College’s Best-Kept Secret and How to Overcome It (I think)

Here are some reasons that I haven’t written in a while:

1) The next “favorite” on my list was favorite people, and when one really comes down to it, how does one write that entry? Could get a bit touchy, you know?

2) I’ve been working. Mopping floors and filing papers—quite enviable.

3) I’ve been writing. A little story for the new Mr. and Mrs. Upper along with the beginnings of something much longer.

4) I’ve been watching Good Mythical Morning.

5) I’ve been reading Suri’s Burn Book.

6) I’ve been slacklining. (Excuses are wearing thin at this point…)

7) Mainly, I just haven’t.

Before college the inhabitants of every corner of the earth converge to give you conflicting and vehement advice, but there’s one thing no one ever tells you. Unless you’re one of those mission driven people who gets an internship or works at a camp (and if you are, that’s fine, I still love you) then here’s college’s best kept secret: SUMMERS ARE WEIRD.

It goes like this. You come home and you think “Oh! I’m home! It’s summer!” and then you do nice home things and you go to work and you come home at the end of the day and you think “Oh! I’m home… Where is everyone? Oh. It’s summer.”

And that’s when it hits: you thought summer was going to be like partying inside of instagram, but it’s really more like sitting in your messy room looking at everyone else’s instagram, which you’re pretty sure (but not positive) that they’re all inside of partying without you.

So here’s some suggestions for my fellow weird-summer enthusiasts (or not so enthusiasts):

1) Read your summer books aloud: to your friend, to your cousin, to your teddy bear, to yourself.

2) Look up all those quotes whose origin you’ve never actually known, for that satisfying feeling of I-once-was-wrong-but-now-I’m-right.

3) Dry your laundry on the clothesline.

4) Go for a run in the heat, come home and say, “Welp, I did THAT.”

5) Turn halfway down the stairs into your regular hang-out spot.

6) Paint a room alone. Write secret messages in large letters then cover them up and giggle.

7) Try on old clothes and sit around in them for an embarrassingly long time.

8) Drive. Be loud in the car in whatever way you can think of.

9) Go to the farmers’ market on week days to make the venders feel loved.

10) Make lists. Surprisingly easy and surprisingly fun.

Do this and you will be left with a sore throat, extraneous knowledge, nice smelling clothes, a bunch of lists and no pictures or gas. Summer well spent.

Summer

I could tell you about this year, about my accomplishments and finishings, but I am tired. My dear sister graduated from college today, and in a few hours will be home for the summer, as I have been since Wednesday. And that is what I want to talk about: Summer.

Here is what I plan to do: clean my church every week, babysit a lot, go to a wedding, write a story or two, read some good books, wean myself off the internet, train for a 10k (God help me), throw an unbirthday party, write some letters, get vitamin D, cook a lot, finally write that review for the Quad, organize my books, spend time with people I love, and stay HOME.

Something else I plan to do is breathe a little life back into this blog. I’m going to start with what will probably be a five part series on those of my favorite things with which I think you ought to be acquainted. I’ll try to post at least once a week. They’re likely to be very list-y, so, you know, get excited.

I want to get together with lots of people this summer, and write lots of letters, so if either of those things sound appealing, please be in touch!

In Other News

I haven’t written in a long time. Sorry about that. There hasn’t been a lack of material, just more of a lack in interest in said material. But I’m gonna muster up some interest, okay? Here goes.

– I got into the Raleigh airport at eleven p.m. and three of my very best friends picked me up and we went to Waffle House, acted obnoxious, and gave the nice waitress a large tip consisting mostly of change.

-My family had a staycation (Hooray, Mom!) which included a visit to Blandwood  Mansion (which I didn’t know existed), a trip to the art museum in Raleigh (where the Rodin was lovely), a voyage to Staunton to see the ASC (The Tempest was wonderful-wonderful), and a drive up to Hanging Rock (where I discovered that sometime in the last ten years I have become a very bad hiker. Awful, actually.)

-I have gone on four runs,  and now own my first-ever sports bra and real running shoes. I have yet to make it a half mile without stopping to die and walk.

-I am addicted to Hulu. Arrested Development, The Glee Project, How I Met Your Mother, Merlin, Project Runway… It really needs to end.

-Last week I had a little Tres Amigas reunion at the lake with Kinsley and Ruth. We watched some weird movies, ate pizza from the grill, and had a mysterious (but casualty-free) accident while tubing. Just like old times.

