Not everything is nighttime pancakes when you’re an adult

My computer is constantly on. I think the last time I turned it off was when I flew to Oklahoma. I prefer to make it hibernate or sleep since it’s started to take longer to power up. I really just need to get rid of the files and programs I don’t use, but I never have the time for that. I have things to do – books to pretend to read, recipes to think about making, and a room to wish was clean.

I minimized all my windows earlier this afternoon because I remembered I had changed my background to a smoldering picture of Aaron Paul. To see it, I had to minimize my sticky notes which I then rearranged so his face wasn’t covered. These notes’ lifespans vary from months to days. Why I have such a hard time deleting them is a mystery. One is titled “TO READ”, a list of books I want to read. It’s only been referenced once in the last year. Other notes contain quotes intended to inspire me to write, which would probably be effective if they weren’t covered up by Facebook.

There’s one that I don’t think I’ll get rid of until my computer calls for reformatting:

“Don’t romanticize this adulthood thing just because you get to eat pancakes at night.”

Though the context escapes me, I know I heard it from a professor. At the time, it struck me as beautifully silly.  “Don’t be so eager to grow up,” it pleaded. “Stay young, silly, and still appreciative of pancakes in the dark.” It resonated well at the time –  the end of my college years was coming to an end and I desperately wanted to revert to childhood. Or at least to the point where I wasn’t realizing I should have decided on a more productive major.

When I was younger, twenty-four was incredibly mature. My life plan was basically this: Finish high school, fall in love…….retire comfortably and die in my sleep. Did I think about my twenties  the time when I’m supposed to be figuring out my life? Of course not. I just glazed over that and assumed it would all be taken care of before I got there. To be fair, for a good portion of my childhood, I just assumed I would be raptured before I turned 16, so I figured I wouldn’t have to worry about the really tough things.

(This is probably why I didn’t know what a 401k was until a few years ago. Now I have one and I’m about to change my portfolio to the high-risk/high-reward one because a six-question quiz in my 401k informational portfolio told me that because of my age and personality, I can do that. That’s probably how Donald Trump made all his money, right? His BMO Harris booklet had a quiz that told him he could handle market fluctuations and he went with it.)

So when I see this sticky note I wonder where the pancakes are. I’m only 24 and I’m already thinking about retirement –  mainly because of all the things I have yet to do. I still have to establish a career (though I think I’m on a good track). I still have to buy an appropriate car. I need to have a savings account and I should probably stop listening to Taylor Swift. I have these adult worries, so where are my nighttime pancakes?

I’d like to remember the other side of this: why spend so much time worrying about being an adult? I should be taking advantage of the freedom that comes with being un-tethered and in my 20’s. There is literally nothing stopping me from doing what I want. If I want to stay up until 1:30 reading a book, then I can. Alternatively, I can take a night drive to admire the clear sky. I can wear red lipstick all day at work and have personal victory. I can strike up a conversation with a stranger because he’s probably not going to kidnap me. I can plan a vacation with my best friend in hopes of dancing with foreign men.

Or I could just make pancakes at night.

I can have fun in whatever way I decide. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?

Remember that, self. 

…and then I hung out with some of the world’s best musicians.

I was going to stay home last night. I had a somewhat uneventful day at work and after teaching a violin lesson, I thought it would be nice to go home, put on some sweats, and try to write something. This would have turned into me being on Facebook for about an hour, then watching The Colbert Report.

But I had received a Facebook invite to see the Philharmonia Quartett Berlin perform at UW-Oshkosh. At first, I was like, “Meh. Quartet music. It’s too far to drive and I just bought new tea. I’ll youtube the program.” But something kept tugging at me – a comment that one of my friends posted: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of the best musicians in the world.”

So I felt obligated. I knew I would kick myself if I didn’t.

I AM SO GLAD I WENT.

It was a fantastic reminder that I can’t expect my  life to be fun, exciting, or inspiring if I sit in my apartment alone. First off, I was welcomed by the sight of the building in which I spent the most while in college. I never thought I would be so comforted by the hideous architecture. I didn’t realize it at the time, but many of my most tumultuous and memorable moments happened in the Arts and Communications building.  That building witnessed the disintegration of my two most serious romantic relationships, the beginning of one of them, several crying spells (over boys, over finances, and over studies), a tipsy rehearsal (for what ensemble? I’ll never tell), and plenty of others I would rather not post on the internet. My point is that it was like walking back to a home – even if it was a stressful and oddly moist atmosphere.

I was able to see many of the people that made my time in the music department fun. It also made me really miss being there. At times, I hated how small the music department was – it was small, a little cliquey, and surprisingly gossipy at times. It sometimes reminded me of high school. But regardless, it was a community. There’s a sense of comradery among music students. We complain about how other majors only take four or five classes a semester while we’re taking seven or eight. We complain about the stinky practice rooms, and how the hall is either steamy or freezing. We complain about practicing piano or ear-training. We all have to trudge through the same classes. I would say it’s exactly what happens to men on the battlefield, just with reeds, spit valves, mallets, and rosin.

