Happy Birthday, Laura’s Blog!

To save you all the trouble of remembering, this weird little blog is now two years old.

If my blog were a child it would likely be:

  • Copying others emotionally and socially
  • Getting excited around other blogs
  • Showing defiant behavior
  • Pointing to things in books

So, yes, I’d say my blog is right on track!

I still don’t know what I’m doing with this blog. I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life. In recent news, I’m in California right now, looking for jobs (hopefully at this really awesome bookstore!) and trying to write. It’s a little bit like being in a different country. People out here are infinitely stranger than I thought they’d be, not in a bad way. It’s just… different. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little lonely and homesick.

But this is the life I signed up for and there’s no turning back! (Is there turning back? If there’s turning back, don’t tell me! I don’t want to know.)

So, in another year of blog writing, I’ve gone from having a job and a long-term place to live to having no job and no long-term place to live. But I’m still writing. And who ever said that life moves in a linear fashion? They’re just bozos.

There’s a lot that has been going on in the world. A coup in Turkey. Recent massacre in France. Continuing grief and anger about shootings and racial violence in the United States.

I would like to end on a more positive note, though, so I’ll just say, be kind to one another. Continue to carry each other as much and as well as you can. We’re not alone even if we feel alone.

If there’s anything that my blog accomplishes, I hope it’s to be a voice reminding you of that.

I am sending all my love.

Happy birthday, blog!

 

 

 

The Epic Quest is Over

Oh boy oh boy oh boy! It’s me again.

Yeah, so I guess things have been a little dramatic and overly-self-centered in my life of late. Mostly because I was in an environment that caused me to vomit every day for two weeks straight, and every week for the four months before that.

What a joy life is!

So, as you may or may not be aware, I took a job with Epic Systems in Verona, Wisconsin starting in July. Only a few days after I had been home (see earlier posts in the summer). I was excited because I was going to be paid the moneyz.

Then I learned some very important things about myself. Such as 1) I do not belong in corporate America. Oh boy no. 2) I don’t do well staring at a computer screen alone in a windowless room for eight hours. 3) I should probably do something to handle my depression despite the fact that it was going super great when I was surrounded by friends and doing the things I love to do. 4) Moneyz is not a good motivator for me.

So with all these things in mind, I left my job last Monday.

And for the first time in five or more years, I’m unemployed. I’ve held jobs since my junior year of high school. It’s always been necessary. Paying off loans, paying to study abroad, paying for food and housing and pretty much everything. Obviously I had super help from financial aid and from my amazing mother who I will never be able to fully pay back though I’m trying. But I also think I achieved some level of financial independence.

And now I’m half scared and half ecstatic. First because I’m no longer throwing up every day! (Okay that’s mostly the ecstatic part.) And there’s this whole world of possibilities! I could go anywhere! I could do anything! I mean, you all know I’m not exactly “tech savvy”, so if I can hack it as a software tester, I can pretty much do anything. Come at me world!

Or I may end up in a dead-end job, slowly hemorrhaging money. Whatever! My life, my mistakes, my decisions.

And there are so many bigger more important things happening. That I want to focus on again and now have the time and energy to focus on. Rather than being wrapped up in my own little miseries.

So the battle for Laura’s soul is over. The battle for Laura’s life is about to begin.

Let’s go listen to some Fetty. #myboo

The Monthly Update

Hello Blog-Readers,

Whoever you may be, whether inexplicably bored at work or somehow genuinely interested in my ramblings, may you find what you are looking for in these strange little words.

Well, it’s been about a month since I ranted. I’ve done some traveling in that time. First, to Minneapolis which I’ll just call post-Carleton-Carleton, and then to… Carleton… which I’ll just call… Carleton.

It was wonderful to see people (and I’ll return for those who I missed!), but it was also wonderful to get something I suppose I’d call akin to closure.

For the first three months of adulthood, as I’m sure most squeaky new adults from Carleton might attest (unless I’m just on my own weird little roller coaster over here), it’s been difficult not to fall into the following trap: gee, this adulting thing is super hard,  wasn’t life so much easier back in school? I wish I were back there right now… But going back to Carleton made me realize, no, I really don’t want that at all.

I loved my time at Carleton. I was lucky enough to feel positively about my college decision, that it was the right place for me despite all its various flaws and shortcomings. And furthermore, I was privileged enough to get pretty much everything I wanted to out of my time there. (There’s a whole bunch of class-based and race-based discussions I could get into here. It’s so much easier to “enjoy college” when you fit into certain demographics.)

