I went to grad school and all I got were these silly glasses.

Friends, my eyes have been killing me lately.  It all started towards the middle of the semester when, after hours of working on my laptop, reading through articles, and staring at PowerPoint presentations, I would have this incredibly severe pain in my eyes.  Once it was so bad during a lecture that I had to close my laptop, stop taking notes, and try to soothe my watery eyes by looking down at the table.  I realized just how much more I was using my eyes now.

That sounds silly, I know, but graduate school has meant a lot more screen time and a lot less relaxing time.  So I decided to get my eyes checked out and lo, and behold, my doctor suggested I get a pair of reading glasses.  Well, more so reading-working-on-the-computer-and-in-class glasses.  And since that’s basically all I do anymore, they’re pretty much going to be an all the time thing.

While at first I was a little bummed out because I’ve never had any eye issues before.  Having glasses seems like just one more thing for me to keep track of an inevitably lose.  And it’s not like I could ever wear contacts – I hate using eye drops or putting anything on my eyes.  After some initial disappointment and a short chat with my mother, I decided that I was excited to explore the glasses-wearing world.

A friend suggested that I check out this company called Warby Parker, named after two Kerouac characters.  I thought, alright, I’ll give it a try.  And then my mind was blown.

WP carries all kinds of classic and unique styles that pretty much anyone can appreciate.  I signed up to use their Home Try On system where they send you five pairs of glasses of your choosing and you have five days to test them out and show them to your friends.  Then, after you’ve decided which ones you want to actually buy, you ship them all back, order your pair online, and they’ll get your frames and prescription lenses sent on their way!  It’s pretty awesome to be able to test out the glasses at home before you buy them, even if they aren’t your prescription.  I’ve been wearing the Ainsworth around all day to test them and I can’t wait to get my pair in the mail next week, just in time for me to be able to do some leisure reading without straining my eyes over the break!

XOXO

A

 

P.S. Did you notice the snow?!  What a lovely little add-on!

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“…to strive, to seek, to find.”

I’ve always loved poetry, but not always for the right reasons.  When I was younger, I think I liked it because I knew who Emily Dickinson was, or who E.E. Cummings was, and some of the other kids around me didn’t.  But I didn’t really know who these people were, only that it was important to know these people, even if all I knew was a name and one famous poem.

Then my first semester at DePauw, I took a class from possibly the most difficult, but incredible, professor in the entire institution – Andrea Sununu.  You can read all about her in this article written by one of my peers.  The class was British Writers and I thought I would do so well.  I had, in fact, already read Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, the Brontës.  I had convinced myself that I would ace the class.  But I didn’t.  I struggled and cried, I pushed, I went crazy with the workload, but I remember one night towards the end of the semester – I was down in the first floor lounge of Humbert Hall sitting on the floor, staring out the windows and watching the snow falling gently in the Dells.  It was then that I knew – this is how it was supposed to be.  I was supposed to struggle all semester, cry and whine so that I could get to that peaceful moment, that bliss of understanding.

One of my favorite poems, one poem that has always stuck with me, is Ulysses by Lord Alfred Tennyson.  I’ve bolded the quotations that are meaningful to me.  Maybe you’ll feel the familiar tug like I do.

Ulysses

Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life!  Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three runs to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,–
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone.  He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas.  My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me–
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads –you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil:
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices.  Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Simply haunting.  Can’t you just see Ulysses, pleading with his comrades?  His determination and spirit have always amazed me.  Ulysses doesn’t want to succumb to old age – he wants to keep fighting, keep adventuring, keep going.  That last line has been hanging somewhere on my wall since I first read this poem.  “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” means that life is always an adventure.  There is always something knew to find, something new to look for.  This poem reminds me to never stop looking, never stop going.

What poem inspires you?

XOXO

A

Five Friday Favorites: Lessons from a First Semester Grad Student

This is it, folks – the last Friday of my first semester as a graduate student. I’ve gotta say – I’m busier today than I have been pretty much all semester. This semester has been like an uneven shelf – everything just kind of slides down to the bottom. Right now I’m juggling end-of-the-semester madness with papers, projects, and exams, while organizing an amazing internship for next semester, a potential part-time job, and working on a strategy to land an awesome internship for the summer.

Stuff. is. crazy.

