Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Ultimate Departure from that Awful Real Estate Office

Let's talk about how much I love my job. Ready?

I work for the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors...or something like that. I'm not positive what the exact name is, but sometimes I get emails from my coworkers, and they are all like, "Here at the FMCFWAMA...." and I want to be like, really? Is that really helping anything? Whatever. I work at the Writing Center on campus. Yay.

I knew that I wanted this job the moment I heard about it, but I had no idea what it would entail. I figured I would go sit in the Center for a few hours a week, talk about punctuation and word choice, get a cute little paycheck every so often and appease my dad's insistence that I work. Since I a.) took all of the AP English classes [and dual-enrolled at Kalamazoo College for more writing experience] in high school, b.] tested out of Grand Valley's writing requirements, and c.] was accepted into the Honors College, thereby negating my writing requirement in the FIRST place, I never went through the Writing 150 program at Grand Valley, so I never had any interaction with consultants before I was hired. I had no idea that as a consultant, I would be working side by side with professors to help students, that I would facillitate labs and small groups, that I would have the opportunity to have weekly appointments with international students or students with disabilities to improve their writing. I had no idea that I would get to discuss the purpose of writing with so many different people, or that I would get to read so many new and interesting papers about things that I know nothing about. I had no idea how much I would learn, not just about writing, but about people and life and things like African Literature or exotic fish breeding or psychology. I was totally unprepared for what I was about to do.

Seriously, the opportunities that I have as a consultant are incredible. On Monday I got to sit down with a Chinese woman in her mid-30s, I would say, who came to America to learn how to teach students of a secondary language. I got to talk to her about her literacy autobiography, her story, her past, her experiences with language, and it was amazing. Her view on education [and life, as far as I could tell] were extraordinary and new and different, and the experience itself was such a departure from anything I ever had at a different job. I felt honored just to be able to talk to this woman and for her to value my opinion of her work.

The majority of students that I interact with are freshman and, while I am not a teacher by any stretch of the imagination, it is the most rewarding experience to train a group so that they can carry an intelligent, constructive discussion of a peer's work. I sat with a group today, and they ignored the topical issues that most students get bogged down with, and instead fired off suggestions to help clarify the theme or clean up the organization or narrow down the focus. It was the first time that we had all met, but they were like one of those schools of fish that dart in the exact same direction at the exact same time. They flowed and I was honestly so proud. It was just fun for me.

And I mean, obviously, it's still a job. And obviously, there are some students that I want to slap sometimes [like the girl who wrote about how Playboy was a good thing for American women, because it stopped sexual taboos and allowed women to have complete control over their bodies. I. Am. Serious.] and some papers that are so awful that I don't know what to do with them. I have worked with one group in particular that made me want to gauge my eyeballs out with a spoon every Wednesday morning at 8:00 am, but despite these things, I love my job, because this is the first time that I am working with something that I care about. This is the first time that I can take pride in the establishment that hired me, that I can enjoy a moment of happiness when I tell people that I am a Writing Consultant. I get paid to work with professors and talk about one of my greatest passions. I mean, overall, I love it.

Plus I get to enjoy the irony of the fact that I spent six hours working today, talking to students about organization and the value and importance of the written word, then went home, crashed in my bed for a quick nap before my small group, and woke up with the realization that I have a paper due tomorrow that I have not started. Or read the required text. Or done any of my other homework that is due tomorrow.

I mean, come on -- gotta stay humble somehow, right?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Many Lives and Implications of a Bubble Bath

This week has been stressful. It was just one of those weeks, you know? So much happened; by Saturday I felt...I don't know, heavy. Not physically heavy, but emotionally. My heart could have weighed 10,000 pounds last night. It probably did. Have you ever had life throw you about twelve curveballs at once, and you realize mid-swing that you don't know how to react to a single one of them?? Yeah. That was sort of what happened.

