notes from somewhere in the back row

I’m moving and rifling through four years’ worth of notes and books and clothes. Here are a few fragments from notebooks that didn’t make the storage cut.

Summer 2011, Fiction Writing II:

I’m kind of in love with my professor for only calling me Beatrice.

How to be an asshole:

1. Mention your typewriter

2. Humblebrag about how post-modern your work/question is

3. Say these things:

3a.“I think, for all of us, youth might be our greatest fault,” and

3b. “I read a lot of Native American poetry,” and

3c. “You all know who Kerouac is, right?” and

3d. (on Indians) “Not Columbus’ misconception(????), the Asian ones”

Spring 2010, Earthquakes and Natural Disasters:

We lose dollars; we tend not to lose people

Unknown Class, Unknown Time:

New Mexico is for introspective writers/actors and geologists. Give it back to the Native Americans (96)

Summer 2011, Fiction Writing II:

“cousins”

Golf ball through the kitchen window

shortshorts

This guy did not. Get. It.

Every (f) Good (a) Boy (c) Does (e) Fine (accompanied by a picture of a treble clef and scale)

20120803-210844.jpg

assvice

Last night I realized there is a reason “set and keep a budget” is number one on my to-do list and why I’ve been avoiding it for so long.

Jenny Blake, of Life After College, has a Four-Step Budget Template in ExCel that I sort-of took advantage of last year. I say “sort-of” because I think I filled it out then never looked at it again because I am Veruca Salt.

There it is: I am Veruca Salt.

You see, Veruca and I are both entitled children, although our entitlement comes from different places. Her (heaven help me, I am seriously writing about a fictional character) entitlement comes from never having heard the word no; mine comes from never saying the word no.

In the Four-Step Budget Template the first step is to fill in your income. This is what lulls me into a false sense of security. I work in an office during the week, at a chapel during the weekend and I get a semester stipend for the volunteer work that I do with our event planning board. Now, throw in sixteen credit hours, “free time” (work outs, hang outs) and don’t forget sleep! And you’ll see why I feel entitled to a new MZ, extra guac and the occasional four hour flight away from deadlines and the like. Because when I say “yes” to one thing, it’s always a secret promise to myself to say yes to something else just for me—which isn’t bad, technically, it’s just not always reasonable.

The second step in the budget template consists of the “must have expenses,” like: I must pay my rent and utilities if I’d like to keep up with the “I am human” illusion—also, my cell phone bill so I can either constantly ignore my friends’ text messages or constantly lament the fact that they never text me (Step #1 in being Veruca Salt, ie THE WORST: always feel burdened).

In step number two therein lies the rub. For in sleep what dreams may come and in must-have expenses all those dolla bills from step one must go.

Step three is where the “nice-to-have” expenses come in, like yoga classes twice a week, that previously mentioned MZ, or even enough money left over for a concert and a book—which I want: all of the above, no exceptions please.

Step four is the allowance, which is what’s left over when all the expenses are taken out of your income.

If I cut one job (which I’m really thinking about doing: life’s too short! Carpe diem! I’m over it! Et cetera, et cetera!), that reduces my allowance down to twenty dollars a month. TWENTY BUCKS.

That’s also considering the fact that ten percent of my paycheck is put away in savings as a “must-have” expense. I got my first job at sixteen and ever since I’ve been practicing the ten percent saving strategy, which used to be chump change  but is pretty hearty now. Also, I’ve counted my September festival trip into a second savings tab in “must-have” expenses, because I want to make sure I can afford it. I’d honestly rather cut some “nice-to-have” expenses (like eating out or booze) for a couple of weeks/months for a few days of exactly what I want a few months from now.

Which, I guess is how I would instruct the other Veruca Salts of the world in growing up, because that’s what this. I am getting dangerously close to technically being an adult.

First step: learn patience.

We know you want the world, girl (or boy—Veruco, anyone?) and that you “want it now” but it’s 2011—everyone wants that! Where there’s smoke there’s fire and where there’s demand, there are inflated prices. Also, feline aids.

Sorry 'bout it

Second step: Learn that when you say no (to waiting, work, anything), it means you have to temporarily say no to something else that you want. Like I said, everybody wants everything, meaning you will have to wait for something.

Final step: be original. Veruca is an original; you can tell that by her killer imagination. If it weren’t for her indulgent father, she might have been able to just let that blossom without always needing to have some concrete representation of everything that ever popped into her head (side note: I would pay all twenty of my “allowance” dollars to see a Jumanji remake starring her and her father because you know she’d beg him for a real-life version of the game instead of the plain-ol’ regular game).

Everyone wants everything, so you know what’s cool? Not wanting everything. At the very least, look at what you want and figure out whether it comes from a desire within or outside of yourself.

Rest assured, your life (and heart) will go on without those shoes/that game/that phone/that accessory.

When in doubt, don’t over-think it, do not be a vermicious kinid and Augustus, please! Save some room for later!

still learning: petty bullshit

Along with the documentary film class, I am also in a creative non-fiction class (and I am THISCLOSE to sending my professor the link to this here page because he has a fondness for latent curse words and long winded college students) (and is also really, really cool) (Hi Joe!) (just in case). My classmates and I have to share some special narrative as our semester project and I’d like to not write about myself because, honestly? I start enough sentences with the letter “I” and it’s starting to mess with my psyche.

