurance because this is a $10,000 surgery we're talking about. $10,000 to pick a nose. I should have gotten into that business.

On Saturday, I went to a tutoring place on a whim with my resume. They were thrilled that I was there... apparently they've been looking for someone just like me to tutor kids in English and reading for the ACT. It pays well and would be almost full time in the summer. I'm 90% sure I've got a job there. I'm going to verify that when I go in on Monday to take the ACT again. Yes, I get to take the ACT again. It's got to be better than the GRE, right? Also on Saturday, we went over to my parents' house to do taxes. Guess who's getting almost $3,000 back for taxes? That's right... us. Being married rocks.

But the really exciting thing happened on the way home. We were approaching an intersection. You all already know where this is going. We didn't have a stop sign, but the perpendicular road did. Brian and I both saw a car approaching the stop sign, and we actually even slowed down to make sure they were stopping. As the car slowed down considerably, we both thought they were stopping. But they pulled a rolling California stop and then punched it through the intersection right as we were approaching. Luckily, Brian was able to slam on the brakes and swerve so instead of t-boning them, we basically just smashed the front corners of our cars together. We still got shoved into the stop sign and totally took it out, but it could have been a lot worse.

So we got out of the car, and the people got out of the other car. They were a bunch of teenage girls who were totally freaking out. One girl looked down at her torn leggings and said, "OH MY GOSH!!! I SCRAPED MY KNEE!!! *sob sob* I SCRAPED MY KNEE!!!" It was a little funny. But here's the best part... (side story: Because I freak out when I can't find my keys, Brian is always scared that I will totally panic in an emergency. I always tell him I wouldn't, but he never really believed me.) I got out, quickly assessed the situation (no major injuries, location, etc.) and called 911. I was totally calm and told them everything they needed to know. Then I went and checked on the girls that were "hurt." There was one small bloody nose, one scraped knee, and a lot of unnecessary hyperventilating. The cops got there, and that's pretty much the end of the interesting portion of the story. The rest was just waiting in the cold forever and being tired.

So those were the interesting parts of my week... and the interesting parts of the past six months. The end.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Time Enough at Last

Today I woke up at 6:45 to go for my daily run. After I ran, I took a shower and proceeded to enjoy my daily “relax” time before I left for work at 8:30. After work (which is only a couple of hours on Friday mornings), I went grocery shopping and stopped by my boss’s house on the way home. When I got home, I made Brian a pretty sweet shrimp stir fry and then set about to clean ALL the things. Bed made, dishwasher emptied, floors swept, laundry (which I had put in before work) folded… the whole gamut. I made two pounds of meatloaf so that when I don’t have time to cook on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Brian can still have a good meal. This cooking session was accompanied with the idea that I would make him more meals on Saturday and Sunday to ensure that I can be cooking-free those days I’m busy. When Brian got home, I cooked him some chicken and made him a bomb chicken and egg and lunch meat and cheese and lettuce and spinach salad. After eating a bowl of cereal, I got ready for work and at 4:30 headed to my janitor job. I got home around 9:00 and went to the gym with Brian for (another) work out.

And now I’m reminded of a line from Coming Up for Air, the oft-forgotten George Orwell book I’m reading (recommendation courtesy of Vic Bobb). The narrator has just spent pages relating his love of fishing and then confesses that he hasn’t been fishing since he was sixteen years old. He notes, “In this life we lead… we don’t do the things we want to do… There’s time for everything except the things worth doing.” I’m not sure anyone knows how true that is more than I do. With my compulsive inability to relax, I am constantly missing out on life and on doing what I want to do. I still haven’t made it down to check out the local library. I still haven’t watched that movie I’ve been meaning to because, well, it’s a foreign film which would mean I’d have to read the subtitles (wait for the rest of this explanation before judging!), and the constant focus on the screen required by that means I can’t multitask while watching it. I’ve had a hankering to make homemade granola that I just haven’t got around to making yet.

So these are my assignments this weekend. I am relaxing. I am not thinking (too much!) about grad school. I am not going to feel pressured to do things I don’t really want to do. I will watch a movie by myself, and maybe even make popcorn. I will bake granola. I will walk down to the library just to check it out. I will take a break from all the silly things that seem to demand my attention, and I will focus my energy on the things I want to do, the things actually worth doing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Spinach and Salad and Peas, Oh My!

Grown-ups lie.