So I took a bath. My bedroom at home is an icebox and the cold that I felt seemed to soak into my bones and marrow, so I lit candles, put on mellow music, scooped handfuls of bubbles and cocoa-scented soaking serum into the tub, and turned off the lights. I slipped into the water and exhaled the long, loaded sigh that means you have too much on your mind.

The thing about soaking in a bath is that you get to be physically weightless for a while and it makes everything else seem less heavy. The steam sort of clears your thoughts and sinuses simultaneously, and it's like you're safe. No matter what is going on, it's not going to barge into the bathroom and take you away; you are hidden in the watery darkness and nothing can touch you.

Unfortunately, the cold crept back into my body before I was ready. The water became lukewarm and the air was even more unforgiving, but the idea of leaving the safety of the tub was worse than both of those. Although I was pretty sure I had exhausted the hot water, I turned on the faucet, just to check.

I can't really describe the feeling the filled me when steaming hot goodness gushed into my bath, warming up the tepid water in which I sat. It swirled around me, and I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. I stayed in the safety of the bathtub until my stress soaked away, for the moment at least. My hands and feet wrinkled and pruned as if the negativity normally resided in those soft pads of my fingertips or the soles of my feet and could only be extracted with water so hot that it made my stomach turn.

Finally, I stood up, feeling the unfamiliar weight of my body in the cold air. With flushed cheeks and damp hair, I stepped out of the warmth and back into life. The respite had been momentary, but helpful...fleeting, but necessary. Things seemed to be a little bit more in perspective, and I spent the rest of the night in sweatpants in a state of pseudo-contentment.

This morning, I sat in church and I am happy to say that I felt like I was slipping back into my bath when the pastor began to speak. It was like I put my problems into Jesus' hands and asked Him to hold them for a bit while I soaked in the message. I was weightless again.

Nothing is too big for my Jesus, nothing so heavy that He cannot hold it. I may be helpless in the face of life's trials and tests, but my Father is not. Through Him I can do great things; through Him, I can be an instrument of His goodness to the people in my life that need it most. He says in Isaiah that those who wait upon Him shall renew their strength. I may feel, and in fact be, weak right now, but my God never is. I shall wait on Him and His timing and this too shall pass. He is the rising and the setting sun, Alpha and Omega, and the Prince of the Peace that I crave so badly. In Him, I am completed. In Him, I am clean. In Him, my soul shall find rest that is not temporary, like the rest I found in my bathtub, but never-failing, never-ending, always available rest. Like the hope that He offers, He is Perfect.

To the God who created all things and works everything together for the good of those who love Him: Thank you. I love You.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In Other News...

As a rule, I am fundamentally against people who trek across the tundra that is Grand Valley's campus plugged into their iPods. I mean, really? Is that necessary? Are you that dependent on your music that you can't just walk ten minutes without it? Kind of pathetic, don't you think?

I admit, when I first got to college last year, I thought that it was a requirement. I dabbled in the notion a bit, all the while tucking yoga pants into would-be Ugg boots and jealously eying the never-ending parade of NorthFace jackets. I carried hot chocolate disguised as coffee and blended in perfectly.

Except I hate blending in. And I really hate feeling alone amidst a sea of humanity. And with earbuds clogging any sound from the outside world, I felt like I looked just like every other Ugg/Northface zombie on campus. So I stopped bringing my iPod to class and started to simply stare at the ground ahead of me as I walked, something that I viewed as much more socially responsible and mature.

Well, here's the thing. The other day I was listening to music when I was getting ready for class and I had to leave in the middle of a great song. I mean, an iPod is portable for a reason, right?? I looked at my taxi-cab yellow iPod and thought to myself, "Am I really going to do this?" I heaved a sigh, grabbed the headphones and left.

Shockingly, I fell warily in love with it. Because, for starters, when I'm walking it's like I have theme music or a soundtrack playing for my life, which in turn makes me literally BELIEVE that I live in a movie, which is only, oh I don't know, my DREAM COME TRUE. And let's be honest, walking around with music that only you can hear puts you in your own little world. And it's BAMF Land. Population: Uno.

