Friday, August 31, 2007

Three Days Down, Thousands More to Go

Thanks for the good wishes, guys. My first couple of days of teaching/classes have gone really well. Wednesday is going to be a really, really long day, but at least it seems to be a really, really long day for everyone else, too, so I'll have people to commiserate with. I also tried driving home on Wednesday afternoon to let the dog out and eat lunch, and that worked out fine so I think it will become part of the weekly routine.
I feel pretty good about the two discussion classes I'm teaching. I was almost late to my own freakin' class, though, because I couldn't find THE ENTIRE THIRD FLOOR of one stupid building. (I realize that doesn't sound like it should be hard to do; you'd be surprised.) First impressions indicate that my 12:00 class is going to be a little more chatty and ready to participate than my 11:00 class, but we'll see if that proves to be true. I do have ways of making them talk if they're not cooperative...hmmm, that sort of makes it sound sinister...but I'm hoping that they'll just willingly participate in class and make my life easier. They are mostly 18 years old, though, so that might be asking a bit much.
On Wednesday evening I had my first class. It's a theory class taught by a professor I will refer to as Dr. Scary because, well, everyone has led me to believe that I should be intimidated by her. She's the sort of professor that people warn you about right away: "Whatever you do, just don't let Dr. Scary be your advisor, she has only graduated four people EVER in her entire time here." That professor. The thing is, while she does seem very blunt she's also very funny. I think it's going to be one of those situations where she's only funny when she's not aiming her venemous remarks at me, though. Apparently a lot of her bad rep is coming from the fact that she pretty much just turned on a student who prior to now had been her biggest advocate. Ah, departmental politics, my favorite part of the academy. Ugh. Well, we'll see how it goes. I think the class itself is going to be very, very intense, but the majority of the material is stuff that I have at least glossed over before, so that should help me get a foothold. Hopefully.
On Thursday I'll get to sleep in a bit because I don't have class until 4:00. My Thursday class is with Dr. New, and it's a class that is focused on a sub-field of my major field, if that makes sense (sorry I have to be so vague). It's a field I have never worked in before, so I'm really excited about this class because it will be something completely new: a new form of research, new subject matter, etc. I'm also very excited about this class because Dr. New is the only professor I have ever had in grad school that said, "Just read these books like you would a novel and skip the parts that aren't interesting to you." We have projects but no major papers and no tests except a final paper that she has already told us is more about our opinion than anything else. After going, "Whoa....." when I saw Wednesday's syllabus, it was nice to know that my Thursday class is being taught by someone who obviously just earned her Ph.D. herself and therefore knows what kind of time constraints we're all dealing with. Dr. New just seems very cool and friendly, too, so I hope that first impression turns out to be true.
So that's where I stand right now. Next week I'll start another new class on Tuesday (this one is called Teaching [My Subject]) and I have been told that it's pretty easy but time-consuming, especially considering it's only a one hour class. And then next Monday I'll start my final class, which is an intro to doctoral research course that nobody seems to know anything about because the professor who is teaching it has never taught that particular course before.

Socially, things are going well, too. I have been hanging out in the office with Gay Mate, who needs a new nickname because after having spent a few hours in the office with him I'm now thinking that maybe he's not gay. Mostly because he referred to his girlfriend. Not that that necessarily means anything...At any rate, I'm now going to call him, um, Bob. So Bob and I have been getting along well. Straight Mate hasn't been around much, although when he is I've found it a bit awkward because I don't think he quite gets my sense of humor. Which is weird, because I don't think I have a particularly dry or difficult to "get" sense of humor. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, I think we just need to get to know each other a bit better. Anyway, I also joined my department's official graduate student group on Thursday because it seems like a good way to get to know people and it could lead to some CV-building activities eventually. I spent an hour after the meeting talking to a couple of the other women and we tentatively made plans to get drinks together next week, so I hope that actually happens.

Finally, I'm excited about this weekend! First and foremost, Kiki is coming to visit! She's actually on the bus on her way to City A right now. She has kindly volunteered to be the guinea pig and figure out this whole bus deal for the benefit of both of us. See, there's a bus that goes from Manhattan to City A (and many other places) for a ridiculously cheap price, but we don't know if it's actually a good deal or if it's too unsafe/unreliable/full of crazies to be worth it. It's a full hundred dollars cheaper than taking the train, though, and obviously a lot easier than driving and parking (she can't drive anyway since she doesn't have a car) so if this works out it will be a great option for the two of us to visit each other. I'm going to go pick her up in about an hour and I think I'm going to take the subway into the city to do it. I've been told that the subway is pretty safe at night as long as you don't mind drunk people and the neighborhood where the bus drops her off isn't supposed to be too sketchy, either, but I'm still a little nervous about heading into the city at night by myself. I think this is probably a safer option than trying to drive in, though. I'm still not great at finding my way around City A in the car. Last weekend when I left my dog playdate I got hopelessly lost and drove around for 40 minutes. I didn't even mind being lost because it turned into a lovely scenic drive through some areas I had heard about but never visited before. But being lost and driving through strange neighborhoods at 6 in the evening when it's still light out is very different than getting lost after midnight. So yes, subway it will be.
Assuming we make it through the late-night subway ride, the rest of the weekend should be fun. A prestigious City A theatre is holding a play festival tomorrow, so I think Kiki, my cousin Rae and I are going to try to go to one of the plays and then hit a bar or two. I'm excited about experiencing City A nightlife. Then Sunday I think Kiki just wants to chill by the swimming pool and maybe go to Target. It's really easy to amuse New Yorkers, apparently: just give Kiki some open space and a suburban grocery store and she's excited. And then since it's Labor Day weekend I'll have all day Monday to finish my reading for next week.
Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wish Me Luck!

Tomorrow is my first day of class and my first day of teaching my classes! My office is organized, my lesson is planned for tomorrow's classes, I have all of my books, my school supplies are ready to go...I'm about as ready as I can possibly be.

I'm nervous, but also excited, of course. I kind of can't believe that I'm about to start my SEVENTH year of higher education. I'll let you know how it goes, of course...although maybe not right away. I have a feeling blogging might get pretty sparse around here now that I actually have things to do.

Monday, August 27, 2007

In Case You Aren't Yet Convinced That I am a Ridiculous Person...

...I offer you the following:

-For years I have done my laundry on Mondays. I think maybe the first semester of my freshman year of college I did laundry on Tuesdays, but other than that laundry day has always been Monday for as long as I have been doing my own laundry. So that's about six years of Laundry Mondays. Yes, I do laundry every single week on the same day. I clean my clothes from the week and my sheets and towels. It's just what I do. I like routines. But anyway, as I was doing my laundry this afternoon I realized that there is no way Monday can be laundry day this semester. I have to be on campus at 10:00 on Mondays which means I need to leave my apartment around 9:15. It takes me about two hours to do laundry. Needless to say, I will not be dragging my lazy butt out of bed at 7 in the morning to cart my laundry over to the laundry room. Not only is that way too damn early, in a few months it will also be really freakin' cold at 7:00 in the morning. I also won't be able to do laundry when I get home on Mondays because I probably won't get home until 7:00 at night and before too long it will be dark and, yes, COLD at 7:00 PM. That won't work.
If I switch laundry day to Tuesday, I can actually sleep until a decent hour and still have plenty of time to do my laundry before I have to head up to campus in the afternoon. Tuesdays are just going to be a lot more flexible in general and therefore more conducive to laundry-doing. So Tuesdays it will be, starting next week. But can I just say that I had to SERIOUSLY think about this decision, weighing the pros and cons of both Sunday and Tuesday. I even considered moving laundry day to Friday, because Friday is when I try to clean my apartment and groom the dog (although I'm not quite as anal about Cleaning/Grooming Day as I am about Laundry Day because half the time Cleaning Day ends up happening on Saturday instead and that's totally okay). Tuesday won out for various reasons, the main one of which is, "Well, Tuesday HAS been Laundry Day at one point in the past, so it's okay for it to be Laundry Day again this semester," and even then I still feel slightly "off" about it.
Do you think I need psychiatric help? (Don't answer that, I'm totally kidding. If I was like this about everything I would worry, but I'm only like this about, well...let's change the subject.)

