Reflections on Visit #1

Well, it’s over. Round one, anyway. The interview was less painful than I expected. 
However, there is something about visiting graduate schols before they decide to admit you that makes me sympathize with the little frogs in a biology laboratory, except they might be more fortunate, because they’re dead and don’t have to hear people comparing the size of their eyeballs when removed from the sockets.
*Reassuring moment* my eyeballs are still in my sockets.
I’m serious.  Am I walking crooked? Maybe they want someone who walks a little crooked. All the students here cross their right leg over their left. I’ve been doing it wrong for years!!!! I picked meat instead of vegetables at lunch. Would I be more acceptable if were vegetarian?  I yawned during one of the classes I sat in on – how dare I! Was I funny enough? Was I serious enough? Was I enthusiastic? (Okay, so I left the pom-poms at home…stupid, I know.) 

In a sense, I felt as though each person I met was holding out a giant letter of acceptance – just out of reach, but curiously shaped like the number 42 – and all that prevented me from snatching it was my inability to think of the One Great Question About Graduate School. 

When the final dregs of each conversation turned all eyes to me, it always came. The dreaded words: “Do you have any other questions?” 
“You ARE the weakest link. Goodbye.”
(Drat. I knew I should have asked why the beds were designed for people four inches shorter than me…Or burst into song: “How do I live without you?”)

But the visit wasn’t entirely without highlights. Along the way, I found further proof that Plato’s doctrine of forms was on to something. The form of the brilliant professor is becoming ever clearer in my mind. 
  • Glasses are a definite. 
  • The voice is key: a feathery, rather opaque tone in the upper register blending to a gravely base, as if to demonstrate brilliance by encompassing everything in the world, lithosphere to atmosphere. 
  • A rhythmic step-dance for lecturing unique to the individual: four steps forward, four steps back, or three to the left, one to the right, and a little hop (so maybe the hop is an exaggeration). 
I’m still working out the rest. Right now it could still be confused with the form of a Richard Harris doing a line dance in between Harry Potter scenes. But give me time…
In the meantime, it’s back to the daily grind.  And I, a wiser, sadder woman, will now begin designing a new world to rival this one in order to calculate that elusive One Great Question About Graduate School. 
Stay tuned for the flying flowerpots.+
++alliteration mega-points.
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Why Me? Interview #1

Next Wednesday and Thursday, I have my first official grad school visit and interview, at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia, for the Masters of Letters in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance. That’s a mouthful. 

Step one of interview prep: remember the program name.
I’ve done interviews before, and I’m not bad at them, but they scare me. Horribly. I don’t know what the interviewer will ask, how formal it will be, or whether I’ll be having an uncontrollable sweaty-palms-and-bad-hair day on that particular morning. Because really, how much better a first impression can you make than by leaving a layer of brine on the interviewer’s hand? Really.
On my calendar for today, I wrote – “prepare for MBC interview.” Haha. I have no idea what it means, but it made me feel good to write it. So for kicks, I’m taking a minute to waste time and brainstorm likely interview questions and the ways I may – or may not – be inspired to answer them. 
The Graduate School Interview

-Hi! Welcome to ___________. Glad you could make it.
-Yeah, me too. I was actually hoping to have an interview at _________, but they cancelled last minute, so I’m glad it worked out for me to come here.
-Ah, yes. Good. So, have a seat. I have your files here, and–
-Good. Good. Maybe you can remind me what I wrote in that personal statement. I think it was about 3 a.m. on coffee, so I don’t really remember except that I was cutting and pasting from this website I found…
-I see. Well, why don’t we start by asking you to tell us a little bit about you. Why did you decide to apply to graduate school?, that sort of thing.
-You mean after American Idol turned me down, and I got fired? Yeah, so I got this brochure in the mail – actually it was addressed to my next-door neighbor, but it was pretty, so I kept it. There were some really hot guys on the cover talking about how much money they were making, so I figured, hey, I’ll give it a shot. 
-Uh-huh. That’s good to know. You know, we get a lot of applicants every year, and most of them are very qualified. To be blunt, what makes you different? Why should we choose you?
-Twenty minutes and a DanceDanceRevolution. That’s all I ask.
-Interesting. So, talk to me about your goals. What do you hope to accomplish in graduate school? What are some of your long-term plans?
-Hey, let’s start with managing to wait to go to the bathroom until this interview is over. That’s turning into a pretty long-term goal, I tell you what. But yeah, I just want the glory, really. Those three little letters would look pretty snazzy on my e-mail signature. And after that, who knows? I’ve had this crazy dream about writing completely bogus textbooks and perverting eager young minds…
-Thank you. I think we’ve got just about all we need. Thanks for coming in, and we’ll be in touch.
-Great, great. Boy, I’ve got a lot of planning to do!
-I wouldn’t start ordering your change of address forms just yet…
-That’s true. I should probably wait until you start sending me my stipend. Cheers!
It’s so tempting…

T-minus How Should I Know?

It’s January. Happy New Year. Month of writing-the-wrong-year-on-checks-and-other-dated-items-like-tax-forms-but-we-don’t-think-about-those. Etc. 

