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Academia

Hey, I Know English Too!

“Oh, so you’re an English major? Do you, uh, plan on getting a job when you graduate?” –something more than three people have actually said to me in the last six months

You know how Harry Potter was destined to save the wizarding world from evil? Well, I was destined to become an English major. (For about five minutes at the start of freshman year, I thought that I was destined to become a Russian major. I wasn’t.) My lit teacher senior year of high school told us that a former student of hers was studying English at a liberal arts school in upstate New York or western Pennsylvania or something. The former student was taking a semester-long class devoted solely to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Upon hearing this, I turned to the girl sitting next to me and mouthed, the horror! (Unrelated note: Julie was in this class with me for an entire year. She sat at the opposite side of the classroom and we spoke maybe twice. Star-crossed lovers.)

Now, let’s pause here for a second. I thought my joke was totally hilarious because 1) reading Heart of Darkness is kind of like slogging through a muddy swamp in Old Navy flip flops and 2) I am a nerd. (If it’s been a long time since your last high school lit class, the horror! The horror! is what Kurtz says at the end of the Heart of Darkness just before he dies. He’s talking about human nature or vegan chicken or something.) I don’t remember exactly how the girl sitting next to me reacted—if I had to guess, she laughed politely and then quickly left the room—but I chuckled to myself at my literary pun for a long time. I mean a long time. How did I not realize that English was my destiny?

Before I became an English major, I asked the same questions that you would. What could you possibly do with four years’ experience studying literature? How could that translate into anything remotely practical? Are beanies and oversized eyeglasses required to gain entry into a Shakespearean lit class?

To answer your most important question: no, beanies are optional. (Oversized glasses are strongly recommended, though. That’s why I got a pair this summer. People can smell your intellect.) But when I declared an English major, I found that people tend to have questions. And comments. And a lot of confidence that I’m never going to get a job.

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“So, you want to be a teacher, right?” Nope. Nope I don’t.

“You’re an English major? Hey, I know English too!” Everyone thinks they’re the first to come up with that one.

“English? So… what are you going to do with that?” I mean, I was kind of planning on doodling Toni Morrison quotes on park benches for the rest of my life, but now you’ve really got me thinking!

“What’s your favorite book?” I like this question, I really do. But it feels like my answer should be terrific. I usually go with On the Road by Jack Kerouac because it’s avant-garde, yet classic. (Plot twist: I have never read On the Road by Jack Kerouac.)

So yes, I take classes like “Introduction to Shakespeare” and “Contemporary American Literature.” I write scenes about people who only exist in my head and I say words like doppelganger and synecdoche out loud when I probably shouldn’t. But when I have a thought, or a weird feeling, or a crazy idea, I can bring it to life. That’s a practical skill, if you can believe it. Just look at any book, article, headline, or advertisement that’s ever been published. For me, being an English major is all about finding the right words, putting them in order, and making you see what I see. It’s like inception or telepathy. Being an English major is like being a magician, basically. We are wordsmiths in training. So you can keep telling me how unemployable I am—I don’t mind. If you need me, I’ll be over here making magic.

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Food and Friends

Back Sweat and Jazz Hands: A Birthday to Remember

Post by: Heather Krill

Thank you Hannah and Julie for allowing me to be your guest blogger!  All I wanted for my 40th birthday was to travel some place warm and sunny to relax with my friends. Ten other women from different chapters of my life joined me in Fort Lauderdale for a weekend of celebration. As a happily married woman, mother of two small children, and high school English teacher, I know better than to belabor you with the details of our people-watching at the beach, reminiscing about college, or receiving an exciting visit from Ft. Lauderdale’s finest fireman due to an oven malfunction one night during dinner. Instead, I’ll share two new exercise experiences which showed me more about my friends than even a bottomless bottle of wine ever could have.

Having been an avid reader of Hannah’s yoga blog last summer, I felt adequately prepared to attend a Bikram yoga class. Her mother, Rina, wanted to “treat” me to sweaty yoga for a birthday “gift.” Another friend, Michelle, decided Bikram yoga was also something she would like to try on this ladies’ weekend away from all things stressful in regular life. Family and friends who know and love Rina also understand she is a bit of a masochist when it comes to exercise. So with an empty stomach, a full water bottle, and a rented yoga mat, we entered the 105 degree studio. My theme song, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, played in my mind, and I was ready to sweat. Always an athlete, I am not afraid of working hard, battling through discomfort, and challenging myself. What I was not prepared for was the perpetual fear of passing out or throwing up on the 65 year old yogi to my left or my equally pained friend, Michelle, on my right. Michelle and I hung in there for all of the positions, stretches, flips from back to front and back again. But then the nausea overtook me, and I worried I would not be able to reach my towel quickly enough to catch the vomit. Would I be able to safely leap over the 30 other people “treating” themselves to Sunday morning yoga that stood between me and the door?

