Well, we’re here. At the end of the semester. Most of our exams have come and gone*; memories were had, friends were made, and we are slowly coming to the process of goodbyes, both for those of us who aren’t coming back next semester and for those who have had all of their finals and returned back to their homes to prepare for another semester of learning.
I personally accomplished a lot of things; I will use this space to reflect on them. Seeing as I am leaving for Prague in a little more than a month now, I thought I should consider what I have done and what I should do better next time around. Here goes!
This is the thing I wrote at the bottom of the actual to-do-list that I have tacked up on my wall. I wrote down “get good grades” and underneath I wrote a caveat for one of my classes that I feel like I haven’t done so well in. When I noticed that, I crossed it out, and wrote “NO NEGATIVITY” in capital letters at the bottom.
It’s like a Secret Santa, but it’s not. Rachel called it that last year, and the name stuck. Me and my friends do this in the interest of getting one another more than just fuzzy socks and candy canes.*
Because Hanukkah just finished and because Christmas is coming up, I thought I would share the saga of my gift-giving adventures with you.
In which Daniel Wolfert and the Seattle-based, bipolar singer-songwriter, spoken word poet Mary Lambert have something in common.
To Mary Lambert,
I would like to think that, across my seven semesters at the University of Puget Sound, I have learned much, yet when I think back, what comes to mind first and foremost is the ability to inconspicuously cry in public. The key is breathing. Few people notice tears, but they notice if your breath becomes uneven. Inconspicuous crying is simply a matter of steady breathing.
I’ve had many opportunities to make use of this ability. As a freshman, when I didn’t have many friends, I would sit in the piano lounge outside of Diversions Café and read all sorts of fiction. Much of it was sad, and made me cry. Much of it was not sad, and still I cried.
One recent opportunity, however, was at your concert on November 6th at the University. I wrote an article about the performance for the student newspaper, The Trail, found here (http://trail.pugetsound.edu/?p=13138), but it did not describe the moment in the concert that struck me personally. That moment was your poem, “Lay Your Head Down.”
The poem, found in the video below, was your only performance that night that I was not already familiar with. I knew all the songs you played, but this poem took me by surprise, and I found my head in my hands, sobbing uncontrollably.
I admit that my technique was poor. My breathing was ragged, and probably obvious to my fellow audience members. But I could not stop. I cry because you are a rare role model for queer people, and people with mental illness, and women, and all human beings. I cry because no matter how many friends I make, I cannot shake the feeling that I have no friends and I have never had friends and will never have friends. I cry because I want children. I cry because I’m afraid I will never have children.
I cry because the world is so loud. I cry because people do terrible things to one another and I know that this is to be expected and I cry because I know this is to be expected. I cry because there are young men whose hands I wish I could hold and whose shoulders I wish I could cry into. I cry because they could never feel the same way about me. I cry because it’s not their fault, and it’s not mine, but it’s still so unfair to have so much love and no one to give it to.
I cry because I am so blessed to be sitting in this coffee shop overlooking the Puget Sound, and because the world is so big but the horizon is so wide and has been waiting for me to run to it all this time. I cry because, like you, I live so well.
The semester seems to have moved faster than usual. As I’m sitting in the airport, headed for home, writing this, and despite the gray clouds covering the sky and finals being over, it still feels like it should be September. So much has happened, these last few months, and it still seems absurd that in less than eight hours I will be home.
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned this semester:
Resist the urge to just do the bare minimum. It’s easy to skim over readings, take half-hearted notes. It doesn’t matter if the professor is wonderful or terrible, you’ll get less out of the class if you don’t put in the effort. Thinking critically will allow you to evaluate the world in a different light. It will enable you to think of other people complexly.
Write down funny quotes that your friends say. Maybe add context, for later purposes. But you’ll look back at those quotes and be reminded of the moment and that is important.
You should go watch school sports. This was a strange one for me, because I don’t particularly dislike sports, in fact I rather enjoy watching both soccer and basketball. Much to my own surprise, I manage to get wrapped up in the game, in the way the players interact with each other. Still, until this semester I somehow managed to not go to a single sporting event. (I know, I know.) I suppose I’m just saying: try something new. Something that you aren’t sure whether or not you’ll like. Maybe you’ll be surprised.
Pretzels dipped in Nutella is delicious.
Don’t be afraid of being honest, of being blunt. People have a way of dancing around the truth and never really saying what they want to say. Don’t do that. Don’t be afraid of what other people will think, let them know what you’re thinking.
Sometimes the timing just isn’t right.
Space out your dinning dollars, but know that if you get to the end of the semester and have none, your friends with extra will be more than happy to buy you food.
Go on walks. Tacoma is truly beautiful. Go look at the houses, at the Little Lending Library’s scattered across the streets, at the Sound.
Give your friend’s hugs.
Talk to new people. They’re nice. You’ll probably have something in common with them. Make an effort to make new friends, they’ll help you gain a different perspective on college.
Don’t forget about your old friends, though. Make them know they’re important.
Get off campus. Walk to the Met, explore Seattle, go to Frisko Freeze late at night in your pajamas, and wander around Point Defiance.