I’ve done a lot of thinking, however, about how nervous I was to start graduate school and I’ve come up with five things I wish I would have known earlier, maybe even in my undergraduate years at DePauw.

  1. First of all, ask for help. This is quite possibly the hardest lesson for me to learn. I hate asking for help, and I know that there are a lot of others out there who feel the same way. I think it’s got something to do with the intrepid American spirit and the desire to be self-sufficient. Or maybe it’s just because it’s embarrassing to admit that you don’t know something. There have been so many instances this semester when I’ve sat myself down for a good talking and made myself acknowledge that I needed help. And, I’ve got to say, that once I opened up and admitted that to myself, the opportunities and amazing connections just started pouring in. I pushed myself to meet with the Career Development Office, even though I was scared, and got some incredible advice on my resume and a new perspective on the job hunt. I signed up to meet with a faculty adviser and gained incredible insight on my how my academics can better relate to my career path. There’s so much more, but I think you get the point. Ask for help, and you will get it.
  2. Skim the readings, don’t read them all closely. Graduate school is not like my undergraduate. At all. Yes, it’s school, but it’s also life. There is literally not enough time in the day for me to read 200+ pages for every single class, every single week. Especially when I’m trying to keep my apartment clean and maintain my sanity. The solution – skimming. In high school, my Honors English class wanted to make shirts that said “Skim Team” because we were all so adept at skimming the readings, figuring out the key points, but not reading the entire article. This is an invaluable skill. Now, when I’m doing my readings, I’ll read until I hit the crux of the argument and then stop, because that’s all I need. That’s something they don’t necessarily tell you when you start.
  3. Get to know at least one professor. I’m still working on this one. I haven’t quite nailed down my target, because all of the professors I work with are so talented. I also haven’t made much of an effort yet to speak up in class. (I’m shy at first – weird, right?) This is a lesson I’m learning that I’m going to definitely put into practice next semester. Go to Office Hours. Email professors with questions. Speak up in class. The people teaching me are incredible – one of them basically invented the Internet, and another one did some incredible work at Yale and the NARA. You can do it!
  4. Be nice to TAs – they’re students too. It’s not that I necessarily had to learn this particular lesson, but it’s important none the less. Until coming to graduate school I had never had a TA for any of my classes, the curse of a small, private university. But for two of my classes this semester, I’ve been instructed by two PhD candidates and it’s been a pretty awesome experience. These students know what we’re going through and want to help us along the way. But – they’re students too, and sometimes when my TA cancels a discussion session at the last minute and I get frustrated, I have to remember that they’re dealing with crazy deadlines too.
  5. Don’t be afraid to fail. This is more of a life lesson, but sometimes I need reminded. This lesson is part of the reason I started this blog in the first place – I wanted to try it, and I wasn’t afraid of it not necessarily working out. We learn through mistakes, and if you never try and never fail, you’ll never learn how to be better.

So, think of me this weekend, as I try to finish up everything without going full-on crazy. And think of C, who has to deal with me.

Happy weekend!

XOXO

A

Am I a Blogger Now?

It’s December 5th, and you’re still around.

Not that I’m surprised.  I mean, I am  a pretty entertaining writer.  Sure, I don’t always post at a regular time and all of my posts are about something different, but at least I’m funny, right?

Right?

…hello?

So the blog has been “public”, as I like to say, since Halloween, and now I’m struggling with this new-found identity.  I’m taking more photos on my phone, worrying about my stats page, doing research on how to garner more readers, and working on expanding to other social media platforms.  Sometimes I stop and wonder to myself, Who are you?  What happened to you?  Are you one of those ‘bloggers’ now?

Over Thanksgiving and the past few weeks I found myself sketching out posts, snapping pictures of random things, or even saying the words, “I’m going to put this on my blog.”  And the thing is – I’m truly enjoying it.

I want to post something every day and feel guilty when I don’t.  I want to respond to comments and think of new ways to post or incorporate my life.  I want to expand on topics that might be meaningless to everyone else but are dearly important to me.

And so, I can officially say that, after about a month of testing, the blog will stay.  It will stick around and only get better!  After I finish my finals, of course.  I am, after all, a student first.

So stick around, folks.  It’s going to be an interesting ride!

XOXO

A

P.S. Check me out on Twitter (@partsofawhole)!