The Life of a Student

Thirty Isn’t So Bad

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I was doing so well sticking to my resolution to post a blog at least once a week, then these last two weeks I’ve completely failed. I’m going to blame it on being back in school (even though classes just started last week).

I should be spending my morning working on my lit review for my thesis, however I’m completely stuck. I have no idea where to even begin writing. I’ve spent most of my summer working on creative writing and blogging that I’m finding it hard to get into the mindset of academic writing. Then I’ve spent the last two weeks doing mainly reading and research for this lit review and very little writing. So I’m hoping this blog post will shake something loose and help me get back in the writing frame of mind (and for that reason I apologize if this post isn’t the extremely fascinating posts you’ve come to expect from my blogs; this is mostly an warm up exercise to get the juices flowing).

Last week I turned 30. On the day I turned 30 I wasn’t actually celebrating my birthday, not because I had anything against entering my thirties (because strangely I don’t) but because I was celebrating another occasion. A friend of mine since I was 6 or 7 years old got married on my birthday. Celebrating her wedding with her and her family was much more fun than celebrating my birthday (plus, there was free food, cake, music, dancing and an open bar – WAY better than any party I could have planned for myself). It was a great way to start a year that so many people dread. I am completely fine with being 30 – especially because so far my 30th year is looking pretty awesome.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances I should have this thesis completed and finish all classes required for my Master’s degree by December, which means I will be able to graduate in May. Since I’ll technically be completed in December I am hoping that means I’ll be able to find an adjunct position (or several) somewhere for next semester. I’ll finally be able to find a job that’s within my chosen field (don’t get me wrong, I love my current job and plan to stay there as long as I can make it work while still teaching part-time).

Last night I received a text from a good friend of mine announcing that she and her boyfriend (whom I also consider a good friend) are now engaged. I am so excited for them. I have no idea whether or not that wedding will happen during my 30th year, but it’s still something to look forward to, and I look forward to hearing all about her wedding planning, etc. in the coming months.

Also coming up during my 30th year is an 18-day trip to Europe and I can’t even describe how excited I am for this trip. We’ll be spending time in Ireland (oh how I’ve missed you!), England, Scotland, Wales and I just learned last night we’ll also be spending two days in Paris. I’ve never had a strong desire to visit Paris, with the exception of the Louvre and Notre Dame, both of which are planned stops for the tour so I’m extremely excited. Traveling is by far one of my favorite things to do (honestly, I wish I could afford to just travel the world without having to work, that would be perfect) and I’m extremely thankful for being given the opportunity to go on this adventure in June.

So, 30 isn’t looking so bad. I have a lot of things to look forward to (and I’m sure there’ll be many more as time goes on) and I’ve decided to embrace this new era of my life. Thirty is going to be a good year, I can feel it.

And now that I’ve rambled on about that, I should probably try writing some of this lit review. Does anyone have a good opening sentence about genre theory and using multi-genre projects in a Freshman Composition classroom?

Smart Phones, Concerts and Social Media: Are We Missing Life’s Great Moments?

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“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.” 

For my thesis I am working on a collection of short stories and poems that are semi-autobiographical along the lines of Sandra Cisneros’ The House of Mango Street. Tying all the works together is the underlying theme that all the experiences I am writing about are completely lacking any influence by social media or smart phone technology. Most  are stories from when I was younger, but all of them are about living life to the fullest and being fully connected to friends, family and life as opposed to the disconnect that results from constantly checking your phone for emails, Facebook notifications or tweets. Those of you who know me know that I am just as guilty of this as the next person, I can hardly go more than 15 or 20 minutes without checking my phone, so it’s been fascinating trying to look at life through this lens, noticing the differences in life back then, before the existence of smart phones, and life now where everything can end up on the internet within minutes.

During the Pope selection process a few months ago the New York Daily News posted photographs comparing the crowd outside the Vatican with the crowd from 2005 and it was incredible to note the change – from an almost cell phone free photograph, to one in which nearly every person is holding up a phone or tablet to be able to record a moment in history. These two photographs document well how much things have changed in just seven years.

I couldn’t help thinking about these photographs and this change while I was at a concert with a good friend of mine this weekend. We had travelled to Philadelphia to see the New Kids on the Block, 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men perform (I make no apologies for my choice in music, I love these guys; blame it all on my early love for the Monkees, which is a story for another day). I’ve been to a lot of concerts in recent years, and I’ve come to rely on my cell phone for pictures just as much as my camera (if not more) without even thinking about it. But since I’ve been working on this thesis I’ve been finding these kinds of comparisons everywhere, so I couldn’t help looking around and noticing how many people were just using their phones instead of cameras to capture photographs and video from the concert. With the advent of apps such as Instagram and more recently Vine you can now instantly post those photos and video to several social media platforms and share them with the entire world while the concert is still happening.

I remember the old days (like, just 10 years ago) when you might call a friend from your cell phone, then hold it up so they could hear their favorite song playing. Now you can just film that song and send it to them in a text message. Also, with the advent of digital photography, you don’t even have to take any of your own photos if you don’t want to; all the fans sitting down much closer than you and getting much better pictures than you will likely be posting them online within the next few days and a simple Google image search will lead you right to them. You can just sit back and enjoy the concert from the nosebleed section, knowing tomorrow you’ll be able to download some really great pictures of Nick Lachey and Donnie Wahlberg that are much better than any you could have taken. Even the bands themselves have photos posted to their Facebook pages less than 12 hours after the concert ends.