AND…I can no longer pretend that the applications I mailed in November have no impact on my future plans. Drat.

I should start hearing back from graduate schools somewhere between the end of January and the middle of April, if last year is any indication. So, to fill up the angsty waiting period, a friend had the brilliant idea of colorizing it! (see below).  
The only question that remains is, will the school names be filled in with red (bad), yellow (probably bad), or green (good-but-scary)? 
*Cue intense music* 
TO BE CONTINUED…

Crashing Parties, Crushing Pedestals

I love random and awkward life lessons.

One of my friends, who shares my love of dancing, recently heard about a dance that was much closer to home than weekend dances tend to be. When she arrived, she was surprised to find that the boy at the door was not charging an admission fee. 
Once inside, she noticed that the decorations were homemade and personalized. And that 90% of the dancers were in high school or younger. And that an entourage of mothers was setting out snacks. And that people were talking about “being invited,” not “deciding to come.”
It took only a few more minutes for my friend to realize that the event was, in fact, a private party. After reflecting on the embarrassment she must have felt, enhanced by the fact that many of the people at the party knew her family, I started thinking.
Mark Twain once said, “Man is the only animal that blushes – or needs to.” 
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the concept of shame is inherently bad; however, when imperfection is only permissable in private, we have a problem.
Sometimes it’s easier to recover from embarrassment and guilt when we are surrounded by strangers. Why? Shouldn’t shared experiences bring people closer, give them greater empathy? Maybe. But like many people, I hate showing weakness in front of people I know. Why blog (see this post) or spill to strangers on airplanes? The impression of simultaneous intimacy and distance is attractive to us, especially when we feel vulnerable or inferior.
Perpetual weakness, or even the appearance of it, is no fun. Just ask someone with idiopathic craniofacial erythema. But avoiding vulnerability is not the answer. There is a place for showing the people who know us that we too are flawed. After all, without gaffes, bad hair days, and tongue-tied moments, human relationships would have much higher pressure, very little honesty, and much less healthy laughter. 
Even if that means crashing a few high school dance parties in the process.
Postscript: I also love pretending that the awkward life lessons that I stumble into happened to someone else. But in light of the still-wet paint of the second-hand New Years’ resolutions I have inhaled, I have to admit that I was a participant in the above-mentioned gaffe. *Cue blushing.* So now you know. Hate to burst your bubble, but I’m not perfect either. 🙂

New Resolutions’ Year

In my book,

Resolve is a carpet cleaner.
…The word Re-solution means having another go at a solution you tried last year.
…If you see the email subject line Re: Solution, you know a lecture is forthcoming.
I’m not the New Years Resolution type.  My carpet is past help, and I’ve heard carpet cleaners are very bad for your complexion. I can get a lecture just by bringing up November’s election, and solutions that have been tried and discarded once usually have an embedded computer virus.
But, in the spirit of a New Year free of superstitions, black eyed peas, and insulted looks, I’ve decided to try my hand at a series of New Years Un-Resolutions, otherwise known as stating the obvious (sneaky, right?). 
Enjoy. And don’t forget to leave the garbage inside today. (In which case, I’d recommend leaving the kitty litterbox in the basement until tomorrow as well.)
**Drum roll, please…
Un-Resolution number ONE 
(must be spoken out loud with similar emphasis for the Un-R to work)
I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever make a resolution to watch VeggieTales.
Un-Resolution number TWO

I will probably not stop writing on my blogs or start caring that my readership is approximately 3 people. When they’re really bored.
Un-Resolution number THREE

I might not begin to clean my room before it gets to the ouch-I-tripped-on-a-giant-dust-bunny-named-Bob stage.
Un-Resolution number FOUR

I will never put superglue and duck tape over the snooze button on my alarm clock.
Un-Resolution number FIVE

I will almost definitely write another bizarre and chaotic Christmas letter next year.
Un-Resolution number SIX

I will religiously refuse to post my relationship status on my Facebook page, on principle.
Un-Resolution number SEVEN

I will resume my perusal of Despair.com with the goal of one day working on their staff.
Un-Resolution number EIGHT

I will alliterate any way and any wheelbarrow of words aptly worth alliterating.
Un-Resolution number NINE

I will endeavor to utilize my supercilious tendency to quibble with abnormally horizontally-extended speech to whatever antidisestablishmentarianistic ends possible, unless I have the misfortune of contracting pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
Un-Resolution number TEN

I will most likely very probably with a high percentage of likelihood not become resolved to take my New Years resolutions, un- or not, seriously.
**another drumroll, just for kicks…
Happy 2009!  

Christmas Letter – Revisited

December, 2008

 Dear family and friends,

After Jen hit “print” on that 90-page honors project in May, I thought life would be easier. Right. We moved back home, and three days later, it was business as usual.

Most days, Jen has three to ten web pages running simultaneously. We also spend excessive time fixing commas in documents and typing commentaries on topics in education.

Occasionally I get so overloaded that I don’t have the energy to load another email. I suppose Jen gets the hint; she stops typing and cracks open a dictionary-sized book with a British or Russian name on the spine. But then, even after the workday ends, she’s back to French or Latin language study websites or writing on her two personal “blogs.”

