I’VE SUBMITTED!!!

Works cited: yeex3.blogspot.com

In a few months, bar any unforeseen complications, I will have my Master of Arts degree in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from Durham University.  In a way, I feel as though I haven’t done enough work to warrant a degree even though I know I have.  This year has gone by so quickly.  All told (not including bibliographies), I’ve written roughly 32,601 words in five modules.  My dissertation alone was 14,615 words (roughly 43 A4-sized pages) and six pages of bibliography!  I’ve written and rewritten my PhD research proposal about 5 times and edited it for two separate institutions.  I’ve been on the train for roughly an entire day, spent around three days in airplanes (including the Christmas delay at Heathrow which kept us at the gate for an extra 5 or so hours).  I’ve watched countless hours of iPlayer, spent too many pounds to count on library fees and fines (damn recall!), and drunk at least an Olympic-sized pool’s volume of tea.  I’ve cried out of frustration and sadness, missed several weddings, and seemingly broke two hearts.

Works cited: cupcakesx3.onsugar.com

It’s been an eventful year, and at the end I’m so incredibly grateful for the degree that will result from my work and the friends I’ve gained.  They’ve made the journey worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears.

At first I was like:

Works Cited: gradnessmadness

 

But now I’m all:

Works Cited: happygrimace

 

I’ll update on Monday!

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 learned this last week unofficially from the English postgraduate office, but today I got the official news:

I’ve been accepted for the English PhD program here at Durham!

Yes!  If all goes well, I’ll be here next year (preferably with funding) working with the department and advisors I love, writing and studying literature I love, and being in a place I love!  Plus, “Dr. Hulke” does have a nice ring to it!

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.

In the spirit of the wonderful new film, Toy Story 3, my roommate and I had a long discussion over dinner one night about toys we played with and toys the current generation has.  I remember having a large, blue, plastic Fisher Price easel, which helped to train me as the best artist in my first and second grade classes.  (Sadly, the artistic ability and perfectionism ruined any future career plans in that field.)  I had actual wooden blocks, Legos which were not from special $200 sets that boxed one into building one particular thing, Barbies, My Little Ponies, a plethora of stuffed animals, an American Girl doll with furniture made by my grandfather, honest-to-God real Golden Books, and King’s Quest games which required my dad to type instructions instead of pointlessly pointing and clicking.  Ryan also had many of the toys listed above, including a few race cars and action figures.  These toys fueled our imaginations, and enabled us to spend hours and hours by ourselves, creating new worlds and fantastic relationships among our toys.  Who says a teddy bear and a Barbie can’t date?  What do you mean that a Lego house can’t live inside the plastic refrigerator?  Why can’t Kirsten be the shepherdess of the ponies?

Kirsten, my American Girl Doll

High Flier, my favorite My Little Pony of all time

Now, the world seems to be filled with cheap imitations of the toys I remember.  I’m hard-pressed to find a quality kickball or set of blocks in this day and age; believe me, I’ve tried.  Everything seems to either run on batteries, talk, or need a television.  What happened to quality counting for something?  Despite the feminists’ understandable rage against Barbie, and I’m including myself in that group most of the time, Barbie is an excellent role model.  Her multitude of career paths foster creative thinking and problem solving, as well as show young girls that women can be astronauts, military personnel, and doctors.  Sure, there are the usual cheerleaders, teachers, and fashion models, but there’s a good balance of “independent” and “strong” female careers and supposed Barbie personas which blend in with the “soft” and “feminine” options.  I am going towards a career as a teacher, myself, which fits right into that stereotypical female career range, but for a time during my childhood, I could imagine myself as a politician, a firefighter, and a CEO through my Barbies.  Not to mention, they had fabulous clothes and furniture.  My allowance usually went into acquiring new clothes and pieces for the house I’d create under my mom’s desk.  I even set up a “shop” in one of Barbie’s cases, creating the hangers out of pipecleaners and tags out of small, cut pieces of tape.  (Of course, I stopped playing with Barbies by 1996, so I don’t think any of the scandalous costumes had surfaced yet.  And Bratz?  Don’t get me started…)

Australian Barbie, my first "nice" doll in my copious collection and an example of the kinds of Barbies I chose and played with as a child

I’ve made the decision to limit my future children’s exposure to commercial Dora video games and dumbed-down versions of the toys I once had.  Nothing I buy or create for my child will be a cut-and-paste scenario; the fun in being a child and in playtime is that anything is possible.  I wouldn’t have been the person I am today without such a wonderful, creative childhood, and I am determined to forbid any toys from boxing in my children.

Bridal Beauty My Little Pony, my second favorite MLP, often cast as High Flier's mommy

Long live playtime, and thanks to all the dedicated toymakers out there who understand the importance of a well-crafted and simple toy.

Or play with a toy...

I haven’t been home at my parents’ house since November, until now.  I just got in today and am fired up to finish my research paper and get some R&R that only home can provide.

There are many things I don’t like about home: it’s messy, it’s boiling hot, my dog’s hair is over everything…  However, it’s still home, and as I play house as a grown adult elsewhere and figure out how I want to run my house, I have come to appreciate the comforts of home.

While one of my favorite things about being home used to be sleeping in a big bed with my cat after a brutal semester, that’s now missing.  Well, at least the cat part.  Sammy’s currently living with me in Washington, so I suppose I get to cuddle her and play with her as much as I want.  The big bed is still here, and it’s as rejuvenating as ever.

Zzzzz...

There is no large desk for me to spread my stuff onto, but somehow that’s okay when I get frequent “How’s it going?” and warm coffee from my parents.  The little things they do to show they care really add up.

I can’t explain the joy of being home other than “warm and fuzzy,” and I’m not talking about the dog hair and Oklahoma temperature again.  It’s an internal, uh, fuzziness, and I think it only comes from being where I truly belong.  I get the same feeling when I’m with my best friends from Gustavus.  However, there I inevitably am overly careful to be a good guest.  It’s nice to literally be able to put my feet up and relax.