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I am the type of person who requires structure in order to accomplish things.  I can be spontaneous, but as a person who only works 19 hours per week, and wants to use the rest of that time not just lolling around like a moron, I need to make a plan.  Basically, what I need to do is make my house more like school.  I need to set goals and meet them.  I need to try to actually focus while meeting these goals, and I need to not feel like I’m wasting my days.

To that end, I painted my office.  It is now a lovely shade of blue (see picture), and completely cleaned and organized since I needed to move things around to gain access to the walls.  I’ve decided that I’m going to start writing fiction again (since I haven’t really written any fiction since finishing my MFA, and I fear that if I don’t make a conscious effort, I will never do it again), work on getting better at Spanish (which is also on my list of life goals–not fluent, just better at), keep up with my out-of-work responsibilities, and generally just be more organized and focused.

Some good things that have come out of these changes. One is that I’m moving around more.  I’m leaving my laptop on my desk, where I’m not buried under cat and blanket and I can therefore get up more frequently and easily.  When I’m reading in my chair, I’m more focused, since my computer is not right next to me.  It used to be that I would be reading, then get distracted by facebook etc, and eventually place the book on my lap with the computer over it, and get no reading done at all.

The bad things that have come out of this new scheme are some that I hadn’t anticipated:

  • Watson (kitty) is seriously mad at me since he cannot sit on my lap while I’m sitting at my desk.  Typical day’s routine usually consisted of me sitting in my chair with laptop and books nearby, and Wee Watson sleeping adorably on my legs.  Now, in his rage at being denied this, he nips at my ankles and squawks loudly and plaintively.  It does not create an environment conducive to concentration.
  • My back is killing me.  I sit in a desk chair at work, but never for very long at one go.  I bought this desk chair that I have at IKEA and have never found it to be uncomfortable before, but apparently I’ve gotten soft.  My back is in agony from keeping myself seated, and my core muscles (apparently you use different ones for sitting as opposed to running or pilates??) are exhausted.  I did not anticipate that sitting would be so difficult for me.

Aside from these rather ridiculous setbacks, things are going pretty well.  I woke up early yesterday, got all my tax information together and sent that off to my accountant (hilarious that I have an accountant since I have no money, but it is what it is).  I ran seven miles, had a lovely lunch, discovered that the online Spanish learning program that I’m using has a section for slang and swear words and spent some time with that, then read two books and started a third.

It’s a solid start.

woman_running_bannerWhen I was in Junior High, my overly-chatty and track-obsessed history teacher asked me if I was going out for track.  No one had ever suggested that I take on a sport at any other time in my life (in fact, my parents, though supportive, were never upset when I quit all the various sports I played growing up) so I found this shocking and very odd.

“I don’t run.” I told him, then went back to my book.

A few weeks later, I had to go to the Principal’s office for something, and the school Superintendent cornered me and demanded to know if I was going out for track.  I had been going to this school for about four months, had played no sports, and was mostly concerned with reading during class and not getting caught.  I was not sporty in the least.

“No.” I told him.

“Why not?” He asked.

“I have weak ankles.” I told him, and left the office.

It seemed like making up a medical reason was the only thing that would get these people to leave me alone.  I still am not 100% sure why all these grownups wanted me to be in track.  The only reason that makes any sense is that they knew my dad is a runner, but it seems weird that they would think I was too.

I didn’t actually start running until I was about 25.  I was working at tv station and got a discount on a gym membership, walking on the treadmill one day got a little boring, so I ran.  I didn’t like using the machines because there was always some bitchy woman staring you down, or some little old lady just sitting at one watching tv–so I just ran every day.

My friend and former co-worker/fellow gym-goer, Danie (who is presently training for her first 1/2 marathon), used to surreptitiously follow the personal trainers around as they were doing sessions, and nab free training advice.  When she told me this, I was quite impressed and remarked that I should do the same.

She scoffed, “You just run like someone’s chasing you.”