-I think I finally figured out a solution to my office dilemma. Did I already talk about this? Maybe I didn't. Anyway, I have a fairly nice office space. There's a brand new flat-screen computer on my desk that has an internet connection. There's a window. There's a mini fridge that one of the guys kindly cleaned out and started defrosting today so that we can actually use it. I only have to share with two other people (which is really not a bad situation for a grad student, I've heard of 8 to an office or a study carrel and no office at all at other universities). There are plenty of open bookshelves that I can use.
And therein lies the problem. As of now, my office bookshelves are completely empty and my desk is, um, very utilitarian (and by "utilitarian" I mean bare). This afternoon I bought a bulletin board that I decorated with pictures and I framed some pictures of my family and friends and my dog. See, I have to compensate with pictures of my dog because I'm pretty much the only person without a significant other and/or a small child. Anyway, I'm going to put all that up tomorrow to brighten up my desk and make it feel like it's really mine. I also bought some office supplies to leave up there. So that's going to be good. But I wasn't sure what books, if any, to put in my office.
The truth is, I just don't know how often I'll work in my office. Another one of my weird quirks is that I cannot do anything if I feel like someone is looking over my shoulder. And I'm paranoid about this to the extreme. For example, as a kid I would always stop whatever I was doing when the teacher walked around the classroom to look at our projects, or I'd just pretend to be fussing with some part that I was really already finished with just so that I could appear to be working. As soon as the teacher had moved on, I could start working again. This tendency has extended all the way to college, only now it manifests itself in different ways. For example, even though I willingly share my notes with my peers when they ask, I am very self-conscious when I am actually talking said notes, to the point that if we're all sitting around a conference table in a seminar I will hold my notebook on my lap so that it's not on the table for everyone to see. And this is when we're all taking the exact same notes! What am I trying to hide?! I don't even know. So because of this weird tendency of mine, I don't know if I'll be able to work in an office with officemates. Even if they're not paying a bit of attention to what's going on at my desk (and I guarantee they won't be) I'm still going to be worried that they're watching me.
In short, I think I'll be able to read in my office (I could care less if people watch me read) but I don't think I'll be able to get any writing done there, and I definitely won't feel very comfortable doing research on the computer unless I'm the only one in the room. Plus there's the added fact that I find the sounds of "silence" (flipping pages, clacking keyboards, etc.) more distracting than any noise at my own apartment and I don't think the office will be a very relaxing work environment even if everyone on the hall is actually being quiet. I may luck out and get the office to myself some days, but I think I need to assume that one or both of my office mates will be there most of the time, and there will definitely always be other people on the hall.
So I've been trying to figure out what to do about this because I am going to have to work in my office sometimes and, well, I think it looks better to have at least a few books in the office to give the illusion that I'm actually doing SOMETHING. I think my plan for now at least will be to take all of the 17 (!!!) books I bought for my classes this semester up to campus and put them in my office.
This will serve a few purposes:
a) I'm actually pretty much out of space on my bookshelves here in the apartment already, and the 17 new books need to go somewhere.
b) My desk will look more colorful and cozy if it actually has some books around it.
c) I will be forced to show my face at the office pretty much every day, even if it's just to pick up books I need at home. I think that even if I don't end up liking to work in my office (ESPECIALLY if I don't end up liking to work in my office) that it's still important to be an active part of the grad student community within my department, and that will be easier to do if I'm a regular presence in the office. I'll stay in the loop.
d) This will force me to really use my time wisely. I'll have to try to get certain projects done at the office during daylight hours, and I'll have to think really hard about which books I want to drag home every night. In other words, I'll have to have specific goals for nights/weekends and I'll have to stick to those goals and pace myself well if I don't want to keep making trips back and forth from campus to exchange books or get new ones.

So yes. I think that's what I'm going to try right now. Books in current rotation will be stored at the office and brought home as necessary. If it ends up being a sucky system, I'll just try another tactic. I can be flexible when necessary. Really.

Wow, this was an absolutely riveting entry, wasn't it? I don't know why you all bother with me at all (and yes, even though you're all a bunch of lurkers I know that you're reading, so thanks for letting me ramble, guys!)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Thank Goodness He's Okay

The scariest thing happened this afternoon. My beloved hound dog had to undergo his weekly ear cleaning today (I think it's "cleaning", he thinks it's "torture", whatever). After I was finished grooming him, I brought him back inside and gave him three dog biscuits for being a good dog during grooming time. Then I went into my bedroom to put away all the grooming supplies. When I came back into the living room I saw that there was still half a biscuit sitting on the floor by the hound. I was like, "Huh, that's weird, normally he gulps those down in two seconds flat," so I said, "Here, silly hound, eat the rest of your treat" and I picked it up to hand it to him, and that's when I realized something was really wrong. He was hunched over frantically pawing at his face, almost like he was punching himself, and making a grunting noise.
I knew that he was choking, but I had no idea what to do for him. Instead I just screamed, "OH GOD, OH NO!" and I dropped to the floor beside him. I'm not sure what I would have done next, but thankfully right at that moment he coughed and spat out a slimey piece of biscuit. And then it was like nothing had even happened. He ate the drooly biscuit piece, ate the other half of the biscuit, and then hopped up onto the couch to take a nap. He doesn't understand why I've been burying my face in his fur and kissing the top of his head all evening. I'm just so grateful he's okay. It really was a scary moment when he was choking and I couldn't do anything but panic. It's another one of those moments that makes me go, "Hmmm...maybe I'd better just stick to hound dogs and not have children, ever." I did google "Heimlich maneuver for dogs", though, so now I'll know what to do if it ever happens again, which it better not. I love my dumb ol' hound dog so much it's ridiculous. I'm just glad he's okay.

Nothing else to report today because it was 97 degrees and humid as a steam room today, so I deliberately didn't leave my apartment at all. I really hope that this is the last burst of summer weather. I'm very ready for fall (fall, NOT winter...)

Strange Things Are Happening to Me

So the weirdest thing is happening to me here. Tonight was the grad student getting-to-know-you cookout thing. [By the way, I brought my beer and so did everyone else so I am not a social outcast, yay!] While I was at the party chatting with everyone, I couldn't shake the feeling that I have already been here for years. Even though I didn't know the names of half of the people that I talked and laughed with all night (I'm trying, but there are so many new faces to learn) and even though I didn't know all of their stories from the past, I still felt very comfortable. I have never felt like this in a new place before. I have never felt so at ease so early on in the moving-and-settling process. I don't know why it's happening now, and I don't know what that means. I'm wondering if this is going to end up being some sort of jinx since my usual MO is to take a good six months to settle in. You know, like it usually takes me six months to make friends but then I end up making wonderful friends, so what if I make friends too early on and then everything ends up being horrible? Basically, the fact that I have only been here two weeks and I already feel like I have a little bit of a social life is very weird to me. It's just not ME, you know? But maybe it is me. Maybe it's an older and more mature me that knows how to just jump in and put myself out there and hope for the best. At any rate, everything seems to be going well so far. I keep crossing my fingers and knocking on wood because I don't want everything to end up getting screwed up when I feel...good.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bullets for You

Bullet points because I have no narrative flow today (not that I do any other day, but whatever):

-I finally got my ID card today! Whoo! Now I can get it set up so that I can swipe my way into the building and I will be able to get into my office anytime I feel like it. Apparently I can even get into the building at 2 a.m. if I feel like it (although wow, I really hope that doesn't become a regular occurence). I also have library access now, which I have a feeling will come in handy pretty much right away.

-I am very proud of myself because other than eating out with my cousin on Friday night and having lunch with Mari on Thursday, I have only eaten healthy foods out of my refrigerator and pantry for an entire week. And I'm feeling really good about myself because a friend was looking at the pictures I posted online the other day and he commented that it looks like I have lost weight. I haven't been actively trying to lose weight, but I have been trying to eat healthier foods. I'm not dieting because I'm incapable of dieting (and frankly, I don't need to diet, I'm well within the healthy weight range for my height) but I've been trying to do various things: drink more water and less soda, eat at least one fresh fruit or vegetable every day, etc. I also worked out a lot this summer and did a wider variety of workouts than I had been doing, and I hope to keep that up as long as possible into the semester. I always do my twenty days a month no matter what because I need that physical activity, it's just that some months a 25 minute walk with the dog counts as a workout and other times I'm better at actually doing a 40 minute "real" workout. So yeah. Personally, I don't feel like I have really lost any weight and this past week I was actually feeling more blah than usual about my body (generally I more or less like my body) so it was nice to hear from a friend that I look okay.

