Dear You,

You know who you are.  You’re the person I fell in love with as a friend last year.  We share the same love of certain sci-fi television shows, study old Roman things, and have the same birthday.  We were friends immediately, and I trusted you to protect that relationship.  I knew very quickly that you liked me as more than a friend.  You asked me for coffee but didn’t ask our other female friends.  You asked me what I was looking for in a boyfriend, and all I could think of to reply with was “glasses” (a true statement an a subtle attempt to edge you away from me as a potential partner).  I loved you as a friend, but knew that a relationship wouldn’t work for me–in the same way I know I will never be romantically involved with my best guy friends from college.  In many ways you remind me of the first guy whom I fell in love with as a partner and whose eccentricities doomed our relationship.  He treated me badly in the end, and I couldn’t let that happen to us.

However.  You asked me out right before Easter break.  Because I love you as a friend, I said “yes” with the caveat that I didn’t feel the same way.  Easter came and went with me in the States, and I returned to England.  You never brought up the date again, but we spent time together like nothing had been said.

Then things began to unravel.  You came into my room without knocking.  In a serious manner you ordered me not to say something–not a request or a joke.  I can’t hide my feelings, and as you quickly gleaned that situation caused me to smolder with anger.  You order me?  Since when am I yours to command?  Since when do you have the permission to enter my room without knocking?  The situation bothered a college tutor so that I had to request action against you not be taken.

Then the end came.  You went to visit friends out of town and returned with a mind to avoid me.  Well, not just avoid.  Loathe.  After watching television together at our last meeting, you suddenly won’t speak to me in person and shoot seething, glaring stares in my direction.  I offered nothing but the open arms of a friend (and some select nerdy media) and you couldn’t even tell me in person that you wanted nothing to do with me.

My worst fears had been realized.  My life at the house became almost intolerable.  It was a good thing my dissertation was looming, as I could safely hide away in my room to avoid the tangible anger wafting towards me if we were in the same room.  I suppose you never told me you hated me, but the Looks of Doom and cruel avoidance or ignoring of any kindness on my part told me this was the case.  I’m not sure what exactly changed or what I did.  As a friend, I wouldn’t allow myself to lie to you and feign interest in a relationship.  I thought you deserved the truth.  I didn’t reject you outright, and you shouldn’t blame me if you never had the nerve to set a day for the date.

I’ve cried much too much over this, and despite you not speaking to me for over six months, I still am torn over it.  You hurt me almost more than that boy in college did.  At least he had the courage to tell me his looming graduation made him unfit for a relationship.  You couldn’t even let me know you had some issue with me.

I hate myself when I’m around you because all I can think of is rushing to anyone around you (especially women) and screaming, “Wait!  He’s not worthy of your attention!  He’s a terrible friend who will only be there when it suits him!  He knowingly hurts people and seems to revel in it!”  I hate thinking terrible thoughts, and despite this I would welcome a reconciliation.  Would I ever trust you again?  No.  Would I give almost anything to take our joint friends out of the position of mediators?  You bet.

I still think of the living hell you put me through those last months at Durham.  I felt guilty for coming into your building to use the kitchen.  I blamed myself for your drinking binges beginning before noon.  I know I shouldn’t, but I do.

I still don’t understand what happened, and you’ll probably never tell me.  I’m scared–well, utterly frightened–to see you the day I graduate.  You don’t graduate that day, so much of my being is barely being restrained from telling you to steer clear from graduation because it’s not a day belonging to you.  Part of me really hopes that college tutor or my father punch you in your face for all you’ve done.

Nothing will come out of this letter, but at least I can get out my frustration in one place.  It’s time for me to move on, and I’m desperately trying to despite the frequent Facebook statuses or comments mentioning or written by you.  At least there’s no more pretense of being friends.  You stopped being my friend the first time you shot me a nasty look and refused to speak to me.

And yes, you are a coward and a bastard.  In other awkward situations I’ve had the bravery to tell people how I feel and how I want the situation to proceed from my end.  You lack honor, and to me that’s the biggest reason we could never have a romantic relationship.  So, you see, my instincts we right.

From,

Me

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This is a post for my friend, Hannah, an amazingly gifted artist.  I happen to have several pieces of her art (sketches, a photo, a painting), and her whimsical and beautiful works are some of my favorites.  See her art here (I own To Every Corner!) and her personal blog here.