Downton Abbey is lovely. Go watch it.

-Mary and I (and Karen [not Hannah]) painted our bedroom, which desparately needed it. I had been subjecting the walls to duct tape for years. It is now ballerina pink and looks like a hotel room. I kind of love it…

-I found out the names of my freshman little sisters, sent them an exuberant email, friended them on facebook, and burnt my fingers making them the best welcome posters ever.

-Everybody got engaged. (And by everybody I mean Beth and Tim, Hannah and Nathan, and Alyssa and John. ) Weddings! Huzzah! In other life-changing news, Emily and Casey will very soon have their new boys home from Ethiopia. Huzzah again!

-Additional highlights of being home have included finally seeing Harry Potter with Abby, making very oily Ravioli with Karen, buying an excellent leather skirt from Goodwill with Hannah, and discovering a diary of a long ago trip to Grandma’s with Mary. Also, that night Hannah, Karen, Patrick and I went to Walmart and put name tags on everything. That was good, too.

On Friday I go back to school. Between now and then I will snap out of myself. I will go see The Help with Annie, I will visit Mrs. Liebmann, I will look up fall fashion and get excited,  I will pack, I will plan, I will smile, I will get of bed the moment I wake up. In a week, I will be hugging so many people so much. It’s gonna feel good.

Perspective and Going Running

I have spent the past week at Story Book Lodge up in the Iron Range of Minnesota. It’s a Bible camp my uncle directs which is operated entirely on the strength of donations and prayer. It is a wonderful, wonderful place which is very dear to many people who are very dear to me. And yet, I am (rather emphatically) not a camp person. Of course this was just a family camp, so to relieve my bad mood I could do things like drive down to the mall in Duluth with my cousins and let shopping get me even grumpier, or sit in the foyer outside the gym for an hour and a half, waiting for evening volleyball to finish and getting eaten by very large mosquitos. You know.

The fact is I have not been super-pleasant this week. My cousin Hannah put up with me quite well and made me laugh a lot besides.  But I kept having conversations with my parents about a rather tense issue, and also spent an inordinate amount of time dreading being back at my grandparents’ house by myself for another two weeks. It’s not that every sensible cell in my brain does not know that it’s really a wonderful blessing to be there, one which will only be available to me for a few more years, but more that I tend to get panicked about being so alone with myself all over again. A nasty part of me is pouting and saying, “But didn’t you already pay your dues? You shouldn’t have to do this.” Really, I should want to do this, but I don’t, and someone should knock me upside the head. Suck it up, Alice. Learn to mow the lawn, and be patient about seeing Harry Potter.

On Thursday night I stayed with Hannah while she housesat for friends and after she had fallen asleep I had a white night sitting in a stranger’s kitchen and crying while their dog alternately licked my feet and growled menacingly. I had a long careful think, and decided three things. First, I was going to beg my cousin Joe to come back to Grandma’s with me. Second, I was going to have all my hair chopped off into a super-short bob. And third, I was going to start going running regularly, preferably early in the morning. Brilliant. Life-changing. I called my mom and told her my plans, and she told me to go to sleep, it was two a.m.

When we got back to camp the next day, my mom told me that Joseph wasn’t going to be able to come, and I received dubious reactions to the bob idea. But the running idea stuck, which I was pleased about. Still am, actually. Feel free to laugh, but I want to do this, and I can be just as stubborn about wanting to do something as not wanting to. (At least, that’s the theory. I’ve never actually tested it.)

And then God brought something else. Perspective. I got on facebook for the first time in few days, and found out that my freshman RA, Alyssa, had just had an emergency liver transplant. I know very few of the details. Last time I saw her she was perfectly healthy, but as I write this she is in Dallas at the Baylor University Medical Center. She is able to blink and move her eyebrows to communicate, and soon they’ll take out the respiratory tube. While she recovers, inch by agonizing inch, I will be breathing clean lake breezes and pulling weeds. I really have no right to say anything but “Thank You.”

I love you, Lyss. If you can have major organs replaced at the drop of a hat, I can learn a little patience and trust, huh? God really is good.

Pew, Fitwell, and Other Finishings

I have come to the end times of my freshman year of college. Which is really not that big of a deal. At all. But, you know, I thought I’d talk about it anyway.