-The department's graduate student group is having a getting-to-know-you barbecue on Friday night. I'm a little concerned that everyone going will have husbands/kids/significant others with them because they are all invited as well, but I'm going to go anyway. I really do need to put myself out there if I expect to make friends here, and skipping the first organized function of the year wouldn't be starting out on the right foot. Plus there are worse things than being the only single girl in the room. Actually, I feel very relaxed and even--dare I say--satisfied with my single state lately. I don't know what has caused the change from last year when I very much wanted to be with someone to now when I can honestly say that most days I care very little about the fact that it's just me by myself. I don't know if it's just settling, or acknowledging how nice it has been not to have a "two body" problem in deciding to come here, or realizing as I set up my own household yet again that I really do sincerely love living by myself, but I really do feel satisfied, at least for now. So that's not what I'm worried about. No, I'm wondering what to bring to the party. It's BYOB and bring your own food to grill, but I'm wondering what that means. For the food part I think I'll just bring a pack of hotdogs or bratwurst or something along those lines because even though we're just supposed to bring our own food (I think) it's not like you can buy just a single hotdog anyway and it's kind of a nice gesture to bring stuff to share. But on the drinks part the host wrote "bring your own bubbly beverages" and I don't know what the heck that means. I'm sure she's just trying to be cute and didn't mean to be confusing, and I'm sure I'm just overthinking the hell out of this, but I don't know what to bring. Normally I'd just bring a six pack of beer, but I don't consider beer (or liquor) particularly "bubbly" so now I'm wondering if that's a subtle way of saying, "bring soda". In other words, I'm wondering if I should take this to mean it's an alcohol-free event. I can't imagine that a gathering of adults off-campus would be alcohol-free (especially knowing graduate students, ESPECIALLY knowing graduate students in my field) but I think it would sort of look bad for me to show up with my Sam Adams Summer Ale if everyone else has Pepsi. At the same time, how lame will I look if I show up with sodas and everyone else has beer? Especially since I DO enjoy drinking. That will be making a statement I don't want to make. I was talking to Kiki on the phone earlier and I mentioned this to her and first she said, "Bubby beverages? What, like champagne?" and then she suggested that I bring a six pack of Coke and have a hidden flask of Jack to pull out if it turns out everyone is boozing, thereby covering both options. Ha. So yeah, I have a few days to figure out what I'm going to do, although I think I'm leaning towards just bringing the beer. Because you know me: I somehow project a sweet and innocent image anyway, so even if I'm the only guest with alcohol everyone will figure out pretty quickly that I'm not an alcoholic, but considering how hard I always have to fight against my perceived naivete and innocence, it's going to be a lot harder to overcome an early reputation as a teetotaler.

-My neighbor across the parking lot is a little odd. Let me preface this by saying that when I first looked at this complex back in May the leasing agent told me, "You can paint or do whatever you want to the apartment as long as you change it back to its original state before you move out. Oh, but you can't, like, install a fishtank into the wall or anything structural like that. A guy wanted to do that and I had to tell him that this isn't MTV Cribs." Well, as soon as I moved in I figured out what resident she must have been talking about: Guy Across the Parking Lot. Because whenever I walk by his apartment at night an eerie purple glow is coming through the blinds. I can only hope this glow is from fish/reptile tanks. He also has a gigantic fake owl sculpture sitting on his balcony. I think it's one of those things that is built to scare live birds away, but it still scares the crap out of me when I see it out of the corner of my eye in the dark. Then the other morning I was out walking my dog pretty early and I noticed that he was burning incense on his balcony. Why? Who burns incense outside? What's the point? (I have never really understood the point of incense, period, being more of a scented candle girl myself, but that's beside the point). But here's the kicker: yesterday afternoon he sat outside on his balcony for twenty minutes playing a recorder. A RECORDER. What 40+ year old man (he looks at least that old) plays the recorder?! And may I add that he was playing Amazing Grace in a very stilted, halting manner, leading me to believe that he is new to this whole recorder-playing thing. Or maybe just really bad at it. Luckily it started pouring down rain so he had to cut his little community-wide concert short. But seriously, the recorder? Do we all need to listen to this guy play a wooden flute usually reserved for the 10-and-under set? Truthfully, I can't really complain because it was 4:00 in the afternoon, and I always figure that at that time of day you're allowed to make pretty much any kind of noise you want. Mostly it just made me laugh, so I had to share it with you.

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Day

My first meeting on campus went well. I was in fact asked about my specialty, but that wasn't so bad because I had my made up answer ready to go (well, it's not entirely made's one of the things that I have been focusing on in the past, it's just not what I'm sure I would like to keep focusing on now that I'm here, if that makes sense). And I was reassured yet again that I don't need to have a plan set in stone yet, so that made me feel good. I also feel good because apparently all of the brand new Ph.D. students are just as lost and nervous as I am.
All of us TAing the intro class are new Ph.D. students. Four of us are also new to the department, and the other two just completed their MAs here and are moving on to the next level. The newbies are all girls, which will make for an interesting dynamic I think (And continue to make it impossible for me to meet guys. Thanks, University Land!).
Today we just talked about how the course is going to work. I have to go to the main lecture on Mondays and Wednesdays and then on Wednesday I also teach two separate discussion sections. I'm also responsible for all of the grading for my two discussion sections (about 60 students total). Besides leading the discussion sections each week, I also have to lecture once in the big class. I report directly to the course lecturer, although my real "boss" is Dr. New, a new professor in the department who is technically in charge of the course (she's just not teaching it because she wants to spend this year feeling out how it works). It all sounds okay and it seems pretty interesting considering it's an intro course. I'm just afraid that Wednesdays are going to kill me. On Wednesdays I'll have to go to the main lecture from 9 to 10 (which means I'll need to leave here around 8 to deal with traffic), then have office hours from 10 to 11 (I have to have two hours each week so I figure I might as well do it then since I'll be on campus for sure anyway), then lead one discussion section from 11 to 12 and the other from 12 to 1. And then there's a pretty good chance that I'll end up having to go to class myself from 4 until 6:30. I don't really know what I'm going to do yet since it's kind of pointless to spend half an hour driving home in the afternoon when I'm just going to have to turn around and drive half an hour back to campus, but I also feel guilty about the idea of leaving my dog alone for what could end up being 11 hours. That's not fair to him at all, especially because eventually it will be too cold to walk him early in the morning and too dark to walk him when I get home. So yeah, I don't know what to do yet. Maybe just chalk Wednesday up to a day where I waste time driving and don't get any work done in the afternoon, and then work extra hard every other day?
Because no other day should be that bad. Monday I don't have to be on campus for my TA duties until 10:00 and then I will definitely have a class on Monday night from 4 until 6:30, but that's only 9 hours that the dog will have to be alone and I don't mind that as much (even though it's only a two hour difference, leaving him alone for anything over 10 hours just feels wrong, hence the guilt about Wednesdays but not about Mondays). So I think Mondays will be a day I plan to stay in my office/the library all afternoon and get work done. Tuesdays I don't have to be on campus until 2:00, and Thursdays I don't have to be on campus until 4:00 (assuming I take a seminar on Thursday, I'm not quite sure what seminars I'm signing up for yet). Fridays I don't have to be on campus at all. So that's not to say I won't still be on campus a lot on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, but at least I don't HAVE to be there all day long like I do on Monday and Wednesday. I can go in when I want to go in, or I can opt to work from home.
My main thing is that I just don't want to waste the gas or the time (since at a minimum it is 15-20 minutes each direction) driving back and forth between campus and my apartment multiple times a day. I'll probably do it on Wednesdays for the hound's sake, but the rest of the time I plan to put in a block of time on campus every day and then head home and do more work here if necessary. I have always been pretty good at buckling down and working at home. I did write my entire thesis on my couch with the TV on, after all.
So yeah. Maybe Wednesday can just be a business-only day and I can do all my own writing/research/reading the rest of the week, either in the office or at home. I should mention that this is also leading to some dilemmas about what to take up to my office. Right now I don't have anything in my office. I haven't even claimed a desk yet. I don't want to lug my books back and forth constantly, but I also don't know yet how much I'm actually going to accomplish at home vs. at the office and I'd hate to have books here that I need there, and vice versa. Oh well. I guess I'll figure it out as I go along. It's just sort of intimidating to see my officemate's piles and piles and piles of books (many of them in freakin' RUSSIAN) already sitting in the office.

