Got Books?

Yet again, I have to apologize for not writing in a while. Finals are approaching and the weeks preceding them are often more packed than the exam week itself. Between papers, normal homework, projects, art pieces, final club meetings, awards ceremonies, and last attempts to enjoy Baltimore, students get caught in the riptide of life and have to put some things on hold.

But, I’m back now! For a little while at least. I want to write to you guys one or two more times before exams hit and before I know it I’m back in New Jersey.

Ah, New Jersey, home of the nasal “a” and dropped “t”s, pork roll (aka Taylor Ham), some of the most gorgeous state parks and top universities, American Revolution landmarks, and, well, my life for the past 20 years.

When I think about my previous summers in NJ, my most distinctive and pleasurable memories are those when I’m curled up with a good book. I’d find a good spot on the front porch, maybe the lawn if I felt like I could hazard getting some sun, or if it was super hot I’d stay in the air conditioning. And I’d just read. I’d get lost in a different world, become a different person, forget about all the problems and worries I had in the real world for just a few hours. I’d become best friends with the characters. If I read right before I went to sleep, sometimes I’d dream of the ending or the next chapter (though I don’t think my dreams were ever accurate). It was beautiful.

I think it’s amazing when you meet someone who has that connection to books, or a certain character, or anything really, that gets them so excited they can just rant and you understand each other because of shared enthusiasm. Last week I met someone like this, not on campus per say, but in my homework for English class. We just read Mr. Pip, a novel by Lloyd Jones about the life of a village during the political upheaval of the 1990s in Papua New Guinea. The children on the island are read Great Expectations, another book we read in my English class. I don’t want to say too much because it’s a wonderful read and one of those books that makes you see the world differently. But the narrator described that connection with literature perfectly.

“By the time Mr. Watts reached the end of chapter one I felt like I had been spoken to by this boy Pip. I had found a new friend. The surprising thing is where I found him – not up a tree or sulking in the shade, or splashing in one of the hill streams, but in a book. No one had told us kids to look there for a friend. Or that you could slip inside the skin of another. Or travel to another place…”

That. That right there. That’s what the best books have. Friends. Well, sometimes the most brutal enemies, too. I don’t think I’d ever been more upset when I read The Order of the Phoenix, or The Book Thief, or The Hunger Games, or The Fault in Our Stars, or even the Elegance of the Hedgehog. As much as I hate characters dying in books, I think that’s what makes you appreciate them so much more. They had something to tell you, something to share, and maybe they couldn’t share it in their world, but they got through to you. You learn something new with every book you read.

And this summer I intend to learn a lot. I’m compiling a list of books I want to get through, make a schedule plan so I can actually pace myself and remember what I’ve read. So far, I’ve got Beowulf (In modern and Old English), The Canterbury Tales, Gray’s Anatomy (there will be a lot of sketching involved with that), Good Wives, The Beauty Myth, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide, Merlin (started in December, haven’t finished it yet), Storm of Swords, The Help, the list will grow I am sure.

In fact, help me make it longer. If you have a must-read, a cry-your-eyes-out-but-love-it-anyway, a mystery, a romance, an anything, let me know! Comment, message, email. I’ll put it on my list.

This summer is going to be good, that I am determined to make possible, but these books will make it fantastic.

Clumsiness is to Lack of Sleep as Stress is to School

That’s it. I’m officially a walking disaster zone when I’m tired. And stressed. Lots of stress.

In the last 15 minutes alone I have managed to spill brownie mix all over myself (dry, thankfully), spill water on my socks, and smudge brownie mix on my sleeves (not dry).

My lack of coordination is usually straight forward and easy to deal with. You know, the typical tripping over my feet, falling up the stairs, running into people while walking backwards, dropping random objects, but all fairly predictable and spread out through the week.

But three mishaps in 15 minutes? Maybe I should rethink wearing heels to Loyola Rising tonight.

Those bricks on the bridge are not conducive to heeled boots.

Now, if you’re wondering why I’m so tired and therefore clumsy, I have three words for you:

Registration/Thanksgiving Break

Yesterday, sophomores registered for their spring semester classes and I can say without a doubt that the 30 seconds of staring at the “Loading” sign are some of the most stressful in my life.

Most courses range from 15-25 spots (a very intimate and personal classroom) and as the day goes by, section after section fills up and those who have later registration times go through three or four “back up” schedules. Like me.

I don’t handle that kind of stress well. Opening up my college acceptance/denial letters was torture. Waiting to see if I got the last spot in a Printmaking class was like sitting on tenterhooks and having my heart try to leap through my lungs.

If it’s any consolation, registration gets easier every semester. Seniors always have first pick, followed by Juniors, then Sophomores, and first years actually get help registering. Loyola often adds more sections for core courses, so that eases up the overflow, too.

Normally after registration life is a bit easier and the stress build-up dissipates within a few hours, but this year registration was right before Thanksgiving break. Which means professors try to cram in as many tests, projects, and papers as possible.

Why this crazy amount of work for what isn’t even a full week of break?

Because two weeks after Turkey Day is final exams and then FREEDOM!!!!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I love it here. I enjoy my classes, professors, friends, and free time in Baltimore. But sleeping in and not worrying about running clubs or writing papers is at the top of my Christmas  wishlist. (I take after my dad. He always asks for Peace and Quiet.)

I’m used to being busy, but there are fits and spurts of hectic craziness that make one week drag on forever and another feel surprisingly short.

In order to not wind up like me and accidentally snap at your roommates when they kindly ask what you would like to do for the weekend (or get covered in chocolate powder), here are a few pointers:

  1. Think ahead. If you know there are a lot of things coming up, then you can…
  2. Plan ahead. Having a calendar is essential to getting work done on time.
  3. Make lists! Having something to cross off makes me feel accomplished. Half the time I don’t cross it off anyway, but just knowing the order of things still helps.
  4. Be aware of others. You probably aren’t the only one freaking out, so be willing to accept and give support.
  5. Eat well. Grab some breakfast, even if it’s only a granola bar, get lots of protein (eggs are brain food!), and indulge in the occasional sweet as a reward (OK, maybe more than occasional).
  6. Take time to relax and do something that doesn’t use the analytical part of your brain. And I don’t mean watch TV. Color, knit, write stream-of-consciousness poetry, play solitaire, lie outside and look at the clouds, cook dinner.
  7. Laugh! I’m not kidding. Having one of those belly-laugh moments is great. Laughing so much that your abs hurt and your eyes are tearing up sounds ridiculous, but if feels so good afterwards.
Reading

Apparently I looked like a mermaid, tucked away reading in my room over the weekend.

Stress painting

My roommate & I paint to relieve stress; it tends to come out rather abstract.

I'm a ghost!

I'm telling you: Belly laughs. They're good for the spirit.