I can’t remember where, but someone described this film as “suffocating” and I think that’s exactly the word for it. The frame moves in and out like inhales and exhales. The pace moves up and down like inhales and exhales. Steve rises and falls like inhales and exhales. You exhale when you feel Steve’s mother’s pain. You inhale when you feel her love. And you try to breathe in as much as you can until your inhales and exhales blend into one laborious breath. I’ve seen films described as “a triumph.” This is the most melancholy, gripping triumph I know. Die’s hope is the kind of hope that makes you miss your mother, yearn for your mother. Die loves hard and endures the pains only a loving mother can. If anything else, this film is designed to make you feel – I can’t tell you what, but you will feel something so strong it will grab hold of you and stay with you for days. It will sit in your lungs and cradle your heart. It’s the kind of film you wish you could see for the first time again and again and again and again
I was reading my favorite online magazine Bright Wall Dark Room when I came across a conversation in the issue: Identity. I first noticed the artwork, a forlorn River Phoenix. River Phoenix died before I was born, but ever since I met him in Stand By Me, I’ve wanted to learn more of who he was and experience his acting. It’s still hard for me to think of him as Joaquin Phoenix’s older brother. Joaquin has always represented such adult figures to me, so it’s interesting to see a piece of his youth in his brother. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how Joaquin, probably around my age now, lost his brother; and I try not to think about what life would be like if I were to lose one of my sisters. Before finishing the article, I decided I had to see the film for myself. Then I would return to the piece and read it with much more clarity.
Like the score in the movie, you are filled with a sort of lilting sorrow when you watch this film. It tells the story of a family living a lie to stay together. It’s really heart-wrenching and will certainly make you sob. I live several hundred miles from my family, and right now, that distance has never felt so large. This movie will punch a hole in your heart while trying to patch you up.
In the article, Chad and Sheila discuss what I believe Sheila calls a “perfect scene” in which the family dance together with Michael (Danny Pope)’s girlfriend, Lorna. It’s a really touching, sneakily sincere scene. I wish I could feel the way I always do when I watch it.
I want to start blogging more regularly about things that matter to me. I want to write down those things that I hear in music or notice in movies that walk around with me for days after I’ve experienced them like a thought bubble constantly forming above my head. I’ll be taking a lot of inspiration from the online magazine Bright Wall Dark Room (link). I’m constantly falling in love with the way these writers talk about films or introduce me to my new favorites. I’ve grown to appreciate films and music in different ways. I am starting to make fully formed declarations about directors and styles of cinematography. I am beginning to appreciate albums as whole works rather than maxing my own mixes. Don’t get me wrong, I love the personalized satisfaction one gets from a mix-tape, but I have found so much respect for whole works of art in the form of films and albums. Because that’s truly what they are – works of art. I find I’m gaining much more insight from appreciating these works of art rather than consuming the media.
So I’m starting something new. I hope to start writing more complex, personal ideas on the art I’m experiencing. It feels good to write again. There will, of course, be other forms of self-serving posts still being published on this blog, but I hopefully with a little more reason to the rhyme. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to create a new title for this blog that’s more indicative of the content I want to publish – my musings on film, television, music and books.
Yesterday in my Feminist Theories class, we talked about four ways in which systems of inequality are perpetuated as described in Michael Schwalbe’s book Rigging the Game. In my small group of five students, we were asked to examine specifically identity stakes. This launched me into thinking of my personal identity (and only now am I realizing how self-serving that is), but I struggled to pin down my identity rather than just identifiers like “white” and “woman.”
Thinking of identity as a form of a side bet really puts identity into a different context. An identity stake, as I understand it, is the ability for a person to claim a certain identity because of a certain position or employment they may hold within an organization or system. For example, someone who is working a part-time job for their university could claim the identity student employee. What makes this a side bet is the “perks” that go along with identifying as a student employee. With this identity, this says to outsiders, “they can handle school work and an office job. Look how well rounded. We should hire… blah blah blah.” You get the point.
Often times a person will maintain a job or an interest or a belief because by doing so they can claim an identity that affords them respect or a “leg up” without an outsider or insider doubting how genuine their identity is. So this started me thinking about my major and minor. At my university, it is often common that Molecular and Cellular Biology majors declare the Biochemistry minor because the two complement each other so well and the additional Biochemistry classes are “pretty manageable.” I, however, have declared my minor to be Gender and Women Studies. I’ve done this for a variety of reasons, but the predominant one is because I think it’s interesting. This fact is irrelevant to the question I’m about to pose though.