On Monday evening I had my last cello recital of all time. All year, you see, The Pew Fine Arts Center and I have had a rather tense relationship. In fact, I’ve gotten into the bad habit of referring to it as “Eeeeew…Peeeeeew.” (Because it rhymes, and I happen to think that’s funny.) I started college last fall rather naively thinking that since I’ve played cello for most of my coherent life, it would be natural to just keep on. I dropped out of orchestra after one rehearsal and was only kept from dropping lessons by my loyal parents. The thing is, the music majors scare me. Everyday, particularly last semester, I would march myself down to the practice rooms in the bowels of Pew where there is no cellphone reception, and no one will hear you scream, but everyone will hear you play. Even on the nastiest winter days, I always went the long way round outside so that I wouldn’t be walking through the lounge where they sprawl wretchedly across couches, complaining about practice hours and solfeggio, as if they are the only ones who really work. On my way down the nonsensical flights of stairs I usually stopped at the bathroom to give myself a little pep talk in the mirror, and I’m not really joking. I actually did that. After practicing Bach in a tiny grey room with a heavy door the color of raw meat for what was always a shorter time than I intended, I would play the one thing I still felt proud of–Amazing Grace, doublestops, fortissimo, eyes closed like a doofus. Then I would pack up and sneak out the way I had come.

The thing is, you may have the wrong impression of me about this, but I’m not musical. I can sing on key and play the cello, and I like doing so in most situations, but ask me what artists I listen to, and I will tell you the truth: none. I like words, and when it is not the time for words, I like silence. Deep down, notes and chords and harmony don’t mean that much to me. I’m not saying they are not as eternally significant (or insignificant) as any thing I read or write, just  that they are not the language I speak. Pew is not my place. I will be perfectly thrilled to go to class in the Hall of Arts and Letters for the rest of my college career.

That said, I am thankful to have parents ( a mother in particular) who were dedicated to my cello even, and especially, when I wasn’t. I’m thankful for the year of lessons I took here, and for my nice new bow that makes a pretty sound. During the week between Easter break and my recital I didn’t go over to Pew at all. I practiced in my room. I worked on memorizing my Bach, played hymns, and enjoyed the friendly, wide-eyed heads that poked themselves around my door. That was great. So on Monday night my nervousness was really pretty inexplicable. The only people who would hear me were my teacher who had heard me earlier and knew I could do it, Heidi who would love me anyway, and a couple dozen nice people who actually didn’t care at all how I sounded. Yet when I sat down on that stage with the rest of the kids playing Bach’s first suite, I put my cello to my chest and I could feel my heart thumping against it. Definitely not a resting heart rate. As I listened to the movements before me, the thumping got exponentially louder and faster. When my turn came, I put my trembling bow to the string, and the first note quavered audibly as I played it. The second note shook too, and the third, and so, to be honest did every note after that. It was a somewhat ridiculous performance. By the end of the suite (several movements and performers later) my shaking lessened somewhat, and by the time we got to the ensemble pieces I was able to zip through Cripple Creek and smile. As Heidi and I walked out, I cried about five tears from giddy relief. The only sign of me left in Pew is a big empty cello locker with my name misspelled on a piece of masking tape.

The other part of my life which officially terminated this week was Fitwell. Really, how was it that I ended up at one of the fittest colleges in the nation, where your physical condition affects your GPA? We have half a semester of lectures then another semester and half of “labs” (circuit training, mech weights, aerobic conditioning…) Then there’s a “Fitness Appraisal.” Aren’t you pumped just hearing about it? For girls, we’re scored on sit-ups, push-ups, flexed arm hang, broad jump, sit-and-reach, and (wait for it….) the step test! I improved since last semester, which was my goal, but of course I still only scored about a fifty percent. However, I don’t feel too bad, because the standards they use are the same as the U.S. Marines’. I’m finished, I never have to wear a grey P.E. uniform again, and the rite of passage is over. I’ve officially done my time as a Grover freshman.

Two more things before I go study for my next exam–As my sister pointed out, I can now rejoice in the fact that I’m officially half of a United States Marine. Also, one morning as I was plodding up the stairs out of Pew after a dismal practice session, a music major hurried past me, and as he disappeared down the hallway in front of me, I could hear him whistling Amazing Grace, louder than even I had played it. Just remembering brings me an overwhelming sense of victory.