For creative non-fiction I wanted to investigate someone else, redevelop some empathy. I wanted to find Lawrence’s answer to The King of Kong, a Sandy Cohen-esque lawyer or politician or even just some person who happened to be standing on a street corner at four in the afternoon.

In part, this desire came from the fact that I got wrapped up in some petty bullshit and a constant queue of questions about said bullshit. Consequently, my mind became locked on (TEN GUESSES WHAT IT WAS) petty bullshit.

It was everywhere. It was oppressive. It was disgusting and it was all I thought about. The worst thing about it was that it it locked me into this mindset where my immediate reactions and complaints were okay to say because O.M.PETTYBULLSHIT.

The worst thing about petty bullshit (pettybullshitpettybullshitpettybullshit) besides the fact that it literally holds no meaning outside of the wasted time spent festering about it (and OH, the festering) is that it creates this loud ass noise in your mind that drowns out all empathy and anything good. Or, you’ll have the good then you’ll get somewhere and remember the PB and be all “BLERGITY BLERG AAARG.” And once you say AAARG you may as well invest in an eye patch and move to Somalia because you are officially a vampire.

Last July I found a quote about sunlight and started to write a draft around it. I loved it but I couldn’t find what context I wanted to use it in. I pressed “SAVE DRAFT” and let it sit there. I get it now.

It says:

The sun too shines into cesspools and is not polluted

So you know the days covered in soot, ash, fog and smoke? That is petty bullshit.

Imagine yourself as this weightless, bright light acting as Mary-Mary-quite-contrary helping the flowers grow, warming the beach on the sand, creating picturesque landscapes that inspire artists to paint and lovers (would-be or used-to-be and gonna-bes) to make phone calls, take pictures or look through old albums.

The same light that holds the promise of a new day and new experiences, that represents all possibilities and all beauty can make rainbows in the pools of oil left behind by rusty cars with nothing but their insides left to give.

It’s so obvious that humans should see that in themselves. We should see the light peeking through—first in slivers and finally in bright rays. It’s so obvious that we’re all supposed to sparkle and shine. Because the bullshit isn’t remarkable, it’s the persistence and consistency of that spirit inside of us that reenlists itself every morning.

So, why be a vampire? Why hide from the sun?

The best part is that even in the worst times, whenever you find yourself growing grim about the mouth; when it is a damp drizzly, November in your soul; whenever you find yourself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses…it’s never really gone.

I can’t say that’s that and wash my hands clean, because who knows what will happen tomorrow? But in the meantime, I can let the sun shine.

last summer in Lawrence

Ps, I think I’m secretly falling in love with the cold again. “Again” because it happens every year but I deny it because it is my Rhett Butler.

have you ever seen the rain?

It’s the winter solstice and it feels like summer.  It feels like time is stretching itself out, bending and not breaking, giving me more hours to read and think and talk—and most importantly—write.

I’ve missed writing.  For a while I was afraid of it because I thought I had nothing to say, that everything lacked substance or worth.  I have shared so few stories this semester that I’ve started to think that there are none worth telling.  So, I’m starting with the first story and finding my way to where I am now.

This is from the end of summer and the beginning of the school year.

Jordan came back into town for a few weeks during the summer.  I saw him at a party and we re-exchanged numbers so we could meet for coffee.

I had fruit and biscuits with vegetarian sausage and gravy while he had tea, or maybe it was coffee?  I am only half certain that these details are relevant to the story.

We were in a dive—or what I would classify as a dive—in downtown Lawrence.  There’s graffiti on the walls and a constant loop of old-timey cartoons playing in front of an old floral couch.

I had just started working as a chapel assistant for weddings so I had to leave.  He had been in Costa Rica for an entire semester: getting tan, growing a beard, cutting his hair, getting harassed by his Tica grandmother.  There was so much more I wanted to hear and live vicariously through so I asked him what he was doing for the rest of the day and invited him to the chapel.

He’d never been—I feel like almost everyone’s first time inside of that chapel has been with me.  The ceremony ended and we saw that it was raining outside.  Or, maybe we didn’t notice then?  The rain didn’t matter though.

Long ago I realized that I was not made of sugar and spice; that my kind does not melt in the rain.  So, we let time amble on and we didn’t rush to catch up, walking in the rain.

Three boys sat on their sheltered porch and yelled out to us.

“Hey, you want to get out of the rain?”

We told them “maybe later.”

We went into the hotel from the side door through Jimmy Johns, away from the circle drive and the valet parking.  We took the elevator to the fifth floor terrace and watched the uniformed hotel workers run back and forth, carting plates and glasses and silverware from the deck to the safety of the hotel.  We helped them out and held the door.

I told him the best view of Lawrence was on that terrace, but now that I think about it I might have been wrong.

We started the walk back to my car and stopped to meet the boys on the porch.

They told us the history behind their house and gave us a few beers.  We met their dog, Tyson, and then I drove Jordan back to his car.