So here’s the question I found myself asking: Can some people embody an identity to a greater degree or extent than others and who determines that? Since I’m not a Biochemistry minor, this doesn’t mean I’m not a Molecular and Cellular Biology major, but this may suggest, to some people, that someone who does have a minor in Biochemistry will be more compatible for an “MCB” job than I am. Somehow this seems logical and illogical to me. Actually the word that comes to mind is “unequal.”
I have two older sisters. If one Christmas each of them buys me two presents, but I buy each of them only one present, does this make me less of a sister? No, of course not, but some outsider (a real bitch of one) could make the argument that I’m not as good of a sister based solely on the fucking number of presents I bought my siblings.
I guess what I’m seeking here is balance of identity, but I also don’t think that’s actually achievable? So how do we start thinking differently about identity? How do we separate identity from side bets? The thing is, so many people hold onto these claims of identity because we like them. We love them. I loved being able to say “I’m working two jobs,” when I was working two jobs when I honestly wanted to quit both. I think maybe the first step is the honesty part. Maybe we need to start being more truthful about the identity we claim to embody. If we can stop thinking of these identity claims as perks, and not as detriments either, maybe then the perpetuation of inequality can be lessened at least a little.
Fall Semester 2015 was far better than my freshman year in college. I think there are some things that really helped me stay organized and focus and they really made the difference, like a 0.6 grade point average difference. So for those college students out there looking for tips on how to stay organized and do well in school, stay tuned.
When I was in high school, I participated in so many clubs that I didn’t really care for because I thought they would just be a way for me to fill out those applications with the “perfect me” on paper. I dreamed of the day I could just go to class and go home without giving time away to other responsibilities. So when college finally came, I didn’t do anything. I went to class and then went back to my dorm room.
Finally one day in September, my father called me to remind me that I needed to get a job in order to keep my work study. Quickly, I applied to every job I could find on the online database and took the first one that interviewed me – an office job. Suddenly, I was working 19 hours a week on top of my 17 credits of classes. I would leave my dorm room at 7:45 am and not come back until 8 pm most days. But I did have lots of spending money, and that was great.
Then finals came and I didn’t really study for them and it showed. C in Chemistry that should have been a B, B in Math that should have been an A, B in Spanish that should have been an A. I thought one C couldn’t hurt, but then I realized that my honors classes weren’t weighted like they were in high school. I had just a 3.0, barely enough to keep my scholarship. The following semester I took just as many credits but cut my hours in half. I did worse, ending the year with a 2.9 GPA. I had to take summer classes to raise my GPA and I felt like, “I worked so hard!” just because I put in more effort than I did in high school. However, the effort I put into academia was not much in high school. High school was easy and I wasn’t used to hard work.
The first step towards having a better school year was recognizing that I just needed to be better. It’s difficult to avoid negative self talk when you don’t perform as well as you had hoped. Of course I did this first and it resulted in many tears and a clouded vision of how I was supposed to improve. But when I finally sat down to figure out what I COULD do instead of what I should have done, I became hopeful.
So, the following are tips to start out college on the right foot or recover after a rocky semester or two.
I. Organization. A. A Good Planner.
If you like stationery and nice pens, buy a planner. Like a really nice planner that you’ll love writing in. One that’s big enough for your needs, but not too heavy to the point that you wouldn’t want to carry it around in your bag. This is the planner I’m using this year. It’s about 8 1/2 x 11 with weekly and monthly spreads. There’s also a section in the front where you can fill out your class schedule by semester or quarter. I used the monthly spreads to make note of important dates like upcoming tests and events. It’s really useful to write out every major quiz or test from the semester in your planner. When you can look ahead and see that you have two essays and two science exams in the same week, it’s much easier to plan ahead how you should budget your time studying and writing. (I’m still trying to master the art of studying for more than one thing in a day!)
I used the weekly pages to write down specific homework assignments for that week. I didn’t use the weekly pages as much as I would have liked to, but when I did, I really appreciated them.
B. Nice Colorful Pens.
Never underestimate the power of some nice colorful pens. Remember when you were obsessed with markers as a kid? This is the time to re-embrace that joy. I bought these marker pens early in the semester. They were one of my favorite purchases of the semester.
I used them to color coordinate classes, take notes by chapter, and highlight really important ideas in pages and pages of penned or penciled notes.