Despite the fact that I just rambled nervously for far too long, I am actually feeling okay. I think I like the other students I met today, my boss seems cool and understanding, and I got more information in general about the faculty, how the program works, etc.

P.S.-When we were all gathering for the meeting one of the other women said, "Are any of you *A*?" I said, "I am. Why?" and she said, "Because I went to a conference this summer and two different people there told me that you are awesome and that I should get to know you." !!! One of the people was a professor (and friend) of mine from my MA program and she didn't remember who the other one was, but she said it was a guy so I'm thinking it's probably another guy from my MA program. It is great that a positive reputation precedes me, and I was sort of baffled and excited all at once to realize that other people respect me enough to network on my behalf. But this is just one more case where I will have to try to live up to expectations.

P.P.S.-This is how you know that driving around here is ridiculous: a woman in my cohort just moved here from Los Angeles, and she was complaining about how difficult it is to drive here and how crazy and aggressive and erratic the other drivers are. So if a California driver is complaining about the craziness, that means it's REALLY crazy. Nice to know I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

First Day Jitters

Tomorrow is my first day of work, and I'm trying to talk myself down from the ledge, so to speak. I'm really nervous. I have a whole series of meetings this week. Tomorrow is a meeting with all of the TAs that share my specific job. There are six of us leading discussion groups for the same intro class, and tomorrow we're meeting with the lecturer to discuss the syllabus and divy up the discussion sections, I guess (I've looked at the syllabus and for the big lecture there's a 9:00 class and an 11:00 class, how much do you want to bet I get stuck with the 9:00?). I don't have anything scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday so far, but then Thursday is a long day of meetings with various people in the department (department chairs, Ph.D. and MA faculty, etc.). Friday I meet with my temporary advisor to decide which coures to take. Then Monday is the world's longest new TA orientation (8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, how much do you want to bet all but an hour of it will be useless and repetitive information?).
I don't know exactly why I'm so nervous. I think a lot of it has to do with making a good first impression. The main thing I'm afraid of is everyone asking me what my focus is, because I don't really know the answer to that question. I have had some reassurance from talking to Mari, who assured me that at this time last year she didn't know what her focus was going to be, either. She did, however, advise me to make something up because apparently I'm right in thinking the question will come up a lot. I'm fully aware of how important my first semester ended up being in setting me up for success in my masters program, so I'm very concerned about impressing the professors and my fellow students right out of the gate here. Or if not impressing them, at least keeping up. And therein lies the problem: I already feel like I'm so far behind.
I don't have a research agenda AT ALL yet, and I'm afraid that everyone else already will. I made the mistake of clicking on a link on the department's website today that said "Graduate Students" (Why? Why did I do this?!) and I read everyone's bios and they all sound so impressive: multiple conference presentations, published papers, work at important companies, years of professional experience. I keep thinking about what my profile will look like. It will be something like, "Um, hi. I've pretty much just been a student for the past six years--perhaps something of an exceptional one, if I try to flatter myself--but still, just a student. I have only ever been to three conferences in my life and I only presented my own work at one of those conferences. Oh, I did have a paper chosen as an alternate for a conference once, but that doesn't really count, does it? I haven't had anything published. Sure, I've won awards and scholarships, but again, that's just school stuff and does that even matter in the real world? Yeah, I didn't think so."
I'm not knocking my accomplishments. I am very proud of the work I have done in my life so far. I also keep trying to remind myself that I am a young graduate student and that some of these people have more impressive resumes simply because they are ten years older than I am. But at the same time I can't help feeling that I'm not going to measure up against the rest of the scholars in this department.
I know that the faculty chose me specifically. I also know that because I got into another nationally recognized program as well as this one, it is not just a fluke. They gave me a nice financial package, they made it clear that I was one of their top choices and not a backup option. Even though my CV is not as impressive as I would like it to be, the faculty here obviously saw past the lack of conference presentations and published articles and can see some sort of potential that I don't recognize in myself. I also know from lurking on other academic's blogs that these feelings of inadequacy are completely par for the course and even the most self-assured people have at one point felt the same "What am I doing here?" feelings that I am having right now. In my head I know all of that. In my heart I can't stop feeling scared that I will disappoint everyone.

I'm going to try to go in as strong as possible, though. I am already feeling good vibes from this place. I feel like I am where I'm supposed to be right now, at least in terms of location. I'm off to a good start. I already made a favorable first impression on one student in the department, so I am going to assume that other people will like me as well. I am going to make up something to say when people ask me about my research so that I don't just sit at the table like a bumbling idiot when it's my turn to talk about myself. I am going to be proud of my accomplishments thus far and assume that because everyone else thinks I can handle this next step, I actually CAN.

I'll let you know how it goes, of course.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Feeling Great, Feeling Good, How are You?

So how is this for lucky?
I decided back in April that I was going to move to University Land. A couple of months later, my dad mentioned that he had talked to my uncle and heard that one of my cousins was moving to City B, which as you know from previous entries isn't far from me at all. It's random that the two of us would end up in this area of the country at the same time (considering the majority of our extended family is still back in Home State) but it's a pretty cool coincidence.
This afternoon I was hanging out around the house and Rae, said cousin, called me to invite me to dinner tonight. So I drove up to City B and had dinner with Rae and her husband. Rae and I have always gotten along well. She is one of my cousins from my dad's side, the sprawling side of the family that includes 18 grandkids total and now several second cousins or first cousins once removed or whatever the heck it is when your first cousins start having kids, since I'm one of the "babies" on that side of the family and most of my cousins on that side are married and having kids of their own now. Rae and I didn't grow up together since we lived on opposite sides of our homestate when we were younger. We didn't even see each other much at holidays since she usually spent holidays with her mother's side of the family. But as we have gotten older we have seen each other more often (mostly because there now seems to be a family wedding once every year or two), which has been good. She's actually only a few years older than me, but she has always seemed much older to me because she's brilliant and skipped a couple of grades in elementary school, so even though age-wise we're only two or three years apart, she was substantially ahead of me in school. But now that we are older everything has sort of evened out.
Anyway, Rae is my cousin who got married in Las Vegas last December (you may recall this if you followed me over from the old blog). She and her husband Jon just moved here, as in their house is still full of boxes. Jon moved into their
home the day I moved into mine, and Rae just got here yesterday. Even in its unfinished state, I'm terribly jealous of Rae and Jon's place. They have a newly remodeled row house in a hip area of City B, complete with a roof deck with a view of downtown and the ballpark. Oh, and the roof deck has a wet bar! Imagine the party possibilities. It's pretty awesome.
Anyway, Rae and Jon are both really nice and it's cool having family so close by. I had completely forgotten that Rae was moving here too until today, and now I'm sort of excited about the idea that I have someone to socialize with in City B once in a while. Jon grew up in this area, and he already has a ton of friends around here; friends that are cute and funny (I know because my friend Kiki and my sister and I shared a table with these guys at the wedding and rehearsal dinner and they made me laugh so hard I cried). So I'm hoping we'll get to spend more time together in the future, and that maybe Rae and Jon will introduce me to some other people as well. She already mentioned trying to get together over Labor Day weekend, so that's promising.

Overall I'm pretty proud of myself. I have only been in University Land for a little over a week, I have only been without my family support for three days, and already I have been on two social outings! This is in sharp contrast to when I moved to the city where I did my MA, when I spent the entire first month I lived there sitting in my apartment by myself or at the river ignoring everyone.