This picture reminded me of her, so I’m posting it for easy viewing.  Hannah, cheers to you, the one who colored pictures in college at kindergarten day with crazy stripes and spots and who truly thinks outside the box.  xx

From deviantART's JellyVampire, "Like an Artist"

Someone recently asked me what I miss about living away from the United States.  I couldn’t come up with much besides being closer to family and friends and certain shops and food items.  (Imagine: no canned pumpkin, and therefore, no pumpkin pie, cookies, soups…  It’s the stuff autumn is made of!)  However, since that conversation I’ve reflected on what I really do love about being abroad, besides the new experiences and the medieval-y atmosphere.  The people I meet when I travel tend to bring out the best in me.

Even in college in Minnesota, the good friends I met there centered me and helped me to figure out what I wanted out of life.  I was less angry and frustrated, probably due to the fact I was no longer boxed into an environment without variety.  Here in Oklahoma (where I am currently spending my spring break), I went to school with mostly white, middle class, conservative, straight Christians.  I never really had to consider the LGBT community or the views of people from different religions and nations.  I was naive, most certainly.  College helped to change that, and the new, exciting people helped me to understand myself.  In addition, this inner revelation let the real me shine through.  I was happy, eager to learn, passionate about my study, more outgoing, and laughed more than I had ever done before.

In England, and even during the brief trips to Italy, the same is true.  Going abroad alone forces me to talk with people and to make “single-serving” friends*, and, as in England, probable lifetime friends.  The most interesting of these “single-serving” friends tend to be very different from me, as in the case of the much older Londoner and his Asian trophy wife or the Brazilian airline worker and American history teacher partner.  I sat next to each couple one night when I was in Florence and had amazing evenings.  When talking with people I know next-to-nothing about, I tend to reflect on my happiest memories, and that brings out the true me, and the best me.  At Durham, the friends I am closest to share my intellectual curiosity and are there for me when I’m homesick, upset, or going through some kind of drama.  I feel free to be me.

My advice to any travelers or potential travelers, whether it be to the next town or to another country, is to meet people and talk about what makes you you.  It’s done wonders for me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the insight travel has given me.

* “Single-serving” friends are from the film Fight Club.  If you haven’t seen it, you should.  It’s mind-blowing in the best possible way.

I’ve been doing shopping research on everything from cameras to boots to bags lately, so it’s unsurprising in this age that some of the top Google and Bing results are blogs and YouTube videos. At first I ignored them, as I was looking to actually see reviews and prices for things, but as I was getting anxious about finding a bag, I got desperate and clicked. What I found surprised me. There are grad students here in the US and in the UK that have, gasp, time for making regular videos and for updating amazing blogs about fashion and style and organization.  There is life beyond academia, despite what some of my professors seem to think (admittedly, the two I’m thinking about do lack, well, people skills, and don’t seem particularly keen on breaking out of that professorial shell).

As I’ve been preparing for Durham, I’ve been considering how to be the “grown up” I’ve envisioned.  For the most part, my uniform of choice at Gustavus consisted of layered tees and sweatshirts or fleece, jeans, and sturdy Minnesota-winter-suited boots.  It was rare that I would actually take time to put on makeup (except perhaps, if I was lucky, on some wayward pimple), and incredibly unlikely to do my hair.  At UW, I tried to break out of that by at least doing makeup everyday and by trying to keep my t-shirts for home use.  Lots of cardigans and sweaters became my most-used items of clothing, and my regular jeans were replaced by two much-loved pairs of trouser jeans (lots of washing!).  I even began incorporating dresses, tights, and leggings, and found ways to wear my flourishing scarf collection.  Facing my new life, I want to do more of that, though I am aware a bit more creative layering is needed, as the nighttime temperatures now are in the 40s…  Hooray, cold weather!

I think my biggest inspiration is my friend, Alicia, who is currently a grad student in history.  She’s a real style model, and looks amazing!  She’s proof that a busy schedule (filled with work, studying, puppy parenting, and a wonderful husband) doesn’t have to detract from looking professional, put-together, pretty, and, yes, adult.

Photos of Matching Nerd Glasses (Via: bruunsbazaar, thefashionisto)

In the virtual world I discovered during these searches, I’ve found three inspiring blogs/YouTubers:

The Glamourous Grad Student This is perhaps my favorite blog thus far.  The writer is in Ireland, so lots of the things she talks about are helping me to figure out what’s available in the UK.  Her posts are funny, well written, and informative, and lots of her style posts ask questions that are helping me to pin down who I want to portray in my clothing. This is the post I originally pulled up on Google.

