It's summer once again, and I'm enjoying the relative freedom (no courses, just clients and thesis work). I spent the morning perusing the sudsy wares of the many soap hawkers on Etsy. Years have passed since I first became enamored with handmade, cold processed soap, but some things never change. It's times like this that I realize how much I miss Charity and Yodeling Fish soaps.
I still remember the first time I stumbled onto the yodelingfish.com website. I honestly have no idea how I wound up there, but gazing upon that glorious treasure trove of fantastic scent descriptions, premium natural ingredients, and swirling colors, I couldn't help falling in love. I ordered several bars and never looked back (fortunately, the product was every bit as amazing as it was purported to be). Unfortunately, having been an impoverished undergraduate at the time, I couldn't build up much of a stash, and was left all but empty handed when Charity's business finally closed down. Now, as I spend my time looking at other e-tailers, I can't help but find myself missing my first soapy love. I'm certain there will be other quality soapers out there, but nothing will quite compare to those first bars from Yodeling Fish, coated in a liberal dusting of nostalgic delight.
Not much going on at the moment. I need to fill out my FAFSA so that I can get funding for this coming semester. Living on my $6000 dollar graduate assistanceship for the entire year is manageable but fairly unpleasant. It makes paying rent, utilities, car insurance, and purchasing groceries an exquisite balancing act, and I'd rather have a nice safety net waiting beneath. Currently I'm doing my acrobatic machinations sans net, and it's very nearly caught up with me on several occasions. I've managed to stay away from credit cards though, and the only debt I have is the $4000 in student loans from undergrad that I accrued (not much in the grand scheme of things). Some nice subsidized federal loans would be a welcome infusion of income at the moment.
At the moment, I'm busily enjoying my Winter break: I went of to California and spent a week and a half with my family, whom I hadn't seen in a year. It was wonderful being able to catch up with all of my siblings after being away for so long. I keep trying to cajole the older ones into visiting me in Michigan. I worked for a week as my younger brother David's classroom aid (he has an autistic spectrum disorder with moderately severe delays in social development, however he's absolutely brilliant and easily completes academic work far beyond what most people encountered in college, so traditional "special education" wouldn't be appropriate). I had a fantastic time experiencing day to day life in a middle school classroom! Most people I know that aim to work in education desperately hope to avoid the middle-school age group, but I rather enjoyed the 11-13 year olds I worked with while I was there.
I returned to Michigan a few days ago, and aside from a stint with some misplaced luggage (which has since been returned to me), traveling went smoothly. Connor and I were able to reconnect with his long-time best friend Jared, and I had an opportunity to visit John K. King's Rare and Used Book Store (Michigan's largest used book store). I splurged and purchased five books for myself (not too much of an indulgence, given the books were all used and ran about $5 a piece), that I'm eager to upload to the Open Grove library when I have a chance! We're currently hunkered down in the geek cave with Connor's older brother and his brother's girlfriend, perched in front of our various computers and sharing the joy of LAN-bonding. We played Borderlands last night, and despite my general dislike of first-person games, I had to admit that I enjoyed it.
Eventually I'll be heading back to my apartment to work on my thesis proposal. The methods section is complete, but I still have substantial work to do on my introduction (ugh, I hate literature reviews with a passion). I'm aiming to get back right around the new year so that I have a full week and a half to complete the introduction and get it sent to my advisor. Now off to return to the gaming.
It's been a while.
Many things have changed over the course a year (that's approximately how long I've been away since my last post), and over the multiple years that have passed since I updated this journal with any semblance of regularity.
Connor and I are still happily together! We celebrated our third anniversary in October, and I can honestly say that he remains a constant source of joy and delight. He's a bright spot in my life, and a daily reminder to retain a little faith in humanity. He's contentedly wrapping Christmas presents as I write this, and it makes my heart warm to see him over there, engrossed in a relatively mundane and simple task that speaks of domestic happiness.
I'm in my second year of a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at Central Michigan University, and doing very well in terms of grades (As and A-s). I need to get moving on my thesis (looking at the effects of positive attentional bias training on emotional intensity and valence in individuals with social anxiety), which I've admittedly been dragging my feet on given my distaste for academic writing. I've also begun seeing clients through the Psychological Training and Consultation Center located on campus. I've considered switching into the Counseling Psychology program given that I'm far more interested in a career as a therapist than one as a researcher (while I enjoy creating experiments and conducting research, I despise writing research papers), or as a professor in the hallowed halls of academia. I've also begun to consider school counseling, after realizing that I enjoy working with students in the 10 through 18 age range.
I'm the president of the Open Grove Society, a registered student organization devoted to education in both religious diversity and paganism. We provide a much needed community for students who follow alternative religious paths, provide informative presentations on various religious, spiritual, and occult topics every week, and host social events throughout the school year. Things have been going well this year, as my vice-president and I slowly aim to incorporate a greater array of diverse religious elements (the group was admittedly a little heavy on the pagan aspect before this year's electoral board took over, given it's roots in a pagan organization that collapsed and was reformed in the late 1990s), shore up the financial books, and tighten up the constitution.