There’s something so satisfying about a nice set of colored pens. I also used them to underline important quotes and annotate the books I had to read for the semester. I love going back through my copy of Dracula to see what lines popped out at me!
C. Go Digital.
Yes, real, tangible planners are the best, but you are more than likely to forget them at least a couple times or choose to leave them on your desk when you make a trek to the library. So don’t eliminate the paper planner, just add a digital one. It’s literally made so much of a difference in my life. If your school is like mine, your email probably functions like a gmail but instead it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. This is great! With google chrome, I’ve created a google calendar that’s accessible from my email and syncs with my phone. Here’s how my school schedule has been planned out for Spring 2016. Each class is set up as an event with the classroom it is held in as the location. This past semester, I received a reminder to my phone at 7:50 am telling me that work started at 8 am in ENR2 every morning that I worked. That way I knew I was heading out the door on time. You can set reminders for any time before the event, whether it be days, hours or minutes. What’s really great about this is that you can add or change events from your phone and it will automatically change it on your laptop. Easy peasy.
So, if I left my planner at home, I could note things on my phone or laptop. This was nice because when I went back to the apartment, I could pull out my planner, tick things off and refresh my memory as to what I had left to do.
This is another great feature of google calendar, the Tasks menu. I create To Do lists online and when I complete them, I can tick them off with the utmost satisfaction. Here’s what my last Tasks menu looked like on my last weekend of the semester.
I don’t like carrying my laptop around all day, so very few of my lecture notes are digital. I love my notebooks. Be smart about what notebooks you buy for which classes. I had two “gen ed” classes that I knew wouldn’t require as much note-taking as my science classes, so I bought one 2-subject notebook for those classes.
For anyone who has taken Organic Chemistry, you know just how much drawing is involved in the class. Hexagons are forever known as cyclohexanes. I knew it would drive me crazy if I had to draw on lined paper so I bought a spiral sketch book. Throughout the semester, I had multiple people tell me “that’s such a good idea!” and my professor, without fail, said, “I love your notes” every time she walked by them.
A lot of times, I like to color coordinate my notebooks. My MCB book was white and had a green gecko on the cover, so I chose a green notebook. For last semester, it was the same textbook and I used a white notebook. This is what I find to be the easiest way to remember to grab the correct notebook. If all your notebooks are the same color or non-relating colors, then you’re likely to grab the wrong one when you’re in a rush to class.
One last thing to keep in mind. When you put the notebooks in your backpack, things are bound to be shuffled around. Try alternating them to face forward and backward so that the spiral wires don’t get caught on each other. This will save a lot of hassle and frustration. I wish I’d realized this earlier in the semester.
II. Mindful Tricks / Healthy Tips. A. Food on a Budget.
When I was living on campus, I just relied on my meal plan for food, and since meal plan money doesn’t feel like real money if your parents have paid for it, you’ll spend it like crazy. This creates a terrible habit! When you go a year not budgeting for food, suddenly your paycheck seems a lot smaller. My roommate and I have a small system that I think really helps.
Every month in a week when we don’t have many tests or papers due, we do a fridge cleanse. We throw out old leftovers and expired food and make mental notes of what food we don’t really like that much or what daily doses of fruits or veggies we’re missing.
We keep a small whiteboard on the fridge with two columns: Inventory and Shopping List. If we just came back from a shopping run but realize a few days later we really wanted steel-cut oats, we add it to the shopping list so we can get it next time instead of making sporadic runs to Safeway and draining our money without even realizing.
My roommate particularly likes eggs and I really like cheese. On our inventory column we can write things like, “18 eggs” and change it to “15 eggs” after a breakfast meal. Same goes for cheese: “half block colby jack” so that we know to slow down on the food or make sure we get a larger quantity of it when we go grocery shopping next time. Probably the best thing for the inventory list is to keep track of milk. We may have a half gallon left, so we’ll write something like “half gal milk 1/15” and update it after every use so we know how much we have left and when it will expire. This is the best way to avoid wasting milk or running out of milk when you really need it. (Because in our apartment, the only reason for a sporadic run to Safeway is for milk [or ice cream]!).
B. Clean Space, Clean Body, Clean Mind.
I have a habit of falling into some pretty serious funks throughout the school year. One thing that always makes me feel better when so and so went out without me or Professor X gave me a grade I didn’t like is to clean my room. I used to hate cleaning my room, but now it’s therapeutic. When all my clothes are organized, I can plan a day to do laundry and even plan outfits for the week.