Fashionable Academics This was the post that popped up in my search, about a green (!!!) bag.  This blog is written by several contributors, and it tends to have more affordable fashion and pieces.  There are styles and outfits from women of every shape, style, height, and coloring, and I could look at the pages of this site forever.  FA gives me ideas to try and encourages me to try new things with my own wardrobe.

apeelingaustin‘s YouTube  This video gave me insight into what a grad student carries around all day, and what I could (and should) expect.  Plus, she’s in history as well, and so I can relate to her field and need for notes, places for handouts, etc.  It was amusing to see her pull out her old reading material from one previous class, and I have some ideas thanks to her for my bag basics.  I never thought of keeping a folding/rolling bag in my daily bag…  Good idea!  She also has some makeup “haul” videos, which I haven’t had time to look at yet.

Nerdy Chic from shopstyle.com

After looking at these, I’ve determined that I’m nerdy chic with a soft spot for big, yet simple, jewelry and scarves.  I really do like patent Oxfords, wool pencil skirts, bold glasses frames, and blouses layered under sweaters.  I like to be able to wear one pair of shoes on my commute and in class, and so favor flats and boots.  I like wearing neutrals which I dress up with a bright scarf or pair of shoes.  I feel more confident when I have cinched my waist, put something pretty on my feet, straightened my hair, spritzed some happy perfume, and applied makeup.  Just because I want to look cute doesn’t mean that I want to in reality be killing my feet or go overboard with obsession about clothing.  I like things I can mix and match and that last forever.  I love Kate Winslet’s style of simple hair and makeup and clean lines with bold colors and/or textures.  Hopefully, this ideal style will work its way into my wardrobe and I can look like a grown up while kicking butt in the academic arena.

In my preparation for leaving, I need to put away all the things I brought home from Washington and college.  To do that, I have to have room in my room for those things.  (Sorry about the repetitiveness; oy!  My excuse will be that it’s late and I’m tired…  Yes.)  Unfortunately, that means cleaning my room from top to bottom and decluttering.  Nothing is getting past me!  Every piece of clothing, each paper, and anything my mom has tossed onto my dresser is being inspected, albeit quickly, and put into a pile for laundry, donation, closet, back room / library, or trash.  So far, I’ve gotten through most of my room, not including my bookshelf and under my bed.  That was a huge accomplishment, as I had some “cushioning” shots in both knees today, which is not the most, erm, comfortable experience ever…

Anyway, among the treasures I’ve so far found are my Swarovski earrings and ring from senior year P-Ball, my stuffed golden retriever from my Dad on my 9th birthday, and letters from my dormmates and friends from 2004, the year of my partial freshman year at Gustavus.  I’ve always had weak knees, and the night before my first college exam, my friend and I were walking back from the biology tutor’s when my knees buckled.  I found out later that it wasn’t torn ligaments or cartilage, but two poor knee joints which are prone to allowing the kneecap to pop out, much like a dislocated shoulder.  I had to pull out of classes and go home for physical therapy.  I was frustrated and angry that my own body would do something like this to me, but in the end, I think it was for the best.  I believe God has a plan, and his entailed me graduating with the class of 2009 as a classics major.  If I had stayed on, I think I would have stuck to my original plan and majored in biology or another science-y discipline, like psychology.  I’ve had so many wonderful experiences because of my major and graduating class, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

I had completely forgotten about those cards and letters, and I was truly touched when I read over them again.  One of them was from a current close, sister-like friend, Ann.  She called me “mi paco” and wrote that I was “spifftacular.”  It definitely put a smile on my face and brightened my day, as I’m sure it did then.  The girls who wrote the other letters or signed the floor’s card are mostly friendly acquaintances now and we’re friends on Facebook.  They are amazing people, and even though we’re mostly out of touch, I think they’re wonderful girls.

Tomorrow I hope to conquer that bookcase and scary area under the bed, as well as my bathroom and closet.  Then it’s onward to the alcove with my desk and then (cue dramatic chord) the putting away and PACKING!  Ugh, September 19th is so close, and yet I can’t wait to be there!  So much to do…

The Berenstain Bears' messy room, looking much like mine at the moment! (Minus the Tiddlywinks!)

On the whole school front, I still don’t have much information on the scholarship.  Snail mail hasn’t produced anything official-looking in a long while (uh, hooray for catalogues?), and vague emails are trickling in.  I’ve gotten two “don’t panic” type messages thus far!