I used to run to my piano lessons pretending that I was being chased by wolves, so really, she wasn’t far off.

While I was participating in my recent medical study, I was required to have a physical.  I haven’t really had a lot of physicals in my life because I never played the sports that required me to get one, and I don’t like to go to the doctor.  I dislike going to the doctor primarily because I often don’t have insurance, but also because I always feel like I’m wasting his/her time since there’s never really anything major wrong with me.  Unless I’m bleeding from the eyes, or have an obviously dislocated body part, I feel like I should be able to just wait out whatever I think is wrong with me.

This time I had to get a physical because they wanted to make sure I was fit enough to get drunk.  The doctor came into the room, asked a few routine questions, and took my blood pressure.

“You’re resting pulse rate is very low.” He told me, sounding slightly concerned, “Do you run a lot?”

Something inside my head went zing, and I realized I have finally achieved low resting pulse rate–tangible evidence that all of my hard work has paid off.

The deal with the low resting pulse is that it’s basically a measure of fitness.  The lower the better because if your heart can pump as much blood as you need with fewer pumps, that means that your heart is stronger.  Lance Armstrong’s resting pulse is 30, as is Dean Karnazes‘–the man who ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.  Average is 65-75, mine is about 53.

“I do run a lot,” I told the doctor, “Actually, my dad’s resting pulse is so low that they won’t allow him to donate blood.”

At this the doctor got excited, “So it could be genetic as well!  And his father?”

I just shrugged, “He never went to the doctor.”

Then the doctor took my pulse manually, and because I was so excited about this news it had sped up.

I was the last of my really close friends to finally leave Fargo.  My group of oldest friends left right after college, and I stuck around for grad school, and then the rest kind of them trickled slowly away.  I kept thinking that I would leave immediately after grad school, but I had neither a job nor a plan, and so I lingered for another year and a half saving money and making new friends.

It was an odd position to be in because I was ready to leave, but I had to bide my time since I still wasn’t sure exactly where I would wind up and what I would do when I got there.  I felt a little bit embarrassed because among the friends of mine who wanted to leave, I was the last, and that made me feel unambitious in a way.  People remarked over and over how they figured I would be the first one to bolt after college, and how weird it was that I stayed.  Was I all talk?  Would I never finally strike out on my own?  Were the visions I’d had in my head of me bouncing from city to city living life to the fullest not something I actually had the guts to do?

Also, there was recently an article in the New York Times entitled Towns They Don’t Want to Leave, which highlights the five college towns that have the highest percentage of graduates remaining there after finishing school, number two is Providence, number four is Fargo– seriously, what are the odds?  I’m not saying the New York Times will influence whether I stay in Providence or not, but it’s a bit spooky.

I’ve been in Providence a year now, and I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends, but most of us are students and will have to leave to get real jobs.  I actually really like it here and could see myself staying for a while longer, but again, what if I stay primarily because I like my friends, and then they all leave?  I really like Providence as a city, but just like I’d been wrestling with the entire time I was trying to decide where to move: do I really know any better?  I’ve lived a lot of places, probably more than most, but I’ve lived in very few cities, and the fact that I found one I like right away, makes me feel like I can really be happy anywhere.

When I was in sixth grade, I was pretty miserable.  My family had moved about five times at that point, but I had been with the same peer group since kindergarten.  I lived in a very small town, and my dad was the High School principal, which meant that people much older than me knew who I was, and I had no clue why they hated me.  I was tired of all of my friends and their interests that didn’t link up with mine; I was ready for a change.  When my mother told me that they were seriously considering moving, I actually cried because I was so relieved.  I had done all I could do in Hallock, MN and I was ready for a change.

I very much have a tendency to hang onto things until I’m ready to leave them, jobs, towns, etc. I didn’t feel very sad to leave Fargo because I wasn’t appreciating anything about it anymore, I just saw it as a place to get away from.  Leaving my job at Fargo Public Library was actually the hardest thing, because I didn’t hate it and I’ve never left a job without  hating it.