One thing that’s hard to avoid in the dorms is merging of designated spaces. When I lived in the dorms, I ate, drank, slept, studied, and got ready in about a 2′ x 5′ space. This is way too unhealthy for me. I hated the condition of my desk. When you can, try eating in the dining hall or outside. Make use of study rooms in your dorm. Move your furniture around when you move in. These are the best ways to designate spaces. Now in my apartment, I can designate the kitchen table for eating and drinking, the living room for watching TV shows and movies and some homework, the desk in my room for make up and more homework, and my bed for sleeping and the occasional night-time Netflix session. I refuse to eat or drink in my room, well maybe water sometimes. I used to sit in my bed to eat sometimes and now the thought just creeps me out!
When I moved into the apartment, I bought a white duvet cover with white pillows and white sheets. Yes, my bed is completely white, which may sound like a stain waiting to happen to some people, but is one of my favorite purchases from last semester. Having an all white bed keeps me from sitting on it with my shoes on, eating or drinking in it, and going to bed with make up on. I was notorious for falling asleep with make up on when I was in the dorms because I slept in forest green sheets and covers. You could hardly see any stains on those boys. Not anymore, my bed literally helps me maintain good hygiene that helps me feel better in body and mind.
When I was struggling with some major depressive episodes this semester, I went to the campus health facility at my school and attended a triage appointment at the Counseling and Psych Services center. I know many people may be wary of something like this, but it is honestly so helpful when you’re feeling down, stressed or anxious. This is one thing you should definitely make room for in your schedule if you need to.
C. Change of Scenery
It helps so much to get up and move around. In fact, my physical therapists tell me that no one should sit for longer than 45 minutes. So if you’re at the library or on the couch or at work, set timers for yourself so you get up and take a little walk or just stretch. Studying or working in increments for 6+ hours is easier than working for 3 hours straight. Trust me.
Late in the semester, I became quite limited in physical activity due to back problems.
For days I would be in my apartment without leaving, so I hung some white Christmas lights in the living room. My apartment complex was giving them out for free, but they’re very affordable. They instantly brightened up the place and made me actually want to be there.
In addition, I started painting in my free time instead of spending time on the computer or going out to spend money. Painting became a good, healthy way to take my mind off things and know I have art hanging in my apartment that I can really be proud of.
When you’re in a rut and just can’t bring yourself to study, avoid your bed at all costs. You’ll just “take a nap” and sleep until morning. Take a blanket to the couch or study room and make yourself comfortable. Or, if you can, make yourself look “nice” and try a new place like the coffee shop your roommate has been raving about.
I’m so glad I finally did this. One of my favorite places to study or do homework now is a coffee shop called Sparkroot in downtown Tucson.
Sparkroot is a great place to get work done. Plenty of outlets, plenty of attractive people, and plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.
What’s great about trying a new place is you either fall in love and become a loyal customer, or it inspires you to venture out and try other places. For me, it’s been both. I’ve become a loyal customer of Raging Sage’s, Shot in the Dark, Revolutionary Grounds, Cafe Passe, and of course – Sparkroot. Chances are, your college town has something new for you to discover.
Changing what you see doesn’t just apply to places and decor, though. You should be changing scenery of the people in your life, too. It took me too long to realize that one of my good friends was a terrible study partner. We had a couple classes together, and it was too easy for me to adopt his mentality of “I didn’t do well on that test, so I’ll distract myself with fun so I can forget about it.” I became way too complacent about my success in school. When it came time to move out of the dorms, I moved in with the friend who was driven and did well in school. Now I’m doing drastically better and the first friend is still struggling to maintain his scholarship. I’m not saying you should cut people out of your life, but you should definitely try to think of them as medicine. Know what doses you should be taking and what side effects may take hold in your life.
III. Making Decisions and Plans. A. Know When to Say No.
If you have a friend who you know won’t contribute well in a group project, say no when they ask you to be in a group with them. Make an excuse, pick someone else first, trust your gut. It’s better to do well with someone else and maintain the friendship with your friend than to destroy it over a herbicide lab report. Know what I mean?
Don’t buy that book. If you’re anything like me, you only have about 30 minutes a week to read something you really like to read. Don’t buy another book in that cute book store if you’re still working on one or know you have a few on your shelf you should pick up.