On another side note, I am mourning the death of the click-wheeled Apple iPod Nano design which has been replaced by a Touch-type interface and screen.  Being the old-fashioned kind, I’m trying to locate a new Nano to put away before they’re gone, as Apple has already replaced my beloved old design with the new one in the online store.

I haven’t been terribly scholarly since I’ve been home, which is fine and allows me to read modern novels instead of thousand-year-old poetry, and so listen to more distracting modern music instead of studious symphonic tracks, but it’s putting me off my blogging goal.  I apologize if my much more personal musings aren’t quite as interesting and neutral as the venting or rambling I tend to do…  I do recommend The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, the prequel to the amazing, fantastic, shout-it-from-the-rooftops-good The Shadow of the Wind.  Also, I recently got The Lais of Marie de France after studying Lanval (Arthurian legend) and Bisclavret (about a werewolf whose wife betrays him).

As for preparations thus far for my trip, I’ve gotten some important pieces for grad school life recently, and am planning on buying black rain boots and glasses, as well.

First, my grown up bookbag:

by TheLeatherStore, Etsy

I got the black one, which is a large, zippered bag with a long, crossbody strap and two handles.  It’s large enough for my laptop and some books, and the seller assured me that it would be large enough for everything I need.  She uses this bag, herself, and tosses in books, lunch, makeup, and her computer!

Secondly, my pride and joy splurge:

Coach Julia Wallet

My searching for a good zippered wallet was not going well, and I happened to just check out a Coach wallet on sale at Dillard’s.  The shape and details were exactly what I was looking for, but I wasn’t really into a wallet that was A) covered in the signature Coach “C” pattern or B) so bloody expensive!  I bought it, and then went to Macy’s to look for a bag like I ultimately found on Etsy (see above).  There, at the Coach display, was the same wallet I had just bought in a beautiful silver with a lavender interior.  I loved it, and wound up taking the first patterned wallet back the next day in order to buy the plain silver one.  So, waiting in its wrapping is my first Coach piece.  It’s my extravagant purchase for the move, and money did come out of savings, but I love it and am reassured by their lifetime warranty!

The pieces I’m getting for school are all things that need replacing (bookbag–my lovely college backpack’s straps began to fall apart while at UW) or that I haven’t had the need for as a resident of fairly warm climates.  Minnesota’s winters got pretty cold (!!!), but I was lucky to live a maximum 15 minutes from any place I needed to go.  Plus, snow can be brushed off, whereas rain is a bit more of a soaking issue.  As I’m truly minimizing my belongings now, both that I will pack for the UK and keep in my room, I want pieces that define me.  I’m cleaning out everything in order to make room for a new beginning, and this change begins with my everyday pieces.

Several things are probably apparent about me on this blog.  I love books.  I love reading.  I love learning.  I am a nerd, and am proud of it.  I also have an actual plan for the future, which I didn’t have a year ago.  About a week ago, I stopped into my history professor’s office to chat about my paper.  My research led to talking about graduate school and my future studies in Durham, as well as jobs in the future.  I loved talking with this professor, because I think she’s a lot like me, and instead of simply being blunt and saying my career path is wrong (like a couple of professors have done because they’ve had a hard time finding jobs), she talked through what I want to do and why and how I want to go about it.  She asked tough questions, was honest about her experiences, and took time to listen to the reasons why I want to be in an interdisciplinary program.  She listened to me, instead of scoffing (like Professor X did when I said I wanted to study both classical literature and medieval literature), or saying I seemed anxious in class, even though I was one of the few who didn’t complain about the course load (again, Professor X), or offering unwanted and unneeded advice when the Professor hadn’t had me in class (Professor Z).  This professor listened and encouraged me to fight for my dreams.

I told her that classics was so attractive to me because I could study language, literature, history, and art in a time period instead of placing emphasis on one area of study.  Yes, literature is my favorite, but I don’t think I get much out of the literature if the history and social conventions aren’t explained.  A literature class can be amazing without any historical context, but my knowledge lacks depth.  In addition, just studying something in translation fails at truly demonstrating the genius behind a particular text, and some of the magic is lost.  I believe to understand art, one must know the history behind it and the artist’s contemporaries.  To understand texts, one must appreciate the original language and the political and societal friction surrounding the construction of that text.  I want my specialty to be in literature, but I don’t think I will understand the material to the best of my ability or be able to teach that material without a solid foundation in other subjects concerning the medieval time period.  Likewise, I wouldn’t appreciate Chaucer or Dante without a strong background in the ancient classics and antiquity.

