Monday, August 7, 2017

Tea for One: A Note for College Freshmen

Hi. Did you miss me?

It's good to be back. 

It's been an intense few weeks since last we chatted. I'll hit a few of the highlights, & then I'm going to close by telling you two stories. 

Last I blogged, we'd just returned from the beach. Goodness, the days blend, don't they? I'd like to claim it's the summer that blurs the days, but I think it's probably my age. A couple of events stand out to me. I think I'm going to use some of the new skills I've picked up in my Technical Writing class & make a list for you. Also, I don't make good lists because the items turn into paragraphs.

👍 I developed an addiction to La Croix. Like all addictions, it's innocent . . . it is even advertised as such.

👎 Reagan caught a stomach bug.

This is never ideal, but the fallout was. No one else fell ill, & I flushed the inevitable ketones in a timely fashion at home, avoiding a hospital visit. If you don't recognize or understand the term ketones, here's a link for your perusal.

The day after Reagan got sick, I had to be at Louisiana Tech for some Dual Enrollment matters. These pictures exist because my mom was on pee stick duty; she texted me urine results throughout the day. We never saw the large range, thankfully. Large is bad, & it often means we're too far behind in the game & need to head to the hospital.

I took this next picture. She's a beauty. Negative

🙌 The children & I attended VBS. I honestly don't recall much about it. We got up early. There was coffee. When it was over, my mom took the kids to Trey while I sat on my rear at CC's Coffee House attempting to not fail my graduate course.

👍 I submitted my research report.

This news isn't as exciting as it sounds. I am unhappy with the final product I turned in, but I am so out of my league in this class I don't know that there's much more I could've done with it. I'm not going to like my grade—the grade on the paper or the grade in the class.

🙌 As you may've noticed in that sentence above, I learned how to properly type an em dash. This is a fun story.

A couple of weeks ago after the announcement of my blog hiatus, a (former) student said he should write a guest blog. About this same time, my publisher circled August 28 on her calendar. I began to sweat. I wanted one more solid read-through of the book before releasing it forever. I've read the book countless times, & I was unlikely to catch any errors I hadn't already caught . . . & plus I was in the middle of losing my mind over my research report.

I told Mr. Blog Volunteer instead of writing a blog, he could proofread the book if he had time on his hands . . . if that was something he was interested in doing for the woman who edited his college entrance essays & wrote copious letters of recommendation on his behalf.

The story ends like this: The book has been submitted for the final time. It's being formatted, something I don't even really understand because, as you know, I am a technical writing failure. What happened during the editing process was humbling; this was the case earlier this year when it went through developmental edits. Developmental edits are story-type edits. During developmental edits, the book's word count fell from around 95,000 to 82,000 if that gives you some idea of how developmental edits work. Scenes were omitted, & scenes were added. Also, many adverbs were slain.

This last edit was more of a line edit. Line by tedious line, you dig through looking for any error–grammatical errors, extra spaces between words or sentences that need to be omitted, a line that's indented too much or too little, etc. It is tedious, time-consuming work. It requires an intelligent person who's willing to be cruel an honest critic. I am fortunate to know just such an individual.

A few months ago I was in bed one night. My phone lit up from a text message that simply read, "Lois." Naturally I replied, "What?" I'd quoted Lois Lowry, author of The Giver, in a blog. I had misspelled Ms. Lowry's first name. Only one person noticed & took the initiative to tell me about the error. That's who you want to sic on your novel.

I carved out a little space in the acknowledgements for him, but it's impossible to overstate how much he improved the manuscript, while simultaneously feeding me humble pie. It's my hope there were so many comma errors he will, in time, forget the really embarrassing ones. Intellectually I know comma rules, & I can usually spot errors in isolated sentences. Something happens when I am furiously writing. It was ugly in places.

A round of applause for Mr. Jack Green.

You'd never guess but I have a tendency to write run-on sentences. I didn't know how to properly type an em dash, & apparently I had not used nearly enough of them. If you read the book & find yourself thinking, My, there are so many em dashes, don't look at me.

Obviously there'll be more book news/information soon as we march toward the end of August.

So, I promised you two stories (the riveting editing story is not one of the two . . . that's just lagniappe). The first story is about the day my parents moved me into my dorm my freshman year of college. The second story is about a decision I made a few weeks later.

I once dated someone who told me my parents & my sister & I were close. I didn't think much about the statement at the time, probably because I was busy obsessing over a relationship that needed to end. Annnnnyway, in retrospect, he was correct. We are a tight foursome, though our dynamic has certainly changed over the years as husbands & kids have made their entrance. The day they left me at college was a turning point in our lives as a foursome.  

When my family took me to college, which was quite a few Augusts ago, I am sad to say I thought the whole ordeal was about me. I thought a lot about how the move impacted me. I can remember with pinpoint accuracy how I felt that day. Only years later did I give serious thought to how my parents felt. Something seemingly insignificant happened on moving day that I've thought about so many times since. 

My dad lost his mind over the T-shirt I was wearing. It was in no way immodest. It was a regular, baggy T-shirt someone (probably my dad) bought me when we visited Crested Butte, Colorado some years earlier. I can't remember exactly what the shirt said, but it was essentially a joke about being high, a play on the city's elevation, which is nearly 9,000 feet above sea level. He made me change my shirt because he was not digging the "getting high" humor.

If you know my parents, I know what you're thinking. Yes, my mother, Susan, is always going to win "Most Likely to Demand a Wardrobe Change." I remember standing in our hotel room listening to my dad rant about the T-shirt & thinking, "He has lost his mind." I'd worn the T-shirt on several other occasions, & he'd said nothing. Truly, when does he notice what anyone's shirt says? If you know him, you know my father is not a detail-oriented person. 