Things are looking promising. If only I could stop freaking the hell out about starting work on Monday!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

An Update and a Meme

I had a really good day today. I went and had lunch with the Ph.D. student I told you about yesterday, and we had a really good time. She probably needs a pseudonym because I imagine we'll be interacting more in the future, so I'll call her Mari. She's older than I assumed she would be (37, although she doesn't look it at all) but in spite of the age difference we hit it off right away. We ended up hanging out for three hours and we chattered away the whole time. Although we have a lot in common and clearly get along well, she's married with a family and lives an hour away so I doubt she'll become a drinking buddy or anything like that. And let's face it, I need to find some single people to hang out with if I want a hope of any sort of social life. Still, we definitely hit it off and I think she definitely has potential to become a friend.
She took me to lunch at a fun microbrewery near campus and also showed me a little of the campus. She showed me where the main library is, took me over to the campus bookstore (where I was able to look at the books for the various seminars and start to think about which ones I might want to register for next week), and gave me a tour of our department's building. Our facilities are amazing. I'm really excited to have such a nice-looking place to work and study. Just by coincidence one of the department secretaries happened to be in her office when we walked by, and she gave me the key to my office. I have an office space! This is sort of exciting to me because I never had an office at my old school. I could have had one if I wanted it, but for various reasons that I can't get into here without giving out too much information about my job, I didn't use the office space at all. Plus it wasn't really an official office, it was more like a storage space with three desks shoved into it. This, however, is an actual office, down the hall with all the faculty offices. I even have my name and office number on the directory when you walk into the building, which makes me feel very official. True, I share the office with three people, and it's not a huge office. I don't mind, though. It's just kind of cool to have my own desk (and my own computer!!). The nice thing is that apparently one of my officemates didn't really use his space much last year, so maybe he won't want to use it this year, either. Both of my officemates are men, which should be interesting. Mari says the one guy who uses the office is really cool, though, so I hope that's true. Anyway, we also randomly ran into one of the Ph.D. faculty members in the bookstore, so Mari introduced me to her. I was a bit taken aback when Mari said, "Dr. S., this is *A*, one of the new Ph.D. students," and Dr. S. just said, "Ah, yes, *A*." I realize that obviously there was a committee to choose the new Ph.D. students and that many of the faculty members will have read my papers and statement of purpose, etc., but it's still disconcerting to realize that these people already know a bit about me and have probably made assumptions of what sort of person I will be. I wonder if I'll be what they are expecting.
I think I have already surprised a few people because I look so much younger than I actually am. Last week when I went up to campus to give one of the secretaries my tax info, she said, "Oh, I bet you're here to see [Undergraduate Secretary] and I said, "No, actually, I'm one of the new graduate assistants," and she went, "Oh! I'm sorry, I just assumed..." and I laughed and said it was fine and that was that. And today when I went to pick up my parking pass, the student working there said I needed my ID to get it and I explained that I didn't have a student ID yet, so he said, "Oh, okay. Well, you'll get one at orientation." Orientation. Clearly he assumed I am an incoming freshman. (At least he gave me my parking pass anyway). I get annoyed sometimes with how young I look. I feel like I have to work harder than other people to get respect because I quite literally look at least five years younger than I actually am. Maybe even younger than that. I think without makeup on I could probably pass as a junior in high school. I think I am probably in for several more years of being mistaken for one of my students. But I'm used to it by now, I'll just deal with it as I always have. Ten years from now I'll be grateful. I'm grateful right now, in fact. But it's still a tiny challenge at times.

But yeah. All in all I had a good day. And now that I have an office space and a parking pass and have met a few people on campus, this whole thing is finally becoming very, very real for me. I'm really ready to get into classes to see what I have really gotten myself into.

And now for a meme, since I have a lot of time to kill tonight.

Accent: I don't think I really have an accent at all. To my own ears I'm pretty much American standard, although it will be interesting to see if anyone up here in yankee land thinks I have an accent. I did pick up a few southern tics in college.

Booze: I enjoy it, in moderation...if moderation means not drinking at all (or very minimally, as in one drink with dinner) for a week or two and then having two drinks too many when I actually do go out for the sole purpose of drinking. I suppose that's actually called "binge drinking." Oh well. I'm definitely a social drinker only, though. It never even crosses my mind to drink when I'm home by myself. I don't know if I'd drink more often if I lived with someone; I probably would. There's just something about drinking alone that seems sad to me, even when it's just the above-mentioned glass-of-wine-with-dinner sort of drinking. I guess I just equate alcohol with celebrating and flirting, two things that one can't (or doesn't want) to do alone. I drink just about anything, too, but my favorites are dark and cider beers, vodka tonics, and pretty much any flavor of martini. The only thing I can't drink anymore are Cape Cods, I got way too sick off of them on my 21st and haven't wanted one since.

Chore I hate: Cleaning the cat's litter box.

Dog or cat: Both!! I adore both my cat and my dog (happily snuggled together on the couch right now, by the way). If I have to pick I guess I would say I'm more of a dog person, but I hope to always have both dogs and cats.

Essential electronics: Cell phone and lap top that is connected to the internet. The internet connection is imperative.

Favorite cologne:
I don't really have one. None of the guys I've dated have had a signature cologne. They either didn't wear cologne much at all or switched it up often.

Gold or silver: Silver

Hometown: I have a much greater appreciation for it now that I don't live there anymore.

Job title: Graduate assistant

Kids: I don't have any yet, although I hope my life path includes a couple someday

Living arrangements: I share a one bedroom apartment with a cat and a dog

Most admirable trait: Someone else would have to answer this for me. It's really hard for me to ascertain what my best qualities would be.

Number of sexual partners: Depends on how broadly or narrowly you define "sex". No matter how I count it, it's a single digit number that's greater than 2. That's enough detail.

Overnight hospital stays: None (knock on wood). Actually, I had eye surgery when I was two so maybe I stayed overnight at the hospital then, but I barely remember it.

Phobias: None officially

Quote: Here's one that I have been pondering recently: "It is good that the avenues of art are obstructed by those brambles which repulse all but the strong-willed."-Victor Hugo

Religion: I was raised Lutheran, now I suppose I'm agnostic.

Siblings: Two, a sister and a brother. I'm the oldest.

Time I wake up: Whenever I have to wake up. If I have no appointments or obligations I can easily sleep until one in the afternoon. Generally I have to wake up sometime between 9 and 11. Any earlier than 9 and I'm mad. I'm a bit of a morning person in that once I'm up I'm wide awake and ready to get going, it's just the actual getting out of bed part that's hard if it's early.

Unusual talent or skill: Here's my most pathetic one: I text message really, REALLY fast. When I was bartending over the summer I'd often answer texts behind the bar when it wasn't too busy, and every time someone saw me do it they gave me a wide-eyed, "WOW!" I also read really fast, although I don't know that that is necessarily unusual, just useful considering my profession.

Vegetable I refuse to eat: I'll eat any vegetable, although I'm not a huge fan of lima beans.

X-rays: My teeth, and my right ankle the time I sprained it falling down a stairwell in a parking garage.

Yummy foods I make: Nothing. I mean, I am getting a lot better about cooking for myself on a semi-regular basis, but every single thing I make is from someone else's recipe.

Zodiac sign: Scorpio, which is by far the coolest one.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Spying on the Neighbors Again

I'm in a new apartment and you know what that means: more neighbors to watch and hypothesize about!

1) There are two handicapped parking places (hmmm...that sounds as though the spaces themselves are handicapped...parking spaces for handicapped people?) in the parking lot outside my apartment. Obviously, these are the two best spots in the parking lot, the ones closest to my building. I'm not exactly complaining about this. Handicapped parking spaces are necessary. But who is using these spaces, you ask? I'll tell you who: A man who seems to weigh about 400 pounds but outwardly shows no sign of a true disability. He has a personal car and a car for his business, and so he gets to use both spaces, apparently just because he is fat. Now I realize that maybe he has some sort of underlying medical condition that leads to his excess weight. I don't know what it would be. A heart condition or a thyroid thing, maybe? But the vast majority of people who blame their obesity on a medical condition don't actually have a medical condition at all, and anyway, wouldn't getting a tiny amount of exercise--say, the amount needed to walk a couple of extra steps from a further parking spot--help? Surely carrying around that much weight is detrimental, no matter what your "condition" is. At any rate, even if he does have some terrible disability that causes him to gain weight and isn't in fact just a lazy person taking advantage of the system, it annoys me that he gets to have BOTH of the best spaces.

2) Last night I finally (finally!) finished unpacking my last box of clothes and I took it down to the dumpster to throw it away. This was around midnight. I do realize that strolling outside at midnight is probably not wise around here, but this complex really does seem safe and I don't want to be paranoid, either. Careful and cautious, but not paranoid. Anyway, when I opened the door to take the box outside I literally ran into a girl who then knocked on my down-the-hall neighbor's door and slipped inside. This was midnight, remember. Then this afternoon around 2:30 I was heading down to the pool to work out when the neighbor's door opened and he stepped out...with a different girl! I don't really think three people could share that apartment, there wouldn't be room. Plus the one girl knocked and didn't have a key so she was probably a visitor. My sister pointed out that the afternoon girl could be his roommate and the other one could be his girlfriend or just visiting the other girl, but I prefer to think that my new neighbor is pimpin' over there and calls up a different girl every few hours.