I also don’t hate Providence, but I may have to leave, and that might make it really hard.  I like the idea of being a nomad because one of my biggest fears is complacency, but I don’t quite know what to do with actual contentment.  What if you are somewhere, and you like it, and all of the professional opportunities you need are at your fingertips– that is what I can’t fathom.  What makes a life?  What makes a person say “I’m really happy with my life”? That statement always sounds like a death knell for me, but it seems like a very nice thing to say.

I was talking to a friend last weekend about these thoughts I’ve been having.

“So you’re done in May, and then you move– wherever?” he asked.

“Yeah, except back to the Midwest, but yeah.”

“That’s sucks, man, it would be weird not to have you around.” We sat for a beat, taking this all in.

“Well, when are you leaving?” I asked him.

“Two years.”

  • Far too much reading is expected of me
  • I am not getting the reverence and respect I deserve from the 1st years
  • I should be doing the reading with this downtime that I have, but just cannot be bothered– that will most likely catch up with me very soon
  • I have three of my four classes (maybe it’s all four–she’s very plain)  with a girl who’s name I cannot remember, but who seems to regard me as some kind of kindred spirit.  I worry about this because she seems very, very angry
  • Mostly, I just want to read Nancy Drew books and other juvenile lit, then solve mysteries and have adventures
  • Unlike previous semesters, I don’t have any obvious weirdos in any of my classes.  This worries me and makes me feel like I must be getting weirder and therefore less able to discern.  I mean, a lot of the people are odd, but with the exception of angry girl, who is easy to ignore, no one really stands out.
  • I really have no idea how to write an annotated bibliography, which seems to be all one does in library school.

This summer has done nothing to regurgitate my enthusiasm for school. I realized, yesterday, that the air had that first “hint of fall” smell to it, and I needed more than just a sheet to keep warm at night. Naturally, my first response was to shut off all fans (also, I just got my electric bill), turn down the temperature on the fridge, and cuddle up under my fleece blanket with a Gothic novel and a cup of tea. I have extreme reactions to fall, and very specific needs to be met.

The problem is, fall is my favorite time of year, and it’s when school starts. Sure, there’s a part of me that can’t wait to put on something “collegiate” and powerwalk downtown to throw in my two cents in Information Ethics, but the other part of me is incredibly lazy and rather dreading the amount of work I have in store for me this semester.

I’ve been told, in no uncertain terms, that I will be my professor’s “shining star” in two of my four classes. While I appreciate the sentiment, and confidence in my abilities, I know how academically lazy I can be and how sometimes professors figure that out.

I admit, I’ve been a bit bored this summer. I’ve been working a lot, and reading a lot, and socializing, and having adventures– but I always get a bit of the summer malaise if I feel I’m not accomplishing anything. I should be giddy at the chance to show off my smarts to a new batch of semi-literate colleagues. Sadly, I just can’t psyche myself up.

Instead of focusing on all the cool things I get to learn– Administration of Archives, History of Books and Printing– I’m bogged down by the thought or groupwork, and paper writing, and presentations.

I still haven’t finished A Passage to India (it’s just so boring, just like I remember), nor have I watched the movie– how can it possibly be time to go back ?!

I am a whiner, officially.

I start my new job on Monday, but still do technically have 2 weeks of freedom before classes begin. In that time I will:

  • have superfun adventure Boston birthday
  • celebrate Jewish Friend’s birthday by buying her nothing but reminding her that her keeping the book that I shipped to her house (since my neighbors steal all packages that come to my place)– she managed to get a birthday present despite my intentions
  • finish reading the Babysitter’s Club series (just three left out of, like, 50 that I read this summer– I don’t recommend it, they don’t stand the test of time)
  • read Anne of Green Gables for discussion with Sassy Redhead Friend
  • try to get into the proper headspace where I can be someone’s “shining star”
  • pick out an outfit for the first day of school
  • relax, as best I can

Now that school is over, and I’m finally starting to feel like school is over, it’s time to turn my attention to what to do with all of this spare time.  Lately, I’ve been coming home feeling guilty about schoolwork that I don’t want to be doing, then when I realize that there is no more schoolwork–for now, I wander around my apartment listlessly doing nothing, snacking, eventually half watching a movie or half reading a book feeling like I’m forgetting something.  That is finally fading, I need new goals.

