"I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment... and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn." -Thoreau

Monday, April 30, 2012

Reader, Meet My Letter Box

Greetings, dear Reader!

It is midterm break and I am being very foolish. The prudent thing to do right now would be to go to bed... but I shall be a rebel and stay up a while longer. Ah, the luxury of having a day off!

It has been a while since I wrote a nerdy blog post, and I suspect there may be something on the wonder of natural numbers coming up soon. (I do love the natural numbers. They are so very beautiful...!)
Yay! Spring Dreams!

But that is not why I am here now.
I am here because of a burst of inspiration to briefly share some personal treasures. I snapped a few pictures of some of my trinkets- my sparrow necklace, my letter box, my wall of love, my Latin shoes, my bookshelves, and my Spring Dreams chart- which is now at the halfway point!

It is interesting that I do not seem to have very many trinkets… not exactly. But my wall of love and my letter box hold a downright treasure trove. And I really enjoy my bookshelves. Old favorite books, academic books, my writing box, a cute teacup, my bow-bedecked pinecone, the Rubik’s cube… many little wonders fill its shelves :] 
But for now I shall focus on the letters and notes and tokens of love which most brighten my days, noting before I begin that a curious and courageous reader is encouraged to inquire further into the objects introduced here.

The "wall of love"

They may not look like much, but these little mementos mean a great deal to me, and I am rather proud of my small badges of love. I want people to “see” the people that I love- the cute and clever notes from Dylan, the sincere and whimsical letters from Brynna, handmade cards from my sea-star, short and sweet notes of appreciation from Tristan, cards which once accompanied Friday flowers, postcards from friendly travelers and well-wishing friends, dried flowers (a perfectly-tinted rose from Dylan and mini-roses for my sister), an eerily well-timed post-it note found in a bathroom stall, gorgeous drawings and happy notes from Becca… It is the best thing in the world to have a wall adorned with love, and mornings are made happy by glancing up at the beautiful wall by my side.

And then there are the wonderful items stored away in the letter box. Old love letters, sketches drawn on a whim with friends, wrinkled and torn sheets recording old memories, newspaper clippings detailing my epic room draw victory last year, the absolutely ridiculous product description from the back of a package of trail mix, programs from plays once performed in, pieces of paper filled with strange math things- including a particular sheet whose corner I almost ingested to prevent prying eyes from reaching it (however, that failed, and the very wrinkled corner in question was subsequently re-taped), and a host of other cherished tokens fill this box of wonders. Each note, letter, random sheet of paper, or miscellaneous object brings me back to a time and place of happiness, be it of the somber-and-serious or playful-and-ridiculous kind.

A peak into the letter box
Each object also makes a bit more tangible the connection I have to the people I love. I think that may be why I treasure these things so greatly- and why my letters and notes tend to be so infamously lengthy. I may not have very many friends, but the ones I do have I care greatly for, and the exchange of words allows me to let them know it. My hope is that, someday, when the ones I care for find themselves lonely or frightened or unsure of themselves, my notes may do the job they were intended to perform. I hope that my friends will be able to gather the words given to them with sincerity and affection, and to see that they are amazing, accomplished creatures deserving of (and in possession of) love. I know that their kind words and the records I have kept of old happy times spent in their company have certainly brightened my spirits on a number of occasions.

So, my dear Reader, know that your kindness, your smiles, and your words are remembered and cherished. Know that somewhere, someone who loves you carries those gifts you have given them in their own treasure chest.

Goodness, isn't that beautiful?
At any rate, I think so.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

On Seeking Some Hippiness

I think I want to be a hippie.

I don’t mean the cliché scraggly hair, unwashed, perpetually-high kind. I don’t mean “at peace” because I’m not here, I mean at peace because I am present. Spiritual, mindful, grounded, flower loving and tree hugging… maybe someday even walking barefoot through lush, green grass. I’ve never been good at walking barefoot. I like the protection of socks and shoes.

Becca took me to her yoga/pilates class this morning, and now I am a curious mixture of calm and emotional. I feel as though tears could leak from my eyes- not violently, but like a cup filled to the top drop by drop which slowly overflows- and it would be perfectly fine.

Perhaps “hippie” is too laden with meanings and suggestions. And hippie, even as I envision it, doesn’t seem to capture the full gamut of what I hope for.

On one hand, I want the mindfulness and grounded spirituality which I associate with hippiness. I want to see beauty and happiness in my surroundings, I want to feel united in body and mind- I seek harmony.

There was a time in my life when part of me enjoyed tearing myself down.
I have trouble seeing myself in perspective, judging what qualities I possess or not, and oftentimes I’ve hated myself for being small and tightly wound—timid, closed in, and shamefully afraid of peeking out. In high school, I would not hesitate to remind myself of how weak and pathetic I was. No, far from it. I would put it in writing, I would pen myself into a ball of bitter tears, I would force myself to face the ugly and inevitable truths about myself (my cup has overflown, but the drops are no longer acrid and they will not sear me).
 Do you want to know what I fear most to be true about myself?
I fear that I am boring.
That I have nothing to offer or share of myself.

Writing my college application personal essay (or rather, figuring out what to write about), was something vaguely resembling a mild nightmare.

I love hearing other people’s stories. I love hearing their thoughts, I love hearing about their family and friends, I love listening to them talk about what they are passionate and excited about, I love seeing them, because inevitably I find something beautiful and wonderful and unexpected and thought-provoking.

And yet I cringe when someone asks me to tell them about myself, because while it seems that they have so many things to offer- well-polished thoughts, odd trinkets, family heirlooms, germinating ideas, and so much more!- when I peek into my cabinets, I seem to have nothing to bring out.

I suspect an analysis of my verb tense would be interesting to carry out. But I am pleased that I spoke of how weak and pathetic I was, and not that I am.