Plus, I actually liked the tiny sliver of anti-socialness in my life. I feel like I run into 12 people I know everywhere I go, and I honestly don't want to see 9 of them. Whereas before, sans iPod, I would have to crane my neck to look at a tree I passed 5 minutes earlier or else maintain rigid eye contact with my feet, now I just put a look on my face that says, "Curse you, Alyssa! What sort of weird musical nonsense am I listening to NOW?? Better change the song...and I need to focus very don't talk to me..." The best part is, even if they do call out my name, I CAN'T HEAR THEM!! Oh my gosh, this plan is brilliant!

I mean, there are downsides, obviously. I'm sure this is a phase, like when I was obsessed with Mah Jongg, or when I wanted to name my future children after days of the week [I still think that would be slightly cool. And it's not like I would have seven kids and just go down the line...just one effing sweet little girl named Friday. I would like to see you try to tell me that I am not Queen of BAMF Land, go ahead, TRY!!] and sometime next week I will be like, "Whatever. I will leave the iPod at home, because I am a bigger person than that and I am not dependent on it...."

Until then, however, don't take offense if I "don't see" you on campus. This too shall pass. Soon I will be back to the obnoxiously outgoing, friendly, effervescent Carly that you know and love...but for now I'm in BAMF Land, living my movie, and I won't be back till later.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Adios Allendale

Oh HI. Please don't hate me. I was incredibly busy over break and had simply no time to write and then a tornado picked my house up and it landed somewhere crazy, but I found a fabulous pair of new red shoes...oh wait, that's not my life. And I didn't write because, quite frankly, I did not think about it. Only once in a while did I even remember that I had a blog; I have no excuses. I am sorry that I was so rude as to neglect this.

Anyway. I feel like I should write a blog about my "quasi-resolutions," because they range from slightly ridiculous to mostly sincere, but I think that I will save that for another time. Because I have news. Big news. Extremely incredible, exciting, potentially life-altering news.

I am going abroad.

Now before Julie yells at me for announcing it to the world, let me qualify: it's not quite official. I mean, I'm officially accepted and I officially paid my deposit today [let's talk about how painful it is to part with $1000 of my own money...] and I am officially letting excitement eek in and ebb out the nervousness that comes with the possibility of sailing around the Mediterranean for 67 days, but a lot depends on financial aid and scholarships and how much my parents love me. Naturally.

You see, this fall my dear friend Christine called me. Though it was merely September, I was already deep in the throes of my hectic schedule, so imagine the glimmer of hope that furrowed in my heart when I heard her describe a program that took you to not only one country, but eight. On a modified cruise ship, no less. Imagine the wanderlust that overcame my entire body when she started listing destinations: Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and Morocco, among others...

That day I physically sat on a beautiful green lawn overlooking the library, but mentally I was far far away, somewhere in the future. On a Greek Island. In a Spanish piazza. In an Italian vineyard. In a Moroccan bazaar. Then my mind went back to the past summer, still an all-too recent memory at that point. I thought about the hours that I worked, the mind-numbing frustration and boredom that I experienced, the domestic confusion of moving home...I vowed never to do that again. What did I have to lose by applying?

Fast forward a few months, and suddenly this once vague, shimmery dream is shaping into something more solid, something that looks very much like a possibility. Sure, there are still a million and a half little details to be worked out, but those will be a labor of love more than anything. The opportunity of a lifetime awaits, and I am reaching out to grab it...I could not be more thrilled.

The good news for you, my beloved, faithful readership, is that I promise that I will not neglect you when I am on the ship like I did over Christmas break. I will write you lengthy blogs about my escapades running around Istanbul and the beautiful Greek men who randomly propose to me. Honestly, I'm almost as excited about the writing opportunity aspect of this trip as I am about the trip itself. I wanted to let you know about it, though, so you can work with me on this and be excited with me. Because, let's be honest, these things are far less fun with nobody to share it with.