Jordan and I lived on the fifth floor of Lewis Hall our freshman year.  It was the “Spanish Language Learning Community”—our resident assistant spoke Spanish fluently and those of us in the LC were supposed to speak in Spanish to each other. He ended up spending an entire year in Costa Rica. I finished the required amount of Spanish classes and feel closest to Spanish culture when I’m at the Mexican restaurant downtown that doesn’t card and serves cheap pitchers of frozen margaritas.

Jordan called me (still calls me) trendy and once when I bought a pair of shoes and threw the cardboard box in the trash, Jordan called me out on it and put the box in the recycling.

Once, he told me I should write about my lime green rain boots.

I guess this is as close as I get to filling that request.

almost two years ago

I feel stupid & contagious

In the middle of a thirty minute presentation on managing stress yesterday I realized I was tensing my shoulders and back as I checked the passing time on my phone.

I live ten minutes in the future.

What are you going to ask me?  Here’s the answer.

I’m not done yet, am I?  Let me anticipate exactly what you want (or what I think you should want), then do it.

I feel like I’m constantly ready to pounce and I feel it.

I feel it in my arms, in my back, in the tip of my tongue as it stumbles into my teeth when I try to scoot all my words out as quickly as possible.

Because we don’t have enough time and if I’m ten minutes in the future, then everything is due ten minutes sooner.  Pretty soon it will be due yesterday and don’t we want it to be the best that it can be?

On Thursday I spent twelve hours on campus.

Thirty minutes getting there.

One hour and fifteen minutes feeling confused in Astronomy.

One hour and fifteen minutes in an office.

Four hours in another office, filing scholarship papers, bills and sorting mail.

A few minutes every hour answering questions.

One hour printing papers, buying thank-yous.

One hour showing and telling.

Another hour just telling.

Two hours discussing.

I have skipped sleep and lunch and I am not one of those people who can do without the sustaining power of sleep or food.  I am the Hulk.  I am the evil stepmother.  I am not myself. And I am exhausted.

I spent an hour and a half talking before going back to the Hulk’s life.  I saw me for the first time in days, maybe even weeks.  I saw this me that I really enjoy.  I see this me when I write and read and tweet silly things and I want her always.

I write more when I’m feeling like this.

Maybe I just want the world–the whole world, Veruca Salt-style.

I’m in this place now where I cry when I read quotes from Lord of the Rings and it takes me two and half weeks to respond to my best friend’s emails (from New Zealand) and I send out messages like “Give me ten minutes” then take half an hour and I come home to more work and the monkey on my back is a deadline or two or four or seven and I can’t finish this sentence because if I stop talking I have to move on and I don’t feel like it yet.

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to”

I want to hang the adventure plaque by the door and I want to explore.

But my bones are heavy with the weight of the future and I’m not sure they can take the extra steps.

This is probably the beginning of my mental collapse.  I need a  massage.  Or a margarita.  Or both.  Probably both.  But I’ll start with sleep.

Welcome to my nervous breakdown!

day 98. love story.

I’m feeling very sentimental right now.  I have two weeks left in Lawrence before I go back to Salina for the summer.  I went on a run this afternoon and then took a walk around campus.  I sat on the hill underneath the campanile and thought of everyone who had walked through and who would be walking through it in the coming weeks.

As a senior in high school, I had some fairly fantastical thoughts about college.  I thought I would go to a school far, far away from Kansas.  I never considered anywhere in state because of this.  I looked at brochures for colleges in Chicago, Pennsylvania, California–the farther away it was, the more alluring it seemed.  Then, sometime around the early application deadline, I started to seriously think about what college meant.

I realized how much more responsibility I’d have to take on if I moved out of state.  I would have to make special arrangements for orientation, special arrangements for traveling home for holidays, I would not be able to spend random weekends at home, couldn’t return home for homecoming or anything like that.  My family would be hours away, along with my close friends.  The reality of really being on my own was a lot more real if I moved out of state.  I didn’t think I was ready for all that responsibility.  So, I chose KU.

I filled out one application and it was for the The University of Kansas.

In-state tuition is much cheaper, obviously, and I am a huge KU fan, and have been for awhile. Lawrence is a great town, and I figured it would be a great place to bide my time until I was ready to leave and really be on my own.

I had no idea that I would fall in love with everything about this place.

I spent the first part of my summer before freshman year on campus for the Freshman Summer Institute program. We met with different groups on campus and got to really learn how the campus worked and what was available to us. At the beginning of the fall semester I joined Student Union Activities and had the opportunity to be really involved with doing great things around campus. And I fell in love, I couldn’t help it. I feel that this is a place that really cares about it’s students and wants to do everything it can to make sure that this is an awesome place to be.

I sat on the hill today and remembered the first big SUA event–concert on the hill, featuring Ben Kweller, and I remembered how the hill looks on game days–covered in tents, with different groups tailgating. I looked at the sidewalk trail behind the campanile, the trail I walk every Tuesday and Thursday to get to my class in JRP. I thought of the spring field trips that different schools have taken to KU and the hordes of children staring in awe at everything on campus. This place has so much life in it and so much of my life is this place now.

And I love it. I love KU.