1. Pay off Visa bill– this is a big one, but I think I can do it, maybe.  I’m certainly going to try, anyway

2. Learn Hindi alphabet, and start learning Devanagari script, work on vocabulary

3. Run at least 10 miles per week

4. Read Moby Dick

5. get a tan

6. Read The Diary of Anne Frank— I just can’t get through that stupid thing, it’s a long story, but I have a lot of history with that book.

7. paint ceiling in bedroom, and do faux-finish to walls– I know that faux-finishes are beloved of Trading Spaces fans the world over, but I think I can do it in a way that won’t look stupid.  Also, my room is too dark and gloomy, but I do like the wall color, hence, faux-finish!! I can retain the lovely base tone while bringing more light into my life.  I require light.

8. Make a perfect dirty martini

9. Wait and see if landlady plans to clean up the backyard, then, if she doesn’t, do it myself.  Then utilize backyard in a lounge chair/cocktail manner

10. Go on a picnic

11. Go to the beach– technically, I’ve already done this, but it was really cold, and there was no swimsuit involved.  Goal is: Go to the beach for real

12. repair table

13. Fix fridge door so I can line up condiments without worrying that they will fall and break everytime I open the fridge door.  I imagine I can accomplish this with thick string and adhesive

14. Go to movie theatre where they have the self-service butter dispensor and $5 movies before noon (sounds like a magical place)

15. Read A Passage to India— I read it as an undergrad, but that was before I was obsessed with India.  I think it may resonate more now

16. Watch All Quiet on the Western Front, since, apparently, the one I saw was a made-for-tv version and the real one is kick-ass

17. write

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but whatever.  This is a good place to start out.



My friend from cowboy-ski-pole country commented a while ago that she doesn’t understand how I manage to work 2 jobs, excel in grad school, read 100 books a year, and contribute regularly to 3 blogs. My first thought was: I only managed to get to a mere 100 when I started reading in May, and even then it was 108. Then I realized that that is a bit crazy, and I may, in fact, be an overachiever, and not even know it.

I always assumed that I can’t be an overachiever because I’m so laid back about everything. But as I reflect back to high school where I was required to earn 100 points on reading tests (this was the semester I took English III as an independent study because I ran out of other classes), and I managed to earn something like 300 points; I ponder the fact that I will have 2 Master’s degrees before age 30, and am still considering doing the dual program and picking up a third; and can’t help but notice that my library requests include practically the entire “Modern Scholar” series of audiobooks so I can brush up on everything from the history of Ancient Greece to important precedents in American legal history while I drive between jobs and home– I think I have to reevaluate my perceived overachieving status.

Don’t overachievers suffer gastrointestinal distress, or just distress in general? Aren’t they typically very pinched-looking and miserable, possibly causing their hair to fall out prematurely as a result of hyper-scheduling and perfectionism?  I’m not high strung enough to fall into that group, although I am often the victim of the gape-mouthed stare when I recount how I spend my time. I’m very torn on this issue, as is evident. Then I think about baby-having best friend (who says she had twins because she is such an overachiever), who I always considered the overachiever of the bunch telling me that I need to just slow down.

This revelation doesn’t change anything anyway, though it is a bit interesting– to me. Honestly, if I was that much of an overachiever, I would have come up with a synonym for overachiever by now so I wouldn’t have to keep repeating it over and over.  In the immortal words on Ashlee Simpson “I am me/ and I won’t change for anyone.” Now I guess I know myself a little better, and soon I’ll know more about Ancient Greece, important American legal precedents, dinosaurs, writing more persuasively…