I had stupid freshman crushes, started singing in an a cappella group, briefly did musical improv (ohhhhh boy), became an RA, made new friends, studied abroad, declared a major, studied abroad again, fell in love, fell out of love, made terrible decisions, made good decisions, wrote horrible short stories, made new friends, discovered alcohol (sorry, Ma), entered a Hobbit fan competition, went to Rotblatt (just the once… and nope I didn’t play. COME AT ME, BROS), danced in Ebony, saw T-PAIN, touched Schiller, submitted to the CLAP (yes, I’m just pandering now), discovered I had depression, cried a lot, made new friends, was a hippie in a musical, baked cookies in Dacie Moses, jumped in the Cannon, made a whoooooooole bunch of puns, and then finally, on that soggy soggy day a few months ago, I graduated.

Seriously, what else is there to college? I think that’s about it. Oh. I guess I went to classes at some point in there.

Going back to Carleton really drove home, that, yes, I had an amazing time there, and yes, right now my “adult-life” is not exactly peaches and cream. But that chapter of the adventure is over. And the next one has to begin, as they always do, one word at a time.

Sorry for the cheese, but I do live in Wisconsin now.

PSA: Real Life Has Less Free Time Than You Thought

Or maybe I’m still just too sleepy to fully appreciate it…

Hi Gang (quoting from the classic 8 minute Abs Workout Video),

It’s me again. I bet you didn’t think I’d come back. Well. I’m back.

And as you can tell by the title of the post, there’s a reason that I’ve been away so long. Yes, sheer laziness is a part of it, but so are all the things they never told you you had to do when you became an adult that suddenly add up to a lot when you have to do all of them.

Like finding quarters to do laundry so that you can have clean clothes more than once a month… Still on the trail…

Or washing dishes. Or walking to the bus station. Or waiting at the bus station. Or missing your bus because there was a crazy two day detour that you just happened to be in the middle of and then finally downloading Uber even though it scares the crap out of you, but you really don’t want to wait another hour plus you’re a little winded from running after the bus for two blocks and boy you should really get back into shape but who has the time?

My last real post was sort of about embracing the ways that adult life can suck. (Sorry all my friends still in college…) This post I suppose is about finding the time to do all those things that suck while still being yourself somehow.

I love giving advice. Even when it’s crappy. And I’ve been watching too much Scrubs. So here it is: (Feel free to read it in a J.D. voice.)

I guess the thing to remember is to make time for the things that matter to you. Whether that’s scribbling down inane thoughts in your notebook between classes (yeah those don’t stop at college either) or making sure you get that morning cup of coffee, or even writing pitiful pointless entries in your blog. If you don’t find moments to re-establish who you are, you might wake up one morning and realize that a month has gone by. And that’s a month of your life you’ll never get back.

Classic Laura post ends with a downer!

Here it is your moment of puppies and kittens.

 

 

MY BLOG IS OVER A YEAR OLD

That’s weird.

I don’t know why I keep doing this.

When I started, I didn’t really expect anyone to read it. I still don’t. Despite my statistics showing that I’ve had somewhere close to 2,000 viewers from countries as far reaching as Japan and even our neighbor to the north. I still don’t trust computers, so I’ll assume those are all just moths caught in the wiring.

I also had a very different vision for this blog starting out. I thought it would be a place for me to dump about books and movies and prairie plants. You know, normal, focused, meaningful content. Now, though, this thing sprawls from brief life updates to strange rants about institutional racism.

A few cool things have happened because of this blog. I know that I’ve inspired at least two other people to start blogs of their own. Nothing to motivate someone like lowering the bar. Other stuff like people have actually come up to talk to me because of this weird blog-y thing. Which is strange.

The best part, though, is the very rare occasions when someone has said “what you wrote helped me to better understand what I was thinking”. Maybe that only happened once or twice, but it was enough to encourage me to keep going.

So, yeah, sorry for all those who were hoping this would be a temporary thing. I think I’ll keep word-vomiting on the internet until someone starts charging me for it.

Thanks to everyone whose been kind enough to read this! I appreciate every bit of support.

Cheers!

Spring Break Forever or Laura Takes Selfies in Her Hometown

So, this is a bit of a cop-out and update. I promise another better post is in the works.

Anyway, I’ve been writing every day this year again and also submitting more of my stuff to contests. I still haven’t, you know, actually won anything, but there’s been a little bit of encouragement. Or things that I’m going to interpret as encouragement anyway. I submitted three stories to contests for Glimmer Train which is a national literary magazine. Of the three two were named finalists (no winners in the crowd, though). Then in December I submitted a story to the Nick Adams Short Story Contest and it was named one of four finalists (again not the winner or honorable mention). That’s still kind of exciting. In a very sort of limited way. The point is that I’m still trying to write, and maybe some day I’ll actually have success.