The concert was incredible. It inspired me to both play my violin and sell it – because why bother? I’ll never be as good as them. It was a pretty traditional program – two fantastic quartets book-ending a modern piece that everyone pretends to understand and really love. Mozart, Lutoslawski, and Beethoven.

The thing about music like Mozart or Beethoven is that it has a distinct grace and natural air to it. I’m too clumsy of a violinist to play Mozart properly, and I certainly haven’t played enough in the last six months to do Wolfgang or Ludwig any justice. I’m envious of violinists whose pianissimos are as powerful as their fortissimos. The four musicians tonight made it look so damn easy. It was hard to imagine any of them being an amateur. It sounded like they had been rosining their bows in the womb and perfecting arpeggios and three octave harmonic minor scales on the other side of the canal.

The Lutoslawski was completely different. It was sort of like they got up there and said, “Hey! Look at all the sounds we can make with these things!”

It was powerful to watch, but in the same sort of way I felt about The Master. I could appreciate its complexity and the strength of an ensemble that plays the piece, but I didn’t connect with it.

Afterward, I was planning on going home and reading some more Infinite Jest when I caught wind that one of the musicians had asked (in a perfectly charming German accent) where to get beer. A few of my friends jumped at the chance to take them downtown to Oblio’s. I wavered for a moment and then remembered: a once in a lifetime opportunity.

When else would I be able to say that I saw the world’s best string quartet (for free) and then had a few beers with them?

NEVER. That’s when.

So I went.

I spent most of the time talking to the cellist (who I thought was handsome in a mature-foreign-world-class-musician sort of way) and the violist. The cellist said he enjoyed Wisconsin and was glad that our beer had improved. We ended up talking about the Lutoslawski piece for about twenty minutes, with the violist talking and half-singing the thing while we followed the score (which looked INSANE, by the way). As I guessed, the piece wasn’t exactly measured – the bars are more of suggestions. Phrases are repeated and ended by cues and rests are counted in seconds (not beats). Basically, the musicians have to function as a single unit (which, I realize, all ensembles truly have to do) in order to achieve a successful performance.

But when I told them I was glad they ended with the Beethoven, they both laughed their hearty German laughs and asked if I wanted another beer.

It was a great night. And while I love blogging and writing, I’m so glad I didn’t stay home in front of my computer.

My life as I know it will be over.

I had a strange realization the other day, one that shouldn’t exactly be a realization. As of December 16, I’m no longer going to be a college student.

It’s all I’ve done for the last five years. I’m having an existential crisis. Am I entitled to that?

I’m preparing to go visit Bill in a few days. In fact, I will be seeing him in just over 48 hours. I haven’t seen him since September. It’s been over two months since I’ve kissed him, hugged him, touched him, or woke up to him talking in his sleep. I’m flying into Oklahoma City around 10pm on Tuesday night. I’ve never gotten off an airplane to be greeted by a boyfriend. I’ve been trying to imagine the scene. I’m sure I’ll be tired since I’m working in the morning, and traveling by plane is oddly exhausting. However, if I don’t have a five year old kicking the back of my seat like my last flight, I’ll consider this one a success. I’ll exit the terminal and search for Bill, hauling my carry on bag and rolling suitcase and then I’ll see him and cry. Big gooey tears that are embarrassing but I won’t care because I’ll finally actually be seeing Bill in the flesh rather than on my computer screen and for the first time in months my tears will be on his shirt and not on my sleeve.

But maybe I won’t cry. Maybe I’ll just smile till my cheeks hurt and then we’ll kiss and I’ll blush for the rest of the night. 

Because I’m not there yet, I’m wanting the next two days to pass by as quickly as possible. I’m becoming acutely aware of how swiftly time moves. I’ll be in Oklahoma for about a week, then after that, I’ll have just three weeks left as a college student. That means I will be cramming an enormous amount of work into three weeks. I have several books I need to read. While I’m doing this, I need to read critically so I can write a comparative paper for my African American Women Writers class – I’m thinking of comparing a Lorrie Moore story with one of Danielle Evans’s stories. Which two stories, I’m not sure. I read Moore’s Self Help a few months ago, and I’m not through Evans’s collection. I’m anticipating that by rereading Moore’s book and completing Evan’s collection, I’ll have a sudden epiphany and I’ll write a brilliant paper. I also need to write a paper about Pat Barker’s Regeneration, which as far as I can tell, 2/3 of the way through, has no plot. So far I’ve picked up a few things about a stuttering psychiatrist who has some homosexual tendencies and a few WWI soldiers getting day passes. It’s really a pretty boring book and because it’s near impossible to finish reading, I’m going to have a very difficult time writing about it. I also have to finish a draft of my seminar project – a piece of creative nonfiction that’s turning into a pretty personal endeavor – and then revise it until it’s wonderful.

