Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Officially Done

I am so done with undergraduate life.

I am done memorizing lecture notes and spitting them back out on tests. I am done working jobs where people think that having a test the next day is a legitimate excuse for not showing up for their shift.

I am done living with people whose favorite pastimes are playing Rock Band, Mario Kart, Dungeons and Dragons, and Magic. (Are we still in fourth grade?). But I am also done being around people whose weekends start on Thursday night, when they get blackout drunk and throw beer bottles off of their balconies. I am done with people who always assume that “maintenance will clean it up.” I am done washing other people’s dirty cups and shot glasses and silverware and plates (which are all piled together in our kitchen sink, submerged in stagnant, murky gray water). I am done vacuuming other people’s potato-chip crumbs up off of our common room carpet, done digging their hair wads out of our shower, and done wiping our kitchen table free of their shot glass rum-rings and spilled salsa stains.

I am done using calling cards and having an answering service that holds a maximum of three messages. I am done waiting for “campus shuttles” to run on their specific days, at their specific times, to their specific (and limited) places so I can get anywhere off-campus without pitifully begging a friend (or more often, my only car-owning suitemate) for a ride. I am done being forced to pay inflated campus-food prices to use up my fake-money Declining Dollars.

But I am also done riding side-car on my parents’ health insurance. I am done having my meals cooked for me when I don’t feel like cooking them myself. I am done working for an employer who cannot afford to fire me because she would be unable to find anyone to work in my place. I am done living in housing someone else is paying for.

I am done living within walking distance of at least twenty-five familiar friendly faces. I am done watching movies with a friend every-other-night. I am done finding intramural sports, a masters swim program, and a state-of-the-art athletic center literally ten minutes away from my bedroom. And as much as I hate to admit it, I’m probably done wearing sweatpants and T-shirts every-other day of the week.

I’m very, very done. And I’m also about to begin.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I believe I am one to give all things a fair chance. This comes from how I was raised. At dinnertime, when it came to trying new foods, my parents’ policy was that we always had to “at least try it.” If we didn’t like it, we didn’t have to eat it; however, we did have to at least try a little taste. I think I have more-or-less adopted this as my life policy: try all things in, at the very least, “little tastes” before making judgments about them. This does not mean that I have no preconceived notions about things, but it does mean that before I make up my mind about them, I am determined to experience them, first.

I say this all to preface my first—and most likely only—experience with WWF-style “professional” wrestling. Now I, like most non-wrestling watchers, have always had the outsider opinion that this sport is pretty dumb. From what I knew of it, it seemed overly showy, unnecessarily hyped-up, and at the very least, degrading to women. However, I had all of these opinions based on heresy; up until last night, I had never actually watched any televised wrestling matches.

One of my suitemates, Tom, is a huge fan of professional wrestling. In the way that much of my childhood was spent making up fake soap operas with Barbie dolls, much of his childhood was spent performing fake wrestling moves on a trampoline with his friends and family members. Last night, “The King of the Ring”—a wrestling championship of some sort—was televised on USA and Tom, an avid wrestling fan, sat down to watch it. I felt a little lazy, having just turned in my honors thesis, and I was a bit interested in knowing what appealed to him about this sport, so I sat down with him to watch one of the matches.

Let me begin by saying that my initial impressions were fully accurate. Everything about this “sport” is over-dramatized. First of all, it is almost more of a soap opera than soap operas themselves. The bulked-up, shiny men make all of these dramatic faces and huge motions that anyone in any real fight would never waste their time making. They jump around and swing their limbs and perform these “macho” moves that are completely silly when you consider that this is supposed to be a competition and not just an imitation of a competition. They grit their teeth and glare at each other, and then they pull one another off the mat just to knock each other down again. It makes no sense!

I simply do not understand the appeal of watching this…well, I cannot even call it a sport, because it’s not real competition. The entire thing is staged! If I want to watch acting, I’ll watch something with plot, something that keeps me in real suspense that has a storyline and character development. If I want to watch feats of true athleticism and competition, I’ll watch a real sport like basketball or football or the Olympics. “Professional wrestling” is neither one of these. I honestly do not understand what people get out of watching it, particularly because these “people” are most often men! There’s no way they can possibly enjoy watching two overweight muscle-laden sweaty guys jumping on top of each other and sitting on one another’s heads in any sexual way, is there?

So I have had my “taste” of wrestling, and it’s been plenty for me. The mystery will remain.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Finally—it’s done. The thesis is “complete.” Look at that image: that is exactly what my desk looks like. Those stacks, they are piles of edited drafts. I have killed my fair share of trees in the past few weeks.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I feel all that relieved about being finished. Not that I’m worried about the grade; I am sure my grade will turn out fine. I could be worried that my departmental readers (the official grade-assigners) won’t ever receive their copies of my thesis, since the English office secretary seemed to have no idea that she was supposed to be receiving these copies, in spite of explicit instructions sent to all English Thesis writers by the head of the department. (“Submit two copies to Morey 404 on April 21st,” the e-mail said I even confirmed the instructor with the department head herself.). However, I made sure that each of my readers received an electronic copy of my paper, “just in case,” so that all of my bases would covered. So that’s not why I am unsettled. No, I’m feeling unsettled because, now that I’m finished with this all-consuming project, the big question is “What’s next?”