The other “interesting” part of spring break so far: I decided it was time for me to see if one really could go home again. So I drove to Nappanee. Well, I missed the exit at first, but I figured it out when I got into Michigan. Ha. Just kidding… Or am I? Anyway, back to Nappanee. I don’t know what I expected but here is a snippet of my internal monologue:

Well, here I am in Nappanee. What’s that buggy doing there? Oh right, Amish. La la la, there’s another church. And another church. And another church. Okay, there are those trees… when did they get taller than me? Ah, our old house. HEY WHO CHOPPED DOWN THE BUSH THAT CUT UP MY FACE? I HATED THAT BUSH! IF ANYONE WAS GOING TO CHOP IT DOWN IT WAS GOING TO BE ME! ALSO WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BACK ACRE? OKAY, THEIR BACK ACRE, BUT STILL.

We used to have these saplings planted in the back acre. And I used to go there to listen to the red-wing blackbirds and talk to the saplings so they’d grow bigger. And one time we buried a vole back there. And it was where I went when I wanted to be alone. And now there’s a pony living there. I guess I’m not that mad.

Then I saw our first house. The house I lived in from age three through age ten. Talk about an impressionable age. And there used to be this weird garden area out front made from logs, and we called it Mongoose Mountain because someone said if you looked close enough you could see a mongoose poke it’s head out. It took me a long time to realize that mongooses (mongeese?) don’t live on this continent. But I used to have adventures out there with Sarah and our stuffed animals all the time. It was fantastic, and there were these little purple flowers that looked like grapes. And after we moved they got rid of Mongoose Mountain. Now it’s just a boring front yard and no one can ever have adventures there ever again.

But I pressed on. I visited my elementary school and middle school and the old Nappanee Missionary Church and Northwood High School and the nature center and the Public Library where I basically was raised. And, yeah, every place was a little different and, because I’m actively participating in creating a idealized past, a little worse than what I remembered.

The Nature Center.

The Nature Center.

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What do you do when you confront your past?

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This is a church. It is the size of a mall. It is still a church.

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What I missed most about Nappanee.

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No cappuccino machine? Excuse me?

And that’s when I realized that it honestly doesn’t matter what these places are like now or how they’ve been desecrated. I’ve got the real places locked away in my head just waiting to jump out and paint the landscape to another short story. (See how I brought the two seemingly unrelated strands of this post together there? Art.) So the landmarks of my childhood will never be lost. I can still share them with the world through my writing. I guess I really should have figured that one out sooner.

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Laura at the home of her greatest success: that coloring contest that one time. Things are great.

Clearly spring break is starting well.

The Last Time I’m Going to Talk About Comps

As a junior, I made the vow, you know, the ultimately pathetic vow: “I’m not going to be one of those seniors.”

One of those seniors who make a five letter word into a four letter one and then proceed to throw it around until the cover comes off and you’re left holding a wobbly ball of string (sports metaphors, I’m trying them). One of those seniors who puts everything else in their life on hold, sleeping, eating, speaking, breathing, until the year 1 A.C. You know, a senior who obsesses over… Comps.

Then the days ticked by, the weeks slipped away, months were devoured by the hungry mouth of time and I was a senior. And I was compsing. And somehow there wasn’t anything else in my life. It felt like staring into a long dark tunnel knowing that the oncoming traffic might hit at any moment. I’d wake up in the morning and, during the time I usually tried to remember my dreams or started to plan what writing I wanted to do that day, I instead found myself rehearsing the slides to my presentation, running through the papers I still had to read, ticking off the questions that I could and could not answer. It was nightmarish.

I did pass. Somehow. Don’t ask me. But now that I have more breath in my body I’m trying to figure it out. What exactly is the big deal about comps?

It wasn’t the longest or most intense project I’ve undertaken. That was sophomore year when I did research on Egon Schiele. (Still probably my proudest academic accomplishment. I will write a post about him eventually.) And there are the constant comforting notions that 1) comps is pass/fail and 2) no one wants you to stick around for later.

But the truth is some people do fail. And the truth is that I needed comps to graduate. And more importantly, comps seemed to be tied irrevocably (at least for me) with the success or failure of my entire academic college career.

Let’s stop for a moment. What? Where did that idea come from?

I’ve been working hard for the past three and a half years. I’ve learned things, written papers, engaged in conversations, read and read and read. I’ve stretched and grown my mind in ways I could not have comprehended as a freshman. And why is it that all of this learning and growth seems to pale in comparison to a single eight page paper, 30 minute presentation, and 30 minute defense? It’s ridiculous.

But perhaps because we have so few opportunities to share our academic success, perhaps because we’ve fallen into a vicious cycle of blowing the project out of proportion, perhaps because my weird little brain is hard-wired to latch onto a single pillar to represent everything, comps has become a monster.