3) Because this apartment complex charges approximately a million dollars a month for a one bedroom apartment, they can afford some pretty frivolous extras, like hiring lifeguards for the complex pool. There were two lifeguards there today, both very blonde and very German (I can't figure out if they are siblings or a couple). I noticed them at the pool all last week, too, when I was going back and forth to the mail room and the laundry room. Since it seems that the majority of people in this complex work a pretty standard 9-5 schedule, the lifeguards seem to spend most of the day just sitting at a table by the pool eating fruit and talking. But then whenever someone shows up and gets into the water, one of the lifguards has to go sit at the lifeguard stand and watch. When I first got to the pool this afternoon there were three people around my age swimming. The lifeguard was watching. So I lounged and read for a while, and the three people eventually got out of the pool and the lifeguard left his stand and went to lounge, too. After a while I got up to get into the pool to do my workout, and up sprang the lifeguard to sit at his stand again. I find this really awkward, mostly because it makes me feel like, "Oh, maybe I shouldn't swim because if I wasn't in the water right now this guy would be able to just lounge. I feel bad for making him work." I realize it's his job, but I still felt a little guilty every time I got into the water. It was fine in the later afternoon once there were more people swimming, but it was definitely weird when the lifeguarding was just guarding me. It was even weirder because I was just doing a workout routine in the shallow end (jogging, ab work etc.) and I am a fairly adept swimmer so I would have been just fine with the lifeguard lounging on the other side of the pool. That would have been preferable, actually. But I didn't want to be like, "Hey, I'm okay, really," because I'm sure he legally has to take his post whenever someone is in the pool. Eventually I got over it and just did my workout and stopped feeling guilty for making the lifeguards actually work for a while. But now I have all these questions. Do they live here? What happens when the pool closes for the winter? Is having a lifeguard a state law here or just an extra precaution demanded by residents in this complex at some point? I'll definitely be going back to the pool if I have time because it's a very nice pool and the water was a perfectly refreshing temperature (unlike the lukewarm bath at my last complex) but it's weird.

That's it on the neighbor front for now. Hopefully soon I'll have things to write about that are more interesting than my neighbors, anyway. Tomorrow I'm having lunch with a fellow Ph.D. student. She's a year ahead of me in the program (I think) and she got her masters from the same program I just graduated from and knows my advisor there, so I had contaced her back in April when I was trying to make a decision between the two programs that accepted me. She was really helpful then, and she offered to show me around if I opted to come to school up here. She e-mailed me again reminding me of her offer once she heard that I'd accepted a position here. So I e-mailed her today asking if she wanted to meet this week, and she called me back and now she's going to show me around the department and take me to lunch tomorrow! She sounds really nice on the phone. We're at different points in our lives (I'm guessing she's at least six or seven years older than me since she taught for a while between her BA and her MA and she's married and has a kid) but I'm hopeful that she could become a friend here. It's a start, anyway!

Beginning Again

I have so much to talk about that there is no possible way I will ever be able to update you on everything. I guess that's what happens when you move across the country.

As for that drive across the country (okay, so it wasn't the ENTIRE country, it was just like, 2/3rds of it, but close enough) it actually wasn't too bad. This drive was a milestone for me because I managed to cross my 25th state off the "States I Have Visited" list, so now I'm officially halfway to my goal of visiting every state in my lifetime. [In case you care, I count any state where I have either spent at least one night or driven across the entire state (or a substantial enough part of the state to require a meal break if it's an exceptionally large state)] This trip also means that I have now driven across the entire country from coast to coast, although thank god I did it in two separate road trips several years apart because driving across the entire country on one road trip is not something I ever want to do, EVER.
So yeah, I still don't have anything coherent to say about the road trip. I'm glad my dad was driving with me for most of the trip. He's fun. He made us drinks in the hotel room every night and took good care of his "granddog". He also got excited every time we passed a river, which was actually pretty often, and if he was driving he insisted that I tell him the name of the river and give a report on how big and full it looked. So the biggest highlight was crossing the Mississippi, of course. We also had really good barbecue for lunch in Memphis one day, we saw Barry Bonds finally break the homerun record at a sports bar in Knoxville (and about damn time it was, too, because between Dad and my brother I was being forced to watch way too much baseball the past few weeks), we kept calling my mom to make her Wikipedia the facts about Civil War battlefields we passed, and I was surprised at how beautiful the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains are. I decided I'd like to take a real vacation there someday when I actually have time to chill and enjoy it.
In summary, the drive went smoother than I expected it to go, although I don't think it's a drive I'll willingly make again any time in the near future...or preferably anytime, period. I'd do it in little segments, but 30+ hours of driving in one trip is a bit much.

As for my new home, I'm really enjoying it so far. I just hope this good trend continues into next week when I start my job and studies.
The apartment is really nice. I lucked out through that move-in day mix up I wrote about, because not only did I get the only newly-renovated apartment in the whole complex (not the only renovated building, the only renovated unit!), I also ended up getting $40 back from my renter's insurance company because for whatever reason insurance in this building is cheaper than in the other one. I have absolutely no clue why that would be the case, but I'm certainly not going to complain about it!
The new apartment is not that much bigger than my old apartment, although the layout makes it feel quite a bit bigger. I actually have the space to make a living room space that is separate from my office space. So I have a space with my desk and recliner and a couple of bookshelves, and then I have a completely separate space for my sofa and the TV. I'm sure I'll still end up doing more work on the couch than anywhere else, but at least now I'll have the space to put work-in-progress in the "office" and get it out of my relaxation space sometimes. I do have all new appliances and berber carpeting, which is a tiny thing but it makes me happy because I really hate that generic beige carpeting you get in most apartments. I also have a big balcony. It's a little hot here to use it right now, but my dog loves the balcony and spends half the day lying out there watching the goings-on in the apartment complex. I even let the cat go out there sometimes, too, the first time he has ever been allowed to venture outside of the apartment (I always lived on the ground floor before and didn't trust him not to run away). The apartment faces south so it's nice and sunny all day long, and I actually have screens on the windows and patio door so I can sleep with my windows open for circulation without having to worry about the cat escaping (my last apartment didn't have screens on the windows, which always really annoyed me). Another reason I can sleep with the windows open is that I live on the 2nd floor (which is technically the third floor; don't ask) so I don't have to worry about anyone breaking in through the window. In theory I guess someone could do it, although it would be quite the climbing challenge and I don't know why anyone would go through the trouble unless they were specifically after me. So that's good.
I also like the location of my apartment a lot. I like its location within the complex. It's pretty much right in the center so I don't get any noise from the road and so far I haven't noticed any noise from the nearby park, either. Speaking of the park, it's one of my favorite perks: there's a small lake (large pond?) and a little park right near my apartment complex! It only takes thirty seconds to walk there and then there's a jogging path around the lake that is almost exactly a mile long. That's going to make working out and exercising the dog so easy that there will be no excuse not to do it. There's also a fitness room in the apartment that actually has several treadmills and weight machines (unlike the "fitness room" at my college apartment that just had a single weight machine) and a really nice-looking pool, although I haven't had time to swim yet. The apartment complex is also ideally situated in the neighborhood. I'm most excited about the fact that I'm within true walking distance of a grocery store. At my college apartment I was technically within walking distance of a Super Target, but it was about a 3o+ minute roundtrip walk down a busy street. At this apartment, I'm right across the street from the shopping center where the supermarket is located. The store is on the far side of the lot from the apartment complex, but even then it only takes about ten minutes to get there and back. I've always had this theory that if I lived close to a grocery store I'd eat healthier because I'd be able to just stroll over to the store and buy milk and fresh fruit and ingredients for healthy recipes every few days instead of buying tons of frozen food because I was too lazy to drive to the grocery store more than about once a month. We'll see if this theory actually ends up being true. I think it's a good goal, at least until it gets brutally cold around here.
Anyway, I also live within easy walking distance of a big hardware/home supplies store, a dry cleaner, two sandwich shops, a burrito restaurant, five or six other sitdown restaurants, a liquor store...I can walk to pretty much everything I need. And the things that aren't within walking distance (my bank, the pet supply store) are less than a five minute drive away.
This is great because I do have a bit of a commute to school. The good thing about where I live is that I'm conveniently located to three different routes to campus. The bad thing is that even though it's only a few miles down the road, the drive apparently sometimes takes up to 40 minutes during rush hour. Still, I'm not too worried about it. I'll experiment with the different routes and hopefully find some short cuts over time. And even if, worst case scenario, I really am spending 40 minutes in traffic each way every day (which definitely won't happen because while I can't control what time I have to get to campus for work and class, I do have control over when I leave so I'll just plan my drive home for not-so-busy hours) at least I don't really have to do any driving at all for errands. Woohoo for not having to spend a ton of gas money, hopefully!
Public transportation is pretty good here, too. It is possible for me to take buses or a bus/subway combination to campus, although I don't know how often I'll bother to do that since the route takes an hour and involves at least one transfer no matter how you do it. Still, it's nice to know that it's an option when weather is bad or if I ever feel like reading a book while someone else deals with the traffic. I did use the subway system a lot this week and was pretty happy with it. I've used subways in five different cities and this was by far the easiest system I have come across (except for Rome, but they only have two lines with just a few stops on each so that hardly counts).
So all in all, I'm happy with my new home. I'm sure I'll discover some downsides eventually, but for now I'm satisfied.