I was seventeen the day they left me at college, the day of the T-shirt ordeal. Many years after they told me bye & made what was likely a long drive back to Louisiana, I realized he hadn't lost his mind that day. His heart was hurting. It was classic transference parenting (is that a thing?). He was flailing in a sea of emotions. Lashing out about the T-shirt was an attempt to exert some parental control in the final moments before he let go. I mean I guess he could've actually hated the T-shirt. I don't think I ever saw it again, come to think of it.

The second story I want to share is rooted in a series of events that unfolded in the weeks after my parents left me in Arkansas to begin my collegiate career. My freshman year of college was spent at Harding University, a private university in Searcy, Arkansas. Harding does not host traditional sororities & fraternities, but they do have a number of social clubs that are active on campus.

I tagged along with my roommate & suite mates & a handful of other young ladies we knew from high school as we attended various events designed to familiarize new students with the different clubs. Seemingly every incoming female was clamoring for an invite to join one of the female social clubs. I was told it was a big deal. In the back of my mind, I questioned the hyperbolic statements regarding joining a club. Since I'd never been to college before, I initially dismissed my misgivings & thought maybe everyone was right; maybe my life's happiness did depend on an invite to one of these clubs. I kept at it. I went to meet & greets. I told strangers I was an English major. I didn't say, an English major who likes to be alone & read. That doesn't sound very, you know, clubby.

In a crazy twist, I received a bid to join what I suppose was my first choice of a social club. This is like Bid Day for sororities. I mean maybe they actually call it Bid Day; I can't remember. After some hugging & squealing, all the inductee hopefuls were given copious instructions. For a designated period (two weeks, maybe three?), there were all manner of hoops through which we were to jump. 

For a few days, I went through all the motions. I did what we were supposed to do to prove ourselves worthy. It was all weird to me. Weird, silly, & yes, it felt exclusionary. It felt exclusionary to me because I knew several young ladies who were not offered the invite I was, & they were devastated. I could give you a lengthy explanation of how the vetting process for joining a social club conflicted with my need to (1) be academically responsible, (2) spend time alone, & (3) get adequate sleep . . . but I will simply say it became glaringly obvious I didn't want to join a social club, & so I quit. Thank you for the invitation, but apparently I am not all that social

It was apparently unheard of for someone to be offered the invite & then rescind it. I've never regretted the decision. I don't think social clubs or sororities or fraternities are inherently evil, but I can tell you they are not my cup of tea . . . because I want to have my cup of tea all alone

My point in relaying both of these stories is to remind these once-seniors, now-college-freshmen whom I love a lot that you need to look up from your phone every now & then & notice that the changes in your life have a ripple effect. Yes, your life is changing. Your parents' lives are changing, too. If they pick a fight with you over a T-shirt, just try to let it slide. It's probably not actually about the T-shirt. They're proud of you, happy for you, nervous for you, & sad to see you leave the safety of the close space you've all shared . . . I am guessing here, but this is how I feel, so it's likely pretty accurate.

I had a meeting at the school last week. After the meeting I went to my room for a few minutes. It was an emotional few minutes. It's only been one year, & I know there will be more years & more students & more memories, but the room feels a little haunted now. There are voices & smiles & rolling eyes that are missing. It is part of life; I understand that intellectually & so do your parents, but the intellectual understanding doesn't always ease the clench of the heart. 

Last week I needed to calm down because I was about to snap. I sat down, & I listened to the Eagles, which I don't do often enough. The line quoted above is from "Already Gone." So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key. As a college freshman you are possibly as free & unfettered as you will ever be in your life. You're theoretically old enough to leave the shelter of your parents' home & live alone. You have already made many decisions about a college & a major. At this point in your life, while you're unmarried & you don't have kids & you haven't signed many contracts, you are free to walk away from what is not working for you. Don't assume what seems to be working for many others is a fit for you, whether that's a major, a social club, a party scene, a fashion trend, or whatever else under the sun you find yourself involved with that, deep down, you think is silly or stupid or even destructive. Find yourself, & listen to yourself. If you want to stay home & read alone, do it

Believe it or not, I'm not done with my graduate course. Dante was right; there are seven circles. On Wednesday of this week I am to submit a visual representation of the report I submitted over the weekend. I was considering putting together a power point, but I've decided to go with this:

Also due on Wednesday of this week is a brochure I am to create (insert laughter from the audience).  

I'd love to tell you I'm going to relax & do whatever I want Thursday, but I'll probably be cleaning out the hall closet I've neglected all summer . . . followed by my own closet, which is in an embarrassing state. If I'm going to be stumbling in there at five in the morning soon, some changes have to be made. 

Summer is slipping away. I am emotionally done with it. I have a couple of goodbyes to say later this week, & then I'll close the door on summer for good. Adios to the Summer of Technical Writing. Next Monday, inservice will begin at school for teachers. I don't know what my schedule will be. I don't know what my teaching schedule will look like this next year, though I do know I'm going to be busy. There are a few minor tweaks to Mrs. Zeigler's duties that I'll tell you about another day. 

I plan to continue to blog. I don't know when I'll post, though I am incredibly attached to the Monday post. It worked for me all last year, & without any hesitation I can say that however unprepared I may be for this school year, it is not possible I am as unprepared as I was at this time last year. Amen? Amen. 

Whew. I missed y'all. That felt good.  


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