So, I don’t know what exactly I can say about this, except to try and encourage people to look at the successes of their day to day lives. In the same way that a wedding is not indicative of an entire relationship, comps is not indicative of your entire Carleton experience. You have to pay attention to the little steps along the way: the first date (freshman A&I); the first talk you had that really challenged you (African American History II); that moment years down the road when you remember why you fell in love in the first place (Evolution). And all the other little times in between. That’s what makes up a truly wonderful relationship, a truly meaningful education. I wish I had recognized that sooner.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I somehow managed to turn weddings into a metaphor for comps? No wonder I’m really bad at romance…

 

The Death of Literature

As a self-professed writer (and believe me I understand the pretentiousness of this title), I have given quite a bit of thought to what it means to be literate in the age of the internet. Even before the internet the world was inundated with writing. That’s the appeal of being a writer after all, leaving behind a record of your thoughts, your characters, your life. Achieving immortality and the thrills of creation.

But for we who are writing now this very phenomenon has thrown up an insurmountable barrier.

My older brother recently shared an article with me about this subject: you can read it here. And while I’m not nearly so pessimistic and I don’t name drop nearly as much, I have to say I agree with the bulk of this.

The world is saturated with literature and literature about literature and literature about literature about literature. The scraggly little words I type out daily or scratch across the bound pages of my notebooks mean less than nothing. There is no traction any longer. Nothing to be said that hasn’t been said and nothing new under the sun. And it tires me more than I can say. And there isn’t a word I type or write or dream up that doesn’t fill me with the great sickness of cliche.

So why do I still want to write? Why do I still want to be an Author? Why do I even think such things are still possible?

Because I still believe in human life. Despite my pessimism, my belief that the world would be better without us, my knowledge of the psychological, environmental, and genetic controls dictating our every movement. I still believe that each and every one of us homo sapiens on this planet is special. I drank the Kool-aid. I bought the dream. Whatever.

I believe in my own uniqueness and the inherent worthiness of this as a motivator for creation. And I believe in the worthiness of every other living being. And maybe this means the death of literature. And maybe this means that all I write will be one more dying scream in the cacophony of the apocalypse. I’m still going to do it.

Call me Sisyphus, but this is my damn rock and I’m going to roll it.

(Bonus points if you can tell me whether I’m a positive person trying to be negative or a negative person trying to be positive!)

No Lasts, Only Firsts (AKA YOLO)

Classes begin Monday. As a senior, where does the time go, I know that I’ll inevitably be subjected to a bombardment of nostalgic friends and acquaintances saying “Last first day of classes!” and taking nostalgic photos and all the other softly endearing and only occasionally infuriating nonsense that young people like to do to pretend that they are growing old.

And this only marks the beginning. Soon it becomes “Last fall term!” and “Last apple picking!” before it snowballs into “Last time sledding down Bell Field with my nose hairs frozen stiff” and “Last time I leave my binder in a room in Laird and have to wait around until the next class leaves because I’m too awkward to interrupt the discussion”. And in the end everything becomes a last and we’re all stuck sitting around counting down those last few precious moments of being undergraduates at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore Carleton. I’ve been in love with it ever since my tour some four years ago in the high heat of summer. Sayles under construction. Leaves in their full bloom. Hearing about Toph and the R2D2 Goodsell for the first (though not the last) time. And I can be as nostalgic as the next fellow.

At the freshman talent show last night I couldn’t help but be pulled back to the time when I had long hair and was silly enough and reckless enough to play Adele in front of a bunch of strangers. I remember sitting next to Evan McNeil who was playing the bagpipes, and I remember being told after I got back to my seat (shaking only slightly) that I should think about auditioning for a cappella. And it’s funny because I hadn’t even considered it before and probably wouldn’t have tried out if I someone hadn’t suggested it.

Point is, I understand the impulse to return again and again to the moments that define our time here. I know that as human beings we are pulled ceaselessly back into the past. But for me personally, I would rather stay committed to embracing the time I still have, seeing it not as the final in a series of events, but the first of many many defining moments still to come.

It’s all very cheesy, and, as Rebecca pointed out, just a less efficient way of saying “YOLO”, but I would like to see this year not as the end but as a beginning. So for me, there will be no “lasts” and only “firsts”.

Tomorrow when I walk into Weitz, as I have many times in the past three years, it will not be the last time I begin a term at Carleton but the first time I get to take a (full term) class with Matt Rand, the first time I meet some of the people in my class, the first time seeing a particular screw or strange quote projected on the wall by the main stairs, the first time breathing this particular air with these particular cells in my lungs. And frankly I can’t wait.

 

 

Laura Did a Bad Bad Thing

So, I really missed singing…

And I’m a narcissist, if the mere existence of this blog hadn’t tipped you off.

I recorded myself singing covers of “Blackbird” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Which is just what the internet needs. More floppy untalented things seeking attention.

I’m sorry.

This is the worst.

Why am I even doing this?

Gah.

Whatever. Enter at own risk.