I spent Thursday and Friday moving in and getting things organized, with tons of help from my dad and from my sister, who flew up on Thursday to help out. We had time to do some fun things, too. One night we drove to City B* to watch the major league baseball team play. It was a terrific game, by far the most exciting baseball game I have ever watched. I actually watched the entire game, which is saying a lot considering watching baseball is usually about as interesting to me as watching paint dry. I generally only go to the games for the hot dogs and beer. This was a riveting game, though: a big rivalry, a very close game, a bird that hung out in the outfield for six whole innings, much to the amusement of me and my sister...
My dad flew home a few days ago, but my sister stayed here with me until today, which is why I haven't had time to update. She and I had a really great time. We spent three days doing a ton of sight seeing in City A*. This is one of those times where I really wish I hadn't decided to be mostly anonymous. I would love to tell you about all the fun and interesting things we did, but anything I mentioned would completely give away my location. Suffice it to say we went to museums, historical points of interest, ritzy shopping districts, and we barely even scratched the surface of all the things one can do and see in my new location. I don't know how much time I'll have to hang out down there once school starts, but I hope many more people want to come visit me so that I have an excuse to do more exploring. [I am going to post pictures, so if you want to see what I was up to you'll be able to get to the pictures from a link in my AIM profile eventually]

There is definitely going to be some adjusting on my part. My biggest issue so far is that I can't seem to get used to how everyone drives here. I thought there were some aggressive-driving areas in my home state, but even the worst place I can think of was nothing compared to this. If the speed limit says 55 most people are going 75, and apparently nobody up here ever learned how to use turn signals. Oh, and it's perfectly acceptable to make turns from whatever the hell lane you feel like making them from, apparently. I want to blend in with the flow of traffic, but a) I don't really know where I'm going half the time and b) I'm extremely paranoid about getting a speeding ticket because I can't really afford unexpected expenses like that anymore. So I don't really know what to do. I'm quite seriously afraid that I will die if I don't get aggressive and start driving like everyone else, but knowing my luck I'm the one person that will get pulled over for going 20 mph over the posted limit. I am also going to have to adjust to the weather. I can handle the humidity, although I hate it, but today when I was walking around the lake I saw a sign that said "No Swimming, No Ice Skating," and my first thought was, "Dude, is it really going to get cold enough here that the top of this lake will look frozen enough for ice skating?!" Perhaps I didn't really think this whole "four seasons" thing through as completely as I should have...

So yeah. I'll have to figure some things out and get used to some other things. But overall I'm just really freakin' excited to be here and to be starting this new chapter of my life.

*I live within driving distance of two big cities, which I have just now decided I will refer to as City A and City B.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Made It!

Just a quick post to say that Dad, the cat, the dog, and I finally, finally, FINALLY made it to UniversityLand today. The road trip, although ridiculously long, was at least pretty for most of the way and I'll probably try to write more about it at some point, although it's 1:30 in the morning and if I wrote a description of the past two days right now it would just say something like, "There were trees and rivers and a bunch more trees and this gas station full of truly inbred-looking people and farms and a whole bunch more trees and wow, there really are a lot of Civil War battle sites around here, I'm kind of ashamed at how little I can remember of my Civil War history."

Tomorrow I get to move into my apartment. There was a, uh, situation earlier when I called the apartment complex to find out what time I can come over to sign the lease and get the key tomorrow and the leasing agent told me the earliest the apartment would be ready was 4:30. So I tried to strike a balance between "throwing a raging fit" and "making them like me enough that they don't want to evict me the first time my dog decides to bark" and I nicely explained that with a move-in date of August 9th I should be able to actually MOVE IN on August 9th. She tried to tell me that "it's just company policy that nobody ever moves into an apartment until 4 or 5 in the afternoon" which is obviously complete and utter bullshit she made up on the spot because come on, how does that policy make any sense at all whatsoever?! So I told her if that was really the case that nobody had explained the "policy" to me and that I scheduled everything on the assumption that I would have the apartment all day long and therefore I wanted my rent for the month prorated to reflect a move-in date of the 10th instead of the 9th, and that she was going to have to figure out a way to solve the following problems:
-Cable installer is showing up to the apartment sometime between 11 and 2
-A Fed Ex package is due to be delivered to the apartment in the early afternoon
-A storage pod full of everything I own is being delivered to the apartment tomorrow morning (hopefully) because in the real world, "August 9th" begins at 12:01 a.m. and business-wise it generally begins at 9 a.m., maybe 10 a.m. at the latest, so it's not my fault for not just automatically realizing that in the world of my new apartment complex "move-in day" is actually "move-in night".

I think she realized about that time that I knew the so-called policy was a load of crap, so she told me "Well, they still need to shampoo the carpet and fumigate, but I'll call the contractors and see if they can come in the morning instead." And then she called me back and said, "You can move in at 12," and I said, "I'll be there at 11, that's the latest time I'll accept," and she said, "Well, they might have to be cleaning the carpet around your stuff if the cleaning guy gets behind on his schedule. We have a lot of people moving in and out right now," and I said, "Well, you know I'm coming at 11:00 so you just make sure he cleans my apartment first thing in the morning," and she said, "Well, okay, I'll try," and that was that.
I was reasonably satisfied with that solution. I was even more satisfied an hour later, however, when the apartment manager called me and said, "It turns out your original apartment won't actually be ready for move-in tomorrow [Gee, ya think?!?!], but you can move into another unit that has just been newly renovated and has all new appliances." So it's the same price as I would have paid in the other unit (it's the exact same floorplan) but it has all new appliances! Score! The only downsides to the apartment switch are that I had to call all of the utility and insurance companies and change my address, and that the new apartment is most likely a true third floor apartment--as in the short dog and I have to walk up two flights of stairs, and we have to move all my damn furniture up two flights of stairs. The other apartment, while also on the third floor, was in a building situated on a hill so if you went up the back way you only had to actually climb one flight of stairs. But oh well. It's still third floor (which is what I wanted, mainly because I think it will be safer and quieter) and it's possible that this building is actually in a better spot in the complex than the other one.

I'll try to give you a report on the apartment status tomorrow, assuming I'm lucky enough to actually end up with working internet (a long shot, knowing my luck with things of that nature) and that I survive moving my furniture up two flights of stairs in the record-breaking heat this part of the country is having right now. I have quite the knack for always moving during the hottest week of the whole year.