A good way to keep from spending money on things you want, but don’t need is by using Mint.com. Make use of the mint app and set specific budgets for yourself. You know where you spend money the most. Hold yourself accountable. My roommate has a budget specifically for hazlenut lattes. I have one for Antigone Books.
Instead of renting that movie on Amazon, save the change and find something on Netflix or YouTube. Use that spare cash for something you can’t stream like concerts or shows. Experience your entertainment, don’t just watch it.
B. Know When To Say Yes.
One thing definitely worth spending money in the entertainment realm is Spotify Premium. Nothing beats being able to handcraft your own playlists to listen to whenever you want. Organize your playlists into folders. Create monthly playlists so you can keep track of the sweet new tunes you find. Create a playlist PERFECT for studying. I recommend movie scores. It’s a great way to enjoy studying without being too distracted.
When your boss recommends you to help out a professor on campus, definitely do it. I started my second job by typing for a professor who hurt her hand. Now she has hired me, pays me more than the first job, and I’ve earned a co-author credit on a scientific paper written by one of her grad students in the lab. This all happened in the span of three months. Most students wait years hoping for an opportunity like this one.
Actually go to the club fair that’s been advertised for weeks. Most clubs have open door policies. Go to their first meeting and “get your feet wet.” Chances are one of them will actually be fun and you won’t feel like you have to participate in order to benefit you later. Even if it’s awful, just don’t go back! Most colleges are big enough that you won’t really hurt anyone’s feelings by disappearing.
Become the right kind of busy. This was my busiest semester so far, but it was also my most successful. Keep your mind, body, and attitude in top shape and you will definitely improve!
C. Know When To Ask Someone Else.
When my Molecular and Cellular Biology mentor asked me to meet his Principal Investigator from his lab, I was so excited. I knew it meant the possibility of working in a Bioinformatics lab as an intern. But then I also knew it meant needing to cut down on my course load or quit one of my two jobs – the business office job (my main source of income). So I turned to my sisters and my father. I asked for their advice and they told me what they thought I should do, which happened to be aligned with what I knew I wanted to do deep down.
There are plenty of people to help you make these kinds of decisions other than your family. Try your counselor, psychiatrist, an older and more experienced friend. Chances are their thoughts will help illuminate your own.
These are all the tips and tricks I’ve learned this past semester and I think they have made all the difference. I’m going into a daunting semester this spring, but I know I can do it.
My dark, quiet room breeds unnecessary productivity. I sit here with my large orange headphones hugging my ear and absolutely no music playing. All I hear is the patter of my fingers on keyboard and the whir of the ceiling fan. This bright screen is inviting. This blog is like an old friend I haven’t seen in a while, but when we sit down for some coffee it’s like no time at all has passed. Suddenly, I want to tell it everything I’ve learned, everything I’ve seen. I want to tell it everything I feel.
I feel calm right now. This particular brand of silence is one I missed when away at school. Sharing a dorm room can make finding peaceful corners difficult. I lived on a floor with roughly 50 girls and only really talked to about 30 of them, but it felt like I lived with thousands. Tomorrow I return to Arizona and Saturday I move into an apartment with one friend. I’m excited to close my bedroom door. I’m excited to draw my blinds, maybe crawl into my closet. I want to find my hole into the silent dimension. This is what I look forward to.
But I also look forward to more dynamic people and things that await me. I miss my girls from Texas and New Mexico. I miss my Colorado Cuties and my Louisiana Belle. I’m ready for the start of this new year.
Or at least I tell myself that. I want to be able to wake up at 7 in the morning like it’s nothing, like my internal clock has programmed me to do so. I want to spend countless productive hours at the library. I want to find routine, but I also want to lie in bed with this familiar screen. At the same time, I want to camp out on Mount Lemon, I want to buy up all the books in every shop on 4th Ave. I want to do it all and nothing.
This is my self portrait.
P.S. carrot cake is only good with cream cheese frosting and when my mama makes it.
I tried really hard not to be so dependent on other people. I never wanted to be in this position. I don’t want to be alone, but I don’t want to be helpless. I’m sad and happy when I look at you. I’ve painted you to be this great thing when you’re just like everybody else. I’m sorry I put so much weight on your shoulders. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. I’ve realized I’m pulling you down under the water. I know you should just push me down. Save yourself. That’s what anyone would do. “No matter how much you think you love somebody, you’ll step back when the pool of their blood edges up too close.” I loved you and hated you when you said, “You can’t expect me to be there for you all the time.” I loved and hated myself when I let you go.