I've also found myself incorporated into a new circle of friends, which is an unexpected comfort given that I'm a bit of a social recluse and a noted cynic, not particularly apt to head out and makes friends on my own. It's strange, exciting, and a little frightening to find myself invited to "family" dinners, movie outings, shopping trips, and holiday parties again. I find it even more bizarre (though deeply flattering) when friends consult me about their worries, dreams, and daily tribulations. After a two year period in which my only regular social contact was with Connor, my family, and and a handful of coworkers, I'd fallen out of the habit of being a confidant and a shoulder to cry on. It seems that I missed it. I'm still not in the habit of carrying my phone with me (much to the chagrin of these new friends) because it baffles me that people are attempting to call me. I aim to get better at that as time goes on.
I've begun reconnecting with many old friends on Facebook (where I am far more active than I am here). I've found friends from as far back as elementary and middle school. It's good to see the old faces again, regardless of the circumstances around our parting. As I've gotten older, I've begun to realize the value of past relationships. If you've missed me here, I invite you to look me up.
In any case, that's the gist of my life over the last two years. It's been a wild and twisting path, half overgrown with brambles of unexpected change and unfettered tendrils of emotion. There's been humor and sorrow. Love and humility. The loss of things old and cherished, paired with the discovery of things new and inspiring. All that it has been, it has brought me here.
Connor recently brought home Wii Fit and eagerly set it up in our tiny living room, so I've taken the opportunity to begin an exercise regimen.
I have to applaud the creators... some might argue that the appeal of Wii Fit stems from the game's ability to make exercising fun through the use of colorful avatars, perky music, and engaging activities. I would argue that the real enjoyment of Wii Fit comes from mankind's inherent love of competition.
Whether I'm competing against Connor (yes, the game allows you to compare your scores against the scores of other people registered on that particular Wii), or against the game itself in order to earn Fit Credits (a cleverly designed in-game currency that can be used to unlock further, advanced activities), I feel an urge to adhere to the program and to push myself to improve.
Thus far, it seems to be working. I've lost 4.3 lbs. Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but sizable enough given I took it off within a span of a few days. I've managed to accomplish that degree of weight loss in the past, but not without some fairly severe dietary restrictions. I suspect 30 minutes of solid exercise a day might be the better choice.
Any other Wii Fit users out there that have stories to share?
A brief update:
All is well. My move to Michigan is now complete and I'm firmly immured in the ever-tightening death grip of graduate school.
My classes are all fairly interesting, however the unmitigated quantity of reading I need to complete each week is going to kill me. I'll be crushed beneath the overwhelming mass of articles and textbook chapters I need to choke down each night. I used to think I enjoyed reading, but 400 pages of technical material over the course of five days is, in a word, excruciating. Is it normal to spend 5 or 6 hours a day with my nose buried in a mound of paper, ignoring the existence of the outside world? We haven't even begun class papers and projects yet. Hell, thus far I haven't even had to act as a TA or a research assistant in order to earn my keep.
But this is what I want to do with my life, right?
I've settled into my on-campus apartment.
The upside: It came with a washer and dryer in the unit!
The downside: It came with undisguised cinder block walls and wall-to-wall linoleum flooring.
It's an unabashedly ugly little living hole, but Connor's mother has been going to great lengths in terms of making it relatively cozy: curtains, rugs, matching lamps, even a tea kettle. I don't know what I would have done (or would continue to do, for that matter) without her kindness, generosity, and good sense. She's been amazing.
Social life hasn't picked up much, but it's only been a week, so I can't be too hard on myself for failing to have made lifelong friends with the locals. I've attended the first meeting of several on-campus organizations (Mount Pleasant Gaming Association, CMU Anime Screening Society, and the Open Grove Society). Ideally, a few of my new acquaintances will blossom into casual friendships soon. I'm not quite ready to relegate myself to the most common Mount Pleasant pastime: boozing it up at one of the twenty local bars.
In any case, there isn't much more to report, despite my months of silence. I'll try to post a little more now that my living situation has become a tad more settled. We'll see if my workload allows for it.
Ah, let me finish this post with a request: For those of you attended (or are currently attending graduate school), how did you get through it? How did you manage the reading, the papers, the projects, and your various other duties as a graduate student without ripping your hair out in the throws of a nervous breakdown? I'd love to hear any anecdotes or advice you may have to share.
ETA: It would seem that I've forgotten to write anything about Connor and myself, and that a few (though certainly not all) of you might be a bit miffed at my unwitting reticence. I assure you that my oversight was due only to the fact that things are wonderful between the he and I. We're swiftly approaching our second anniversary, and I can safely proclaim that I adore him as much as I ever did. Connor is, for all rights and purposes, a wonderful, loving, inspiring individual, and I'm delighted to have him in my life! In that regard, I have been truly fortunate. For the sake of maintaining some privacy, lets leave it at that.