In addition to being buoyed by her advise and experiences, I’ve been finding an abnormally high amount of inspirational pictures, mostly thank to that time sucker called Stumble Upon.  I’ve picked up the habit of saving photos I love after seeing them online in my iPhoto library so that I can share them later.  These images serve several purposes for me: they inspire me and remind me why I’m slaving over a paper or pulling all nighters after I’ve graduated and am non-matriculated.  They make me happy and represent some aspect of my personality and my life.  They remind me of my friends, and in posting them, I hope to inspire them and let them know I miss, love, and appreciate them.

Here are some of my favorites I’ve saved lately:


I much prefer talking over typing of any kind.  Verbal communication seems to have gone the way of the dinosaurs since texting, Facebook, Twitter, AIM, and e-mail has become so prevalent.  Instead of zapping a quick message, like “ur comin 2 teh coffe ship? i cn get u sumthin. wht do u lyk?” (but let’s be realistic; almost no text messages have more than one thought, let alone three) we should go back to the time when each communication was carefully thought out.  A message, like any in the Paston Letters, (see more on Paston and the “Valentine” letter here) had to travel more than a few seconds to reach the intended recipient and went through a chain of scribes, messengers, and relatives before actually getting to that recipient.  Like in Sense and Sensibility, a correspondence with a person of the opposite sex was a big deal, and demonstrated true affection and attachment.

The 'Valentine' Letter, Paston Letters

I’m not saying that we should all go back to a time where a select few could read and write or to a period when girls were scandalous if they dallied with men.  No.  I’m saying that we should mean what we write and focus on knowing the people we speak to.  That’s probably hypocritical coming from a blog, but I’m trying to veer my blogged thoughts into a more constructed, academic frame.  I save pictures, sites, and thoughts I love for later use and try to incorporate my academics into whatever I’m typing about (see Paston Letters, above).  I usually go through at least two drafts before I post something, because I want it to mean something to whomever reads it.  I want it to mean something to me when I look back on my thoughts years from now.

Also, whatever happened to stationary?  I hardly ever get notes in the mail that are written on honest-to-God stationary.  You know, the stuff you buy in boxes with matching paper and envelopes?  My mom keeps the tradition somewhat alive when she sends me a package with a handwritten note on top, but that’s about it.  After my insane 10 day race to the Spring Quarter Finish Line is over, I want to take the amazing stationary I’ve bought and take time to write.  My friends and family mean a great deal to me, and I think that’s why I spend money on quality cards for special occasions.  Plus, as I hope is apparent, I love to write.

You’re probably thinking, “So… what happened to talking?”  Yes, I do like to talk with people, but I know that isn’t always the best way to communicate.  I leu of talking face-to-face or on the telephone, I propose that we write more letters.  Letters are things we can preserve, like photographs, and each one can tell so much about the author and the recipient.  Handwritten letters are precious things, and I want to help make the practice a larger part of my life.

Okay, now to bring in the academic side of things.

Manuscripts were written by those in the church.  The scribes copied things down onto vellum that they thought were worth saving.  It’s a miracle that Beowulf survived, though it is probably due to the fact that he became a Christian warrior in the saga as opposed to an actual Anglo-Saxon warrior.  It’s interesting what ends up in manuscripts.  In my outlaws class, I learned that the tale of Gamelyn survived because it was found with the Canterbury Tales, and so was thought to be Chaucer’s work, a draft of the Yeoman’s Tale, or a source for that tale.  It was put into manuscripts and copied alongside actual Chaucer.

Materials were hard to come by, so an ordinary message was written on a wax tablet, which was encased in wooden coverings to protect the wax and the writing, so that it could be smoothed over to receive a reply.  Again and again and again.  No sentimentality here.  Vellum was expensive, so only the wealthy could commission books.  The material was so special that old manuscripts were used as the covering on the backs of the covers so that virgin vellum could be used for print people wanted to read at the time of production.

We’ve taken letters and writing for granted, and I, for my part, am going to steadily appreciate those things.

My Writing Manifesto:

  • No more abbreviations, unless they are correct and needed.
  • I will continue to use spelling and grammar correctly, and won’t skip either because I’m in a hurry or am “just texting back.”
  • I will reply to long e-mails and other letters with letters, unless the news inside is of an immediate nature.
  • I will use Facebook more as a tool for bits of information and for a long piece of news intended for many people.
  • I will write one letter a week, even if it’s rather short.
  • I will practice my cursive in these letters.

Okay, people.  The mailboxes are waiting…