Let me clear: I was not hung-over. I had in fact just had the best night’s sleep since my 3 ½ year old had been born. I looked over at Rina who smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Surely, she thought this was the best gift ever. And I know the many benefits of Bikram; I just could not feel or observe any of them in the moment. It’s important to note that Michelle also looked close to death. Sensing our despair when I motioned Michelle toward the door, Maria, our instructor, told us just to lay flat on our mats and breathe through the next few positions. A rule follower by nature, I put my head back down and waited to either faint or projectile vomit. Neither happened immediately; however, upon exiting the hot room, I retreated to a very stylish and clean bathroom stall to throw up. I’m certain the other women in the locker room were whispering things like, “Poor thing- must be her first time,” or “She’ll get used to the heat.” And you must actually get used to the heat, or crazy people like Rina and Hannah wouldn’t return time and again. An hour or so later, I did feel fantastic- cleared pores, stretched muscles, and a quieter soul.

Just 24 hours later, Jolene, a self-proclaimed “jazzercise fanatic”, asked that we join her in a class which is combination of old school aerobics, Zumba, and modern jazz. Kris, with a K, bubbled with enthusiasm for out of town guests, prattling on about “just shakin’ it” and “bouncing that booty.” Students poured in from the streets, including an eighty-ish year old woman wearing a black sweatband and a red t-shirt that read An outfit isn’t complete without dog hair, and an Asian ball room dancer/ professional male ballerina wearing actual jazz shoes and flashing perfect teeth and jazz hands. After stretching and warming up, we brought our heart rates up with a variety of sashays, kick ball changes, chest pumps, and grapevines- all of which brought back memories of awkward dance classes in sixth grade when my own mother gently suggested that I should focus more on team sports. Kris with a K shouted out instructions in between phrases like, “You doin’ OK, Bud?” as Bud struggled to kick his foot six inches off the floor, and “Walk it sexy; walk it sexy! Shake it Bev, just shake it.” Bud was indeed OK and Bev was easily 75 and wore a beaded black hair accessory in her perfectly coiffed ponytail, clearly a cheerleader, gymnast, or majorette back in her day. Kris also updated the entire class on the latest celebrity profile of Justin Timberlake during a remixed Michael Jackson song. Her routines ended in complete musical synchronicity, jazz hands in the air—she/he was like a combination of an Olympic gymnast and an elegant orchestral conductor. 5500 steps on Fit Bit (the equivalent of 2.3 miles) later, we took our group picture atop the studio stage, sweating, laughing, and feeling well-jazzercised.

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We will return to our families having shared new experiences together like Bikram yoga and jazzercise, but I’ll probably stick to hiking mountains or jogging with my children in a double stroller. Like all good friends, whether 10, 20, 40, or 60, we challenge the ones we love to try new things and move beyond our comfort zone. These are the best gifts I could have received for my 40th birthday; I’m one lucky girl. Side note: on more than one occasion this trip, it came up that Rina had been to Fort Lauderdale for spring break in 1984. As I was only in fourth grade at the time, the only part I would have changed would have been our costumes for jazzercise. I imagined us all wearing leg warmers, matching terrycloth wrist and head sweatbands, high- hipped hot pink leotards and Flashdance sweatshirts with the neck scooped out to hang sexily off one shoulder; instead we wore the same clothes, laundered of course, we had worn to sweaty yoga holding only the memory of if not actual vomit.

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Off-Campus

Nannying: The Most Effective Form Of Birth Control

Much like abortion and America’s current political system, children are a polarizing subject. Some people love ‘em, others would prefer to never be around them ever. It seems like you’re either a “kid person” or you’re not. But there’s no wrong way to be.

I like to think that I had no choice but to be a “kid person.” I grew up with four younger siblings, and was blessed with a baby sister at age ten. So by the time I got to college, I felt like I’d already raised a child. I’d been changing diapers since I was in fifth grade, and I’d been extorted as free child care service by my parents for even longer. I could break up fights, dole out punishment, and was an expert at getting gum out of hair by the time I hit middle school.

But friends, that is not even close to the same thing as being a parent.