Monday, August 6, 2007

"It's Twice as Nice"

Dear Texarkana,

Hi. How are you? Oh, wait, actually, I probably shouldn't ask you that question. Because Dad asked that question to the lady behind the counter at the liquor store and after ignoring him for a moment she finally replied, "Evuhryone's jes fahn aroun' here, far's I know." Uh, okay. So no more asking people in Arkansas how they're doing, because it apparently makes them suspicious. Got it. [Yes, he actually was buying a bottle of gin so we could make pre-dinner drinks in the hotel room].
Here's the thing, Texarkana. You have no cell phone service. Or at least, you don't have cell phone service that my phone or Dad's phone can access. That's a little bit ridiculous, that a town that's big enough to have a Pier One AND a Bed, Bath, and Beyond doesn't have cell phone service. So I guess everyone around here does a lot of home decorating but doesn't care much about having conversations or sending text messages. Alright, whatever.
But the thing is, Texarkana, if you don't offer cell phone service, how are your citizens supposed to know where to meet each other for dinner? I mean, you have an Olive Garden AND a Carino's. And a Cracker Barrel and a Red Lobster, and don't forget Hooters. That's a lot of generic options, Texarkana.
Also, two La Quinta's right across the highway from each other is sort of overkill, wouldn't you say?
So yeah, Texarkana. I would say that I'm sort of glad to be getting out of here at 8:00 tomorrow morning, except that I'm not exactly optimistic that the rest of Arkansas will be much better. Maybe it will at least be pretty? It could be pretty. I like scenery.
Hey, at least the motel room is cool and quiet enough, so you got something right.
Take care,

P.S.-I drove alllllll day on Saturday but then got to spend the rest of the weekend in my old college town. I got to spend some time with several of my best friends from college who still live in the area, and it was a great weekend. I'm so glad I decided to stop over there for a couple of nights. When I was with my girl friends it was like we'd never missed a beat. It could have been any night of our junior/senior year of college. I had so much fun. Even though it has been more than two years since I graduated, it still feels a little weird to think of college with feelings of nostalgia. My old college home doesn't feel like home at all anymore (unlike the town where I was raised, which somehow still feels pretty much like home even though it has been years since it actually was home) but there are SO many memories there. It was interesting being back for the weekend. I hadn't actually seen the college campus or hit any of the old bars or anything since I visited in December of '06, so it has been a while. It was simultaneously nice to be back and yet even nicer to know that I have managed to successfully progress to another phase of my life. I loved college. Loved it. Unlike high school--which I actually pretty much enjoyed at the time, too--I would even go back to college and do it all (well, almost all of it) again if I could. I was that happy in college. And yet I'm glad to be on to different things now.
Now that I'm actually on the road, I'm feeling much more optimistic about everything. I think it's possible that there are some pretty good adventures coming up in my life. Heck, even this roadtrip is an adventure of sorts. It's just that if I ever have to do this particular adventure again, I think I'll leave out the Texarkana bit.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

On the Road Again

Dad: We're going to need a bottle of gin for this trip.
Me: It won't fit in the car.
Dad: Sure it will. We can MAKE it fit.
Me: Yeah, okay. That's a GREAT idea. Because I'd really like to get pulled over in Virginia because of some open container law. That would be a fantastic start to my life in UniversityLand.

In all honesty, though, if I could figure out some sort of way to get a nice mellow buzz going for the next week or two, that would be really, really helpful.

My car is all packed up and almost literally bursting at the seams. I managed to inherit several things over the summer (two pairs of jeans that didn't fit my mother, a wireless router, several books, half a dozen new shirts that I didn't actually need because any sane person would balk at the amount of clothing I already own, etc., etc.) plus I had to leave enough space in the car for my dad and his suitcase to join me in a few days and since my dad has to have both seats reclined all the way back in order to be comfortable in my tiny car, that takes up quite a bit of room. I tried to be like, "Oh, hey, we could have a lot more room if you would just drive the whole way! That way only one seat has to be reclined all the way back and we can pack a whole bunch of other stuff behind the passenger seat!" but he didn't fall for that trick. Damn.

The game plan is for me to drive to my old college town tomorrow. I'll spend Saturday and Sunday nights there, mostly just to break up the drive a bit but also because it will give me the chance to see a few friends that I haven't seen for a while and won't get to see again in the near future. Then on Monday afternoon I'll pick up my dad at the airport and we'll drive the three hours to the state line and spend the night there. Tuesday will be a 10+ hour drive, and then Wednesday will be the 8 hour drive that will take me into my new hometown. We'll spend the night at a hotel on Wednesday and then begin moving into my new apartment on Thursday. And if all goes well and the friendly people I spoke to on the phone today follow through for me, my storage pods will be arriving at the apartment on Thursday morning and I should have electricity, cable, and internet all up and running by Thursday night. Seriously, the customer service people I spoke to about hooking up my utilities were some of the friendliest, most accomodating people I have ever dealt with. And the phone was even answered immediately at each place, too! I'm a little afraid to trust this, because if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Probably I'll get there and they'll say, "Uh, sorry, your storage pod spontaneously combusted somewhere in Tennessee and we just haven't wanted to tell you until now." That would be more along the lines of what I'm used to.

I'm feeling very, very anxious about this move. More anxious than I have ever been during any other move. I remember feeling extremely, EXTREMELY, chest-heaving-sobs sad when I was leaving my hometown for college, but that was more because I was upset at leaving behind my boyfriend than because I was actually anxious about moving. Other than leaving Phil behind, I was actually pretty excited to be going off to college. And in retrospect, moving again to start my MA program was kind of a non-event. I was sad to leave, definitely, but I was only moving four hours away from where I had been and mostly it just didn't feel like that big a deal. Plus I was moving to the same place as my brother and sister, so I already had a built-in support system to rely on (and I did in fact rely heavily on my sister for company through my first semester). This time just feels different, though. Maybe it's the fact that I'm moving SO far. It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I won't be able to just hop in a car and drive to see my family. I have always been within a day's drive of my family before--a 10 hour day's drive, but still, a day is a day. Now getting home will involve a plane trip, and that's new and weird. Maybe it's the fact that this time I'm moving to a place where I know absolutely no one. When I started college, two girls from my high school class started there at the same time I did. We didn't really hang out much, but still, I knew a couple of people. Plus I had already been to orientation so I knew Kiki (who would go on to become my best friend) and my roommate. When I started my MA program, I had my brother and sister for company. Now I have a friend 4 hours away in Manhattan and my aunt and uncle 3 hours away as well, but that's not exactly the same thing. Maybe it's just the fact that I'm pretty much scared shitless about starting a Ph.D. program. And it doesn't help at all that every time I mention my fears everyone just says, "Oh, you're so smart, don't worry, you'll be fine." I know they mean well and are just trying to be reassuring, but mostly I just think, "...which is why you're going to be even more disappointed when I completely suck at this." I'm trying to be confident because there's no use starting with a pessimistic attitude, but it's hard.

I'm trying really hard to focus on the positive things, though. There really is no point in completely psyching myself out. I got in touch with the head of the graduate department because I was concerned that I didn't know what courses to take or when I'd be able to register, but he said that I have plenty of time and that I'll meet with him and with another advisor to decide on courses in a couple of weeks. So that's good. I had an irrational fear that I was the only slacker who hadn't figured out how to register yet. I have also received a bit more information about my teaching assignment, and we're going to be sent a syllabus which I assume means I get to just follow someone else's lead and not actually teach my own course this semester. So that's also good. And I have gotten two e-mails from other Ph.D. students offering to give me a tour of the area and answer any questions I have when I get there. That's very good and very friendly. Nobody e-mailed me to say hello when I started my masters program and I had no idea what I was doing then, either, so it's kind of nice to have people that seem eager to show me the ropes. Or maybe they're just trying to be friendly now so that they can find my weakness and betray me later (I am really awesome at being negative these days!). At any rate, between the seemingly outgoing students and the super-friendly utility people, I'm beginning to question the stereotype that says people in my home state are friendly because wow, this is way more hospitality than I have ever received around here.

One thing is for sure, though: I had a surprisingly good summer. I came into it expecting the worst, and while I did have that one fight with Phil, it was pretty much the only bad thing that happened all summer. And even that got patched up eventually and we ended up spending a good amount of time together and last night we even went out to the bar and had a couple of drinks like normal friends so I continue to be hopeful that he'll be a part of my life for at least a while longer. I didn't go out as much as I thought I would, but the upside to that is that I ended up spending a lot of quality time with my family, and I really needed that. I feel like I made up for all the times I came home in college and saw my parents for all of three hours because I was too busy kissing Phil. The other upside to not going out much is that I managed to save a lot of money. And even though I didn't go out as much as I thought I would, I did still manage to make some new friends and go out enough times that I didn't feel pathetic. And I found out that I enjoy bartending. And I got to show one of my best friends around my hometown, which was great. If anything, this summer has made me realize that I do not, in fact, hate living here. Not at all. And my dog was spoiled rotten and had the best two months of his whole life so far, which makes me happy.

So all in all, it has been fun while it lasted, but it's time to move on. Wish me luck as I make my way across the country.