Don’t forget the grad school applications. Eight, to be exact. As if four years weren’t enough, Jen wants to go back to school for another five to seven so she can teach other young adults about books that are thicker than the old Pride and Prejudice on VHS. Thankfully, she put the apps in the mail last month, so I don’t have to look at another existential exploration of her life purpose. In the evenings—

How would you know? You start virus-scanning yourself at five and don’t have a spare byte of RAM for the next ten hours.

You’re one to talk! You’re just a shoe!

—Go defragment yourself. I’m telling this part.

You see, I’m a dancing shoe.  I spin.  I twirl.  I waltz, swing dance, contra dance, and even throw in an occasional tango or salsa step. In Jen’s case, I travel along to late-night IHOP visits, and I help Jen make friends while she’s living at home, even if it involves getting her very, very dizzy.

Umm, aren’t you forgetting something?

Are you talking to me?

Do you see another car with amazing gas mileage?

Who do you think gets Jen back and forth and everywhere else at three a.m.?  With so many people getting married this summer, it was all I could do to make it to the next oil change!

I don’t see your keys wearing off from—

If my steering wheel was as twitchy as your touchpad, I’d—

Why do you two think people go dancing—to get away from you!

WHY YOU—YOU—YOU—

……………………

** Massive smackdown ensues between computer, dance shoe, and car. Outcome unknown. Results TBA next year. Merry Christmas.**

Would you like a "Sno-Cone"?

So, if you ever thought God didn’t care about the little things…like your personal nutrition…think again.  I was making eggs for lunch yesterday, and after beating them, I was about to sprinkle a little salt on top. 

Apparently, either as a warning about the dangers of sodium intake or a hint that I’m not eating enough of it, my choice was deemed incorrect in quantity or quality by the kitchen gods, otherwise known as the sea salt container assembly machines.
Instead of a few choice grains of coarse salt, the little plastic lid fell out, and the ENTIRE bottle (2 inch diameter, 6 inch tall) fell with a muffled splash (more like a “ploosh”) into my eggs. 
The resulting concoction looked somewhat akin to a particularly gelatinous banana-coconut sno-cone. I was severely tempted to offer it to a greedy child in the mall, but my better half got the better of me, and I refrained, lest I further anger the kitchen gods.
Such is life.
*Note: while somewhat irreverent, allusions to God’s role in daily nutrition are not meant to be offensive or to be taken seriously… 🙂

Black Friday: an Ethnography

I’m generally a shy person. I need a break after extensive large group time. But inexplicably, I really like going shopping on Black Friday and Christmas Eve. I am not the 6 a.m. doorbusters type of girl; instead, I enjoy rambling around the mall in the afternoon, silently smirking at the exploits of my more intense fellow shoppers.
Here are a few highlights.
Minivans. The first sign of Black Friday is the overabundance of minivans on the highway. These are the mothers rarely seen on the interstate, but who drag their children out of bed at 5:30 a.m. in order to buy discounted winter coats and microwaves. 
Sneak tactics. The best way to ensure first dibs on items in a narrow aisle is to take a wide cart, man it on each side with several children hanging off the basket, and park in the center of the aisle while you start at the other end and work your way up.
Bizarre priorities. When it takes longer to return an item than it took that item to be made, purchased, gift wrapped, and opened.
Holiday spirit. There’s nothing like watching shoppers snatch items off a pile and toss them on the floor or ram other shoppers with their cart, to the tune of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” The only thing better is three guys roaring with laughter when you accidentally crash into a fake plant while passing slow-moving shoppers.  
…and finally, the countdown…
  • Number of non-employees wearing Santa hats: 1
  • Number of fathers sitting dejectedly outside a store: 15+
  • Number of teenage couples holding hands: 9+
  • Number of people asking help figuring discounts or deciding between two items: 2
  • Number of people using hand sanitizer in the food court: 4
  • Number of awkwardly loud cell phone conversations: 2  
What memories…
On a more serious note, Black Friday has become a dangerous day. The phrase “doorbusters” was not meant to be taken literally. It’s not funny to consider store employees trampled, injured, and even killed by rioting shoppers. In fact, it’s downright disturbing when you think about it. No $388 flat-screen TV is worth it; not by a long shot.
The sights and sounds of madcap shopping make funny stories. But honestly, when consumerism leads to a blatant disregard for humanity, that’s no laughing matter.  As much as I get a kick out of the atmosphere on Black Friday, I wish that giving thanks and celebrating the people in our lives, rather than the effects of overeating turkey, would be what sticks with us into the Thanksgiving weekend. 

…and they arrived!

With one day to spare on the 4-6 weeks deadline, my GRE subject test scores FINALLY arrived yesterday. Chicken that I am, I put off opening the envelope as long as I possibly could. 

But…
The results were good! (better, in fact, than I had hoped.)  It may not mean much in terms of getting into grad school, but it certainly won’t hurt.  WHEW!!!!  
Now I just have to get those last few transcripts located and the last few references in…
Happy Thanksgiving, by the way!