The advent of all this social media integration and the easy access has completely changed not only how we record concerts and other events, but how we experience the actual event itself. Suddenly, we’re not focusing our undivided attention on the performance in front of us, but listening to the band or artist as we type a caption to post with the photo or video, or text a friend about what the crazy drunk lady in front of us is doing (or just tweet about it, as I did Saturday night). I was in the process of composing a tweet about how the drunk woman in front of us nearly fell face-first into the row in front of her, when the crowd went crazy and I looked up to see Donnie kissing a lucky fan. These quick moments are things people are beginning to miss now that they are becoming cell-phone compulsive (and again, I am just as guilty as the next person, I can’t even sit through an hour of television without checking my phone). Sure, this is just one trivial moment among many, but how many of life’s other moments are we missing now that we spend so much time on a cell phone, instead of looking up at the world around us? That’s a question I’ve asked in my thesis, and one I’ve been asking myself a lot in the past month since I started writing.

Just looking back at how much the concert experience (and life) has changed in the last 10 years makes me wonder how much it might change in the next 10. Was that Tupac hologram at Coachella last year just a foreshadowing of what is to come in the future? Will we someday be paying high ticket prices to see not a live band performing, but instead holograms of artists like Tupac, Kurt Cobain, or older favorites such as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley or the Beatles with John and George? And how will these performances be recorded by fans? Will we still be using our phones or will something be replacing those the same way phones replaced cameras; perhaps devices like as Google Glass or will that have already been made obsolete by contact lenses (which were science fiction just a few years ago when Torchwood made use of them)? If we’re already missing out on many of life’s great moments due to a phone or other device that’s kept in our pockets, how much more will we be missing out on in the future if that device was something we have constant access to, such as a pair of glasses or contact lenses?

Morning Writer, But Still Not a Morning Person

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I have discovered I am a morning writer. For those who really know me, you’re probably just as surprised as I was to discover this fact. However, the past few weeks have definitely shown me I am a morning writer, despite the fact that I am most certainly not a morning person (as in, don’t even try to speak to me until I’ve gotten caffeine in my system).

I decided not to take any classes over the summer and instead focus on writing my thesis, having promised my advisor I would have a first draft completed by the start of the fall semester. My goal has been to write at least 1,000 words per day, thinking that would be not only a realistic goal but also a fairly sizeable goal by the end of four months of writing. As is true with many goals I set for myself I haven’t quite reached that goal, but I have noticed a pattern in my writing.

I usually only manage to get the 1,000 words written on Mondays and Wednesdays. These are the days I do not work (I work in a church office on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings) and therefore I am able to get up, eat breakfast, make myself a cup of tea then get right to work. I shut myself in my room on my computer and usually do not come out until at least noon, sometimes later. (Confession: I usually don’t change out of my pajamas until I’m done writing for the day. I write better when I’m comfy.) On these days it is usually easy for me to get at least 1,000 words written on my thesis, plus do some extra writing (which is where my new goal of blogging at least once a week comes in).

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays however, are a different story. My intent is always to come home from work, eat lunch, then sit at my computer and write. This rarely happens and when it does I only get a couple hundred words written at most. Usually on these days something else comes up. I have errands to run, other projects to work on (proofreading papers for friends, working on a newsletter for a friend who does missions work, etc.) or other chores to do (clean my room, organize my books, laundry, etc.). The days I do actually try to work, I find that I have a much harder time focusing in the afternoon than I do in the morning.

This all comes as a surprise to me, as I had always assumed I would be the type of writer who would write in the afternoon or late into the night and sleep in the next day. Given my aversion to waking up early I never imagined I would actually find it much easier to get my work done first thing in the morning. Of course this has also made me face the fact that if I work better in the morning, this means I actually have to make myself get up in the morning so I can accomplish that work.

There’s some sort of twisted irony at play here.

So Many Topics, So Little Time

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I have about a year and a half of grad school left, and I want to start thinking about topics for my Master’s thesis. My goal is to have one chosen by the time I go back to school in the fall (knowing the importance of this particular paper, I really don’t want to procrastinate). The problem is, I have no idea where to begin. I have such varied interests when it comes to literature, and there’s so many possibilities that my mind just freezes and I can’t think of anything.

I love SciFi/Fantasy, so that seems like a good area to start. Perhaps something on Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, or maybe a more modern writer like Neil Gaiman? I’ve also considered something having to do with the role graphic novels have played in culture in the last 20-30 years. As a big fan of mythology another possibility I’ve though of is something having to do with how prevalent ancient mythologies (Greek, Roman, Egyptian) still are in modern writing. These are all very vague and random ideas right now.

Steering away from the fantasy genre, I’ve also considered something along the lines of Shakespeare and modern day, but although I love Shakespeare, it’s such a vast topic and so many people have already covered so many aspects of it that it doesn’t feel original enough to me.

If anyone has any advice on choosing topics (or even any suggestions on any topic) please feel free to share. I welcome any and all input, especially if it’s actually helpful!