Because, to get back onto the original path which I was walking, at some point, after getting to college, I just grew tired of beating myself up. I guess that was a good start, but I must say, that’s not good enough for me anymore. No, because merely tolerating myself is not enough. To get back to what I want- I want to be healthy.

I don’t just mean healthy in an eat-your-fruits-and-vegetables kind of way (though I definitely need to work on that). I mean whole.
I speak of well-being. I speak, again, of harmony. I want to run, I want to stretch and strengthen my body (and mind). I want to become an embodied spirit- otherwise known as a healthy and mindful person.
I want to be at ease with myself, I want to frolic in pretty outside things, I want to walk with hands outstretched. I want to forgive myself for being tightly furled, and to give myself time to open up a bit. I want to laugh at myself as I pick myself up from having tried something new and failed at it- and then I want to try it again. I want to lose myself in thought, I want to solve puzzles, I want to ask difficult questions and accept only sound answers.
I want to listen to other people’s stories- to your story. I want to see a bit of your soul, because I know it is beautiful and wonderful and surprising and that you deserve a bit of love.

I also want to find my own story, and at some point I would like to show you a trinket or two.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Spring Quest

Hello again dear Reader,

Spring has come to Carleton!
I intend to take a nice walk around campus and capture its loveliness on camera, but haven't quite gotten around to that yet. For those of you not fortunate enough to be here, I assure you there is much in the way of happy greenery and pretty flowers to delight the soul. I am especially happy that my tree friend by the concert hall has started to blossom. I have already been taken aback by her loveliness, and I am excited for the moment when she is fully bedecked with beautiful flowers. But really, there are many pretty things sprouting around campus. Spring is wonderful!

Spring also means the beginning of a new term, and the term is already on its way. First week has met its end, and week two is all ready to rush in. This term is going to be a crazy one for me... but currently I am very much in the idealistic phase of my voyage. For some reason winter term seemed to skip the idealistic phase altogether. Winter term started off in the midst of a whirlwind, I think, and I didn't even have time to formulate grandiose schemes.
But now! Ah, this time I have set sail with all sorts of wild hopes and dreams for grand achievement, and it doesn't help that I am already surrounded by a paradise of lush greenery to make my dreams seem all the more realistic!

As I said, the term is going to be a little crazy. Or a lot crazy. I am venturing into the upper levels of math and chemistry for the first time. Math-wise I am taking a seminar in set theory, which should be very cool but also seems a bit intimidating. We're basically building up Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory and shall be working on constructing the natural numbers, integers, and real numbers. There are a lot of very quick-thinking, intelligent math people who are fortunately very good-natured and fun, but I know I'll be working hard to stay on top of things. I'm a little scared, but mostly very excited.
As for chemistry, I am taking an introduction to computational chemistry, which is almost guaranteed to kill me (in a good way?). My professor (with whom I'll be doing computational chemistry research with this summer, coincidentally) is awesome... and (or but) she expects a great deal out of her students. She promises us that we will learn tons, and she also promises that we will be working HARD to get there. This class again finds me feeling a bit intimidated, as it's a class composed almost entirely of hardy, senior chemistry majors... but they also seem like a good batch of people. It should be a very rewarding class, but, again, it's going to be a ton of work. My last few days have been spent trying to make good enough sense of quantum chemistry, and we'll be reading a ton of literature... oh, so much learning to be done! Trying to piece together quantum has certainly made me want to learn quantum in a nice and thorough manner, as well as like... all of math. I need to do differential equations and more linear algebra and statistics and apparently abstract algebra is also used to describe quantum stuff... Oh goodness, there are so many cool things to learn!
My last class is intro psych, which is nothing compared to the other two, but should provide interesting things to muse on.
Finally, I am lab assisting for a chemistry course and grading for a physics course. This also translates to a lot of work.
So essentially, I have a lot to do in the next ten weeks. A lot.

Even with this realization- or partial realization- I am filled with ambition. My roommate and I decided it would be an excellent idea to put together goal charts to keep us motivated. Here is mine!
What could be more exciting than rewarding oneself with cute stickers for a job well done?
Realizing that you have made your dreams come true! 

While I do have these specific goals that I'm working toward, I think I have two main ambitions.
The first is to stay involved in dance stuff. Ballroom/social dancing is awesome! The people are great, the dancing is fun, and it gives me an opportunity to develop a somewhat unusual skill. Part of my plan is to start to learn how to lead (My respect for leads has increased considerably. It's so stressful to have to plan out and keep track of directionality, timing, posture, technique, floor craft... Oh goodness!), and the other part is to try to work on solidifying technique. I want to make sure that, on a regular basis, I go into Cowling and seek refuge from life-hecticness on the dance floor. It'll be a good mix of challenge, socialization, and relaxation.

Second, I am intent on maintaining a positive attitude. There are a lot of challenges ahead of me, academic as well as social and emotional in nature. I expect the term to be a difficult one, but, more importantly, I expect it to be an opportunity for wonderful growth. There are a lot of cool people in my classes (and on the dance team!) to get to know better, there is a lot of interesting material to be learned, and there is so much beauty around me to walk around and appreciate!

I think a challenging spring term is a good way to kick off this whole blooming adulthood thing.
What with best friends at different schools, people (including myself!) working over the summer, a boyfriend exploring the streets of Moscow, and my own hopes to study abroad, the next... eight to nine months have me largely estranged from those happy individuals who more or less make up "home."

So... I'm on my own little adventure now.
It's time to learn new things, to step away from sluggishness and step into my swan (or sparrow!) skin, to face challenges and defeat them, and to dance and go on pleasant strolls every now and again.

Happily, I now have the chance to gather stories to be exchanged with loved ones at a future time when our paths may converge, and thus bring me back home- if only for a time.