Like many college students, my goal this summer was to scrape together as much money as I could by working a job that I could land before I got my degree. Paid internships proved to be as elusive as four-leaf clovers or matching socks. So I was a nanny to four awesome kids. I was part stand-in older sister, part whiffle-ball referee, and part mom. I made lunches and wiped tears. I spent forty hours a week with these kids, and that was still an abridged version of parenting. That blew my mind. I got to punch out at the end of the day! I’d get in my car, roll the windows down and peel out, free until the next morning.

Now it’s not like I was planning on having a kid anytime soon, but people told me that this job was going to be great birth control. And it totally was. I loved every day of it, but I gained some respect for the parents of the world. You all deserve some type of cookie. I also gained some wisdom from being a part time mom. And here I thought I knew it all.

Part-Time Mom Wisdom:

  • It is impossible to please everyone at once.
  • Kid’s shows are undeniably the worst. Especially ones with singing.
  • Whoever invented the game “yellow car” was an evil person.
  • Kids will eat Ramen noodles for every meal forever, if you let them.
  • Razor scooters still rock.
  • Going to the beach with five kids makes the beach alarmingly less relaxing.

Below are some highlights.

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Quick photo shoot with this purple bush.

"I can hear everything you're saying because I have four ears!"

“I can hear everything you’re saying because I have four ears!”

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Food and Friends

A Julie Twitter Collage

When Julie and I started hanging out after we first moved into college, I noticed that she says a lot of funny things. Actually, first I noticed that she wears a lot of black tank tops. (She has literally thousands of black tank tops.) Then I noticed that she says a lot of funny things. I started tweeting kind of excessively about these funny things. Julie got annoyed with the tweets and threatened to stop saying funny things altogether if I didn’t quit quoting her on Twitter. But she’s too funny for that. She just can’t stop saying funny things. So for the past two and a half years, she’s been saying funny things, I’ve been stealth-drafting tweets of things she says when she’s not looking, and then when she finally checks her phone and sees a new notification from Twitter, she glares at me and probably fantasizes about punching my face. But she still loves me I think.

So in lieu of actually having to write my own jokes this week, I have decided to put together a collage. A Twitter collage. A Julie Twitter collage. (She’s probably gonna hate this, guys. I can’t wait.)

In the fall of our freshman year, things started on a surprisingly religious note.

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Then Jules started questioning our school’s mascot.

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We passed a weird-looking white house on campus at some point.

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I think it was around then that Julie threatened to stop saying funny things. But she didn’t.

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Sometimes she just said sad things that made me want to give her a warm bath and a hot meal, like people do with stray cats in the movies.

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One morning, I live-tweeted our morning pillow talk. She didn’t know until she checked her phone a few hours later.

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And the rest, well, they’re just Julie-isms. The girl has a way with words.

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You’re the best, Jules.

(And I’m never gonna stop tweeting.)

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Academia

Long Days, Short Weeks

“Today, me will live in the moment. Unless it is unpleasant, in which case, me will eat a cookie.” -Cookie Monster.

Friends, I’d like to talk to you about living in the moment. Hannah and I have been trying to channel Cookie Monster, but we’ve only been successful at the eating-cookies part. Lately it’s felt like life is a race, a desperate sprint to a time when you aren’t feeling stretched too thin. But every time you approach the finish line, it jumps back another mile.

Depending on your tendency to commit to things without thinking, college can be a lot. (I swear that midterms have lasted the entirety of October. It’s been midterms forever. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t midterms.) And on top of classes, you commit to other things. You join clubs, get a job, spearhead group projects, and maybe even start a blog with your roommate. Hannah and I were thinking of starting a cover band, but we might have too much on our plates right now. Deepest apologies to our hypothetical fans.

Now I’m a firm believer in keeping busy. Too much free time and before you know it you’re four hour-long episodes deep of The Newsroom and you can’t tell if it’s day or night. (This happened once.) There’s nothing wrong with taking opportunities and living fully. Lately we’ve been calling it, living on the edge… (of a breakdown). In case you don’t know what this looks like, here are some visuals of me and Hann at some low points:

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And it feels like everything is in fast-forward. The days are never-ending but the weeks are incredibly short. Monday through Friday we put our heads down and wait for the weekend, wishing it would all rush by in a peppy 80′s-music montage. Then we’re in our third week of midterms and we have no idea how it happened. So I’d like to offer some unqualified wisdom to you guys.

At some point tomorrow, slow down and reflect. Take time and enjoy your lunch before you rush off to another meeting. Save an hour to watch an episode of your favorite show. Walk the long way to class and take deep breaths of clean air. Friday might be better, but today is good.