While I have all of these books to read and also biology and anthropology to study, I decided to read another book. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. An editorial review on Amazon reads:

Even among authors, Jeffrey Eugenides possesses a rare talent for being able to inhabit his characters. In The Marriage Plot, his third novel and first in ten years (following the Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex), Eugenides describes a year or so in the lives of three college seniors at Brown in the early 80s. There is Madeleine, a self-described “incurable romantic” who is slightly embarrassed at being so normal. There is Leonard, a brilliant, temperamental student from the Pacific Northwest. And completing the triangle is Mitchell, a Religious Studies major from Eugenides’ own Detroit. What follows is a book delivered in sincere and genuine prose, tracing the end of the students’ college days and continuing into those first, tentative steps toward true adulthood. This is a thoughtful and at times disarming novel about life, love, and discovery, set during a time when so much of life seems filled with deep portent.

The “tracing the end of the students’ college days and continuing into those first, tentative steps toward true adulthood” bit was the thing that really sold me. I’ve been sort of obsessed with books like this lately. I want how-to texts to tell me how to be an adult, because I don’t really know what it’s like to not be a student. I’m no longer looking to books for escapism – I’m looking to them for comradery, even if the heroines of these fictions don’t figure it out. Lorrie Moore’s characters are usually women just on the verge of a breakdown, and the Madison-area college student in A Gate at the Stairs felt like a best friend on the pages. About thirty pages into The Marriage Plot, I’m beginning to wonder when Eugenides was able to notate my thoughts while I sat through my English classes. Consider such gems like:

She’d become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read. (pg 20, from the Kindle edition)

That left a large contingent of people majoring in English by default. Because they weren’t left-brained enough for science, because history was too dry, philosophy too difficult, geology too petroleum-oriented, and math too mathematical—because they weren’t musical, artistic, financially motivated, or really all that smart, these people were pursuing university degrees doing something no different from what they’d done in first grade: reading stories. English was what people who didn’t know what to major in majored in. (pg 21, from the Kindle edition)

But after three solid years of taking literature courses, Madeleine had nothing like a firm critical methodology to apply to what she read. Instead she had a fuzzy, unsystematic way of talking about books. It embarrassed her to hear the things people said in class. And the things she said. I felt that. It was interesting the way Proust. I liked the way Faulkner. (pg 24, from the Kindle edition)

I’m really hoping that Madeleine ends up figuring her life out so I can follow suit. However, since it’s a Eugenides novel, she’ll probably have a much deeper existential meltdown, then commit suicide or her whole family will die. Don’t worry though, it will be done in the most brilliant of fashions.

If I were really smart, I would save this and any other leisure reading material for December 17.

I am an excellent college student.

I have this condition. I find I’m willing to do anything other than whatever it is that I need to do. I’m supposed to be reading The Dying Ground, which is a hip hop novel for my African American Women Writers class (from here on known as AAWW) . Don’t ask me what a hip hop novel is because I don’t know – I haven’t started reading it yet. I’m supposed to have ten chapters read by at 1:20 tomorrow afternoon. I’m also supposed to finish reading Lorine Niedecker’s collection of poetry, but as I found out last week, it takes about ten minutes to get through 50 pages of imagist poetry, and there’s no need to really understand it anyway. I’m not expecting this novel to be bad. I’m not expecting to hate it. I would just rather do anything else, including reorganizing my music files on my computer, watching two seasons of House (I watched the first episode of the season and have no idea how he ended up in prison), making sure there are no typos in my history or biology notes, reading ahead in my anthropology textbook, or reading the case study on the Yanomamo: A Fierce People. I read the first twenty pages last night.

A high capacity for rage, a quick flash point, and a willingness to use violence to obtain one’s ends are considered desirable traits. Much of the behavior of the Yanomamo can be described as brutal, cruel, treacherous, in the value-laden terms of our own vocabulary. The Yanomamo themselves, however, as Napoleon Chagnon came to intimately know them in the year and a half he lived with them, do not all appear to be mean and treacherous. As individuals, they seem to be people playing their own cultural game, with internal feelings that at times may be quite divergent from the demands placed upon them by their culture. This case study furnished valuable data for phrasing questions about the relationship between the individual and his culture.

The Yanomamo appear to be constantly on the verge of extranormal behavior, as we define it, and their almost daily use of hallucinogenic drugs reinforces these drives to what might seem to the outside observer to be the limits of human capacity. Life in their villages is noisy, punctuated by outbursts of violence, threatened by destruction by enemies. To the ethnographer it is frightening, frustrating, disgusting, exciting, and rewarding, and in this case study the ethnographer lets the reader know how he feels. His honest reaction helps us, as interested outsiders, to know the Yanomamo.

You can’t tell me that doesn’t sound interesting. Here are these people, living in small groups, doing drugs and attacking each other. It sounds full of that sensational crap that gets my attention whenever I flip past the Discovery Channel and they’re having a marathon of shows on human sexuality.

Midterms are overwhelming. I had two tests this morning – history and biology. I crammed for both of them over the course of the last three nights because I am a smart person. Neither test was very bad, but as I’ve made it clear, my mind practically refuses to retain scientific information, especially when describing things like cell division and the Calvin cycle. I think they mentioned ATP and NAD+ somewhere in there, but I’m not sure about the significance.

I completed a take home test for AAWW. It was an essay and it enabled me to bust out my amazing outlining skills. I really hope that’s a skill employers look for, because I am great at it. Now, all I need to do is read, but instead I’d rather document my procrastination skills on my blog.

I am an excellent college student.