The obvious answer is “New York City.” It’s “your Time internship, dummy.” But these endeavors aren’t going to produce anything tangible. This past semester of hard work, this semester of writing, produced something I can hold in my hand: 75 pages of black ink on white paper. Seventy-five pages of my story. Seventy-five pages that I can share with someone else, that I can point to and say “look here, this is what I’ve been doing with all of my time and energy, do you like it?”

”So keep writing, Allison,” you say. “Obviously being done with a thesis project or even with school doesn’t mean you have to stop writing.” Sure I could keep writing. I’ve always been allowed to “keep writing.” The option is always there. The problem is, without deadlines, without someone expecting me to produce the writing, I fall flat. I say to myself, “That’s a good idea. I should write it down…later.”

It’s not that I no longer want to write. My reasons for writing don’t change: I want to entertain people! I want to affect others, to make them love reading! But without a teacher assigning a grade—without that rubric poking out of my notebook—I just…don’t write.

So the question is not whether I should keep writing. The question is: what do I use as my motivation now?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Question of Defense

I like to write simple, entertaining stories. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. That shouldn’t embarrass me. I shouldn’t have to be trying to write the Next Great American Novel to feel worthy of literary respect. So therefore, why am I suddenly suffering from pangs of self-doubt?

I just came back from presenting at the Undergraduate Research Expo. I don’t know what made me think that it would be a good idea to read my work aloud there. I felt pathetic. I felt like a kid who wrote a pretty little story because she wasn’t capable of doing a Big Grownup Research Project. I could have done research for my thesis! I could have graduated as a damn scientist from this school, if I wanted! I chose to be a writer. I like reading my work aloud. Why do I always walk away from reading my work feeling embarrassed, and never proud?

I’m about to enter the Undergraduate Creative Writing Contest tomorrow, and the work I think is my best, of which I am secretly most proud, I cannot submit. I know those pieces will not win. These judges, these professional academics, they don’t want to read an entertaining story. They want to read something revolutionary. They want to read something mind-boggling. They want to read a work of art.

Meghan—a girl I asked to help me read and revise my thesis—wasn’t initially sure she could read all 78 pages between Monday, the day I gave her the manuscript, and Wednesday, the time when I wanted to meet with her. Initially, she asked if we could meet on Thursday. However, Tuesday morning, she e-mailed me, writing, “I finished the thesis last night; I couldn't put it down!” That reaction—that is what I want. That is why I write, why I have worked so hard to create this thesis at all. So why, suddenly, is that not enough?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What I need to remember

It’s surprising that, by this point in my life, I have not yet learned that a Girl Friend will never become a Girlfriend. I have been in this situation—being the Girl Friend—more than once, now, and each time I have held out the forlorn wish that at some point, the object of my affections will “come to his senses” and magically realize that I am exactly what (or, rather, who) he has been looking for. I continuously listen to him lament about girlfriends, and crushes, and “girls” in general; meanwhile, by I myself defy many of the very traits and issues he laments about.

Moreover, I consider my relationship with said boy much more meaningful than any he has concocted with his object of affection. I cannot count the number of times I have heard the words, “I have never told [fill in Important Girl’s name here] what I am telling you.” But telling me important things apparently does not matter for much, because, in the end, she’s the one he’s pursuing. I just end up being that girl: the one who gets to listen, and listen, and listen. The one who does nice things for the guy because, hey, we’re pals and that’s what friends are for. The one who puts herself at beck-and-call but finds herself expendable when it comes “couple” time. Why are boys so uninterested in anything familiar, anything comfortable? Why must they pursue girls who give them a hard time, who are difficult and unpredictable and not nearly as caring as us Nice Girls?

But this is not a lament concerning Nice Girls Finishing Last. It is a lament concerning why people—guys, particularly—cannot or do not grow romantically attached to someone after knowing them better. For me, I have to be friends with a guy before I can feel any kind of romantic connection. This is not to say that I won’t find some Heath Ledger look-alike on the street attractive, but for me to truly feel deep, abiding affection for someone, I have to get to know them, as a person. Knowing a person takes time, it takes effort, it takes energy. How can I possibly figure anyone out except by being friends with them?

Dating from the outset is one option many people seem to exercise, but to me this seems like a sham. What can this arrangement be based upon, initially, except physical attraction? Not that that getting to know someone because of physical attraction is necessarily a bad thing, but it seems like the wrong foundation for a grounded emotional connection. I prefer friendship.

However, it seems that boys cannot build from this foundation. Start down the path of friendship, and that’s exactly where you’ll end. They "don't want to ruin anything." They "just can't see you any other way." Don't take it personally (as if there is any other way to take it.)

So much for my belief that you're supposed to marry your best friend. If I can't even date one of them, how am I ever going to get married?