When I complained about eating vegetables as a kid, my mom would always imply that I would learn to like them as I got older. I always assumed people hit this magical age when suddenly green beans and salad and cucumbers sounded tasty instead of vomit-inducing. Turns out that age doesn’t exist. I know it’s not just a matter of needing more time because I’ve already outgrown most of my dislikes from childhood. I used to hate chicken and refried beans. Now I absolutely adore chicken burritos. I used to hate grapes, but now I love them (and almost every other fruit). It’s not that I haven’t hit the “mature tastebud” stage yet. Vegetables are just nasty, and when my parents told me they weren’t (or at least wouldn’t be when I was older), they knew what they were doing. They knew if I thought I’d learn to like them I’d keep eating them. And they knew I’d even keep eating them when I wasn’t forced to so I could learn to like them. It was all lies.

I’ve given it a valiant effort. I truly have. I gave myself to the age of twenty to eat whatever the crap I wanted and take advantage of my fast metabolism. But over the past couple of years, I’ve really tried to clean up my eating. In a lot of ways, I have. I have started eating more fruits and vegetables and stopped eating sugar and fatty stuff all the time. I try to stick more to whole wheat products instead of white flour. I actually like the taste of whole wheat better. I cut fat off of my meat (I don’t like it there! It’s gross and chewy!) and go for a run almost every day. However, I can’t help but think about that missing component for health—the three servings of vegetables a day recommended by the FDA. Especially with Brian losing weight and getting healthy, I’ve been feeling worse and worse about my failures. I want to be a good example and teammate with him when it comes to health. I want to raise a healthy family eventually, and now is the best time to start with the healthy bit.

But I can’t help it. Vegetables taste, as Brian would put it, like a dumpster. I just made myself cucumber slices with a bit of cream cheese and lunch meat on each of them for dinner. Freaking nasty, let me tell you. The cucumber slices just ruined everything, and I had to have some frozen cherries just so I wouldn’t have that “just ate vegetables” upset stomach all evening. People tell me to cook them, and I just think, “Why? So I can lose half the nutrients AND eat something that tastes like garbage?” Yeah, no thanks. Or that I should put ranch on everything. Then it still tastes awful but also has about a million times more calories. I have tried. I have force fed myself the three servings of vegetables at various points in my life. I have tried to like spinach, salad, celery, cucumbers, beets, and many more. Some of them aren’t bad, I’ll admit. But seriously, I’d still rather eat grass. Maybe that’s what I’ll start doing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Little Bout of Ubi Sunt

One thing I miss about college is the opportunity to be irresponsible. Even for obsessive class-goers such as myself, there was always that comforting knowledge in the back of your head that if you really wanted to, you could just screw it and play flash games all day. I always ended up going to class, but the option was always there. And class was usually only for a few hours each day. Even if I was responsible enough to go to class, I could always decide to blow off homework that day and go to Shari’s with friends. Not that I did that much either. The point is that even if I didn’t take these opportunities to slack off, it was nice to know they were there.

I don’t really have that anymore. Sure, realistically I could just decide to skip work for no reason, but it’s not the same. You can skip class or homework for a day with almost no repercussions (depending on the day you skip…), but even just missing one little thing for work has consequences that are pretty undesirable—like losing your job. I’ve stopped feeling that fulfilling my basic obligations (used to be school, and is now work) is making the responsible decision. Now it feels like doing what I have to. I have to make responsible decisions by going to the store, cooking, cleaning, studying for the GRE, etc. I have to work twice as hard to feel responsible.

It’s a rainy, dreary day here in Idaho. There is a very distinct divide between things that seem acceptable on rainy days and things that don’t. Mainly, everything and anything productive just seems sinful to do when it’s raining. Here are some things I’d rather do that what I am doing today (which happening to be working eleven hours).

-Skip forward ten or fifteen years and spend the day doing Halloween crafts with the kids. There would be tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch.

-Go back ten or fifteen years and do the exact same as above with the roles reversed.

-Watch a whole season of Dexter with Brian.

-Sit on the porch (assuming we had one) under a blanket and talk (to family/friends who would also be present) while watching the rain.


-Bake cookies and then eat them all.

-Get deeply involved in some (probably an RPG) video game and play it all day with no guilt.

-Watch a scary movie and eat popcorn.

-Take a ridiculously long and hot shower/bath.

-Leisurely clean the house while watching some marginally interesting documentary.

-Curl up with some completely trivial, but exceptionally interesting, book that will keep my interest for the entire day.

-On that note, go back to my time at college and spend the day getting ahead on reading Anna Karenina and whatever the current book for Eastern European literature may be.

Notice that I did not mention dealing with whiny, disobedient children (in this scenario, my future children will, of course, be adorable and obedient just as I always was) or cleaning for seven hours straight. But alas! The opportunity for irresponsibility has left me. I will be doing none of the things I’d like to and both of the things I specifically chose not to mention.

Being an adult sucks.