It’s not always that easy, but maybe we can make a habit of this. Maybe you’ll become the relentlessly optimistic one in your group of friends. I bet most of them wouldn’t disown you. And if anyone out there is being hit especially hard this week, know that I believe in you. Midterms will be over eventually. (Just like a few more weeks.)

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Off-Campus

Badass Lady Wisdom

“You better not make fun of me in your blog again.” –my mom

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: October is my mom’s birth month. She’s turning twenty-nine next week, and it is imperative that celebrations be held every weekend from the 1st of the month right up until Halloween. If you’re a longtime friend of my mom, or a Facebook friend of my mom, or if you’ve recently met my mom in passing, you probably know this already. But I thought the PSA might be necessary.

I’ve been given a very specific list of items to exclude from this blog post. “Pre-menopause,” “hot flashes,” “middle-age,” and “just menopause in general.” By listing these things now, I’m 100% violating this request, but I’m only doing it because if these things hadn’t been mentioned, I never in a million years would have thought to include them in this post, and I think they add a little something special. But let me rewind.

Julie and I took a break from honoring our campus with scenes like this to spend the weekend in the White Mountains for my mom’s birthday. We were invited to join in on a “Girls’ Weekend,” a mystical and outdoorsy 48 hour getaway with my mom and a bunch of her friends. Why they wanted to invite us—two relatively uncoordinated co-eds who spend most of their free time discussing second-string Harry Potter characters—is still a little bit lost on me, but we packed up our hiking boots and went on our merry way.

(Side note: If you were wondering which HP characters count as “second string,” our roster includes Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, and occasionally Fred and George Weasley. Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan, and Cho Chang are third string. Ernie MacMillan’s on the bench.)

The thing about my mom’s friends is that they’re not really just my mom’s friends. They’re my surrogate moms. When I was younger they bathed me and changed my diapers and yelled at me when my boots tracked snow in the house, just as loudly and with as much enthusiasm as my own mother would. I call most of them “Auntie,” and I’m pretty sure they make up about 73% of this blog’s readership. (Love you guys! Keep it up!)

Over our 48 mystical and outdoorsy hours together, my mom & co. taught Julie and me a lot about life, love, and how best to lose a member of the group on a mountain in the middle of a rainstorm.

Badass Lady Wisdom:

  • Make time for weekend trips with friends, even if it feels like you don’t have any. (Time, that is. If it feels like you don’t have any friends, consider making some before you plan weekend friend trips.)
  • Always bring a bottle of wine. Doesn’t matter where. Just bring it.
  • Don’t be afraid to break the rules.
  • Good friends make you a birthday cake. Best friends make you a birthday cake and hike with it for 8.4 miles so you can eat it next to a waterfall.
  • Get up early. Go outside. Climb a mountain. Bring a raincoat. Life’s too short to say no to an adventure.

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To my mom & co., thank you for all of your badass lady wisdom. I was raised by a team of experts. Readers—badass ladies and gents and everything in between—I hope you enjoy this wisdom too. (And remember to wish my mom a happy birthday. It’s the law.)

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Adventure

Two Dudes, One Moped

The other night I was walking home from class, attempting not to get tangled in my headphones cord while balancing a cup hot of cider and spilling it all over my hands. I strolled down Main Street, happy for my day to be over. And that’s when I saw it: Two Dudes, One Moped.

They’re a majestic creature, really. Like Bigfoot or the Lochness Monster. Just a couple of guys sharing one small seat on a motorized scooter and looking upset about it. There’s the guy driving, hunched forward and looking anywhere but back at his friend, or at anyone else, for that matter. Then there’s the passenger, following strict, guy-on-the-back-of-a-moped protocol.

GUY-ON-THE-BACK-OF-A-MOPED-PROTOCOL:

  • You think this is weird, and you must make it known to the world that you think it’s weird.
  • Sit as far back as possible without actually tumbling backwards into the street. Risk life if necessary.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, wrap your arms around the dude in front. Put your hands anywhere else. Hold the seat, flail your arms around, pick your nose. Anything else.
  • Absolutely no hip contact.

Hannah and Julie as Two Dudes One Moped

This next part goes out to you, Dude On The Back Of A Moped. It’s okay. Sometimes, when you’re running late to wherever you’re going, you have to hitch a ride of the back of another dude’s scooter. There’s nothing wrong with Two Dudes, One Moped. Just relax and enjoy the ride, you mythical creature of this college campus.

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