Read The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan; “Some Extensions on the Sovereignty of Science”by Alberto Rios; On Writing by Stephen King; and The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin.
Remember that it’s the little things that don’t seem important that matter the most. Those stupid moments, those times when you’re just laughing, eating breakfast with friends. Those moments are the foundations to a friendship.
Cry when you need to cry. And don’t be afraid of crying in front of other people. Your friends care about you, they want to help you. They want you to feel better as much as you want to feel better.
Let yourself have lip synch battles with your friends, even if you’re in a semi-public place. Also: improv rap battles.
Don’t put off things until the last minute and get a good night’s sleep. Especially before tests.
Email your teachers from high school. I read this poem in high school and I could only remember a few lines (“My student wrote star smoke, star love, star cape… / into poem after poem and told me once that her father / never said he loved her”) and pointlessly spent hours attempted to google the lines to figure it out. Eventually, I decided to email my high school English teacher, as I read the poem in her Creative Writing class junior year. She wonderfully emailed me back the poem and asked me how school was going. Don’t loose those connections.
Have weird conversations, have deep conversations.
Know that you don’t know everything. You’ll never know everything. And that’s okay.
Today was my last day at UPS. It kind of snuck up on me. It was a bit like going down a water slide. You’re just lying back looking at the ceiling, when suddenly it occurs to you that you’d better hold your breath because you’re about to be shot out into the pool. I don’t know what future holds for me. I may end up in graduate school (fingers crossed). I may end up with writing or editing job. Or I may end up working at Starbucks or some similar place while I figure out what to do next. I don’t know. The good thing is that I’ve scheduled at least an hour a day to panic about it.
But for now I’m happily ensconced in my favorite armchair with a cup of tea and a book. This is the life. To all of you who are still working hard on finals, just hang in there. The end will come and soon you will be in your own favorite armchairs. In meantime, I’d like to reflect on some of the crazier things I did in college. Normally I’m not a wild sort of person. I start every morning with a scone and a cup of tea. But I did get to do some crazy stuff in college and I’d like to share it with you.
1.) Driving in down town Tacoma when it was flooding. We had gone on a dessert run to Hello Cupcake even though it was storming out. The rain was coming down in sheets and I had to get us back by three o’clock otherwise we’d be charged extra for the Zipcar. I didn’t know the roads and some of them were too flooded to use anyway. A lot of swearing was involved, but in the end we made it. I earned those cupcakes.
2.) Rock climbing in vantage. In my junior year, I went on a PSO trip to vantage. It was my first time ever rock climbing and the group decided to do a night climb. I climbed partway and then I realized how high it was. I remember thinking to myself “beep you Eleanor Roosevelt” halfway up the rock face. When I was a child my parents gave me a magnet with an Eleanor Roosevelt quote on it, “everyday do one thing that scares you.” Well, this was scaring me all right.
3.) Taking four and a half units my second semester of junior year along with an internship and a thesis. Don’t ever do this. It’s exhausting and by the end of it you will want to punch something, either that or go cry in a corner.
I realize that to most of you these don’t sound that crazy. But I don’t like loud parties, drunk people, or risk of serious physical harm so these are my options. That’s okay though, I stretched myself and I’m really more of an armchair and tea person anyway. Except when I go out to hit the football post (I use it like a heavy bag)—but that’s another story.
Many freshmen have no idea what they want to study. They’re just getting their cores out of the way and figuring it out as they go along. That’s not the case for all freshmen though. I know a friend of mine who is double majoring and minoring. Poor guy. We’re only freshmen and he knows that the years ahead will be hell academics-wise.
Meanwhile, I’ve only figured out what I want to major in, Geology. I like Geology, it’s neat. We can learn so much from rocks, like the atmosphere of the Earth millions of years ago or the effects of pollution on aquatic species. Okay, both of those are a bit of a stretch, but studying rocks and minerals can yield a whole world of information.
But I also want to minor in something. I’m split between Communication Studies and Computer Science. I enjoy both topics. I’ve been extremely passionate about computers my whole life, working for a tech company the last 2 summers. But communication is just so fascinating. How communication has evolved from noises our mouths make to invisible signals in the air to text on a screen is mind boggling. I wish I could pick both.
Too bad I can’t. I mentioned that my friend was double majoring and minoring. I don’t remember the specific majors and minors he is going for, but the only reason he is able to do that is that they all overlap with one another. Classes will fulfill the requirements for multiple majors and minors. Geology doesn’t overlap with either of my potential minors. I can only pick one or the other.
So now I’m stuck. Do I opt for something I’m passionate in or something I’m interested in? Or do I toss everything out the window and pursue my lifelong dream to be a professional puppy cuddler? Decisions, decisions.
I really should go to sleep. None of this worrying will matter if I don’t do well on my finals.
Hey guys! Since it’s the first day of Reading Period and you all already know how close exams are, I’m going to cut to the chase and write down some tips to help reduce some of that anxiety and stress that happens before exams. So, here goes!
1) DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. I know, I know, everyone says this, but it is so massively important that this is number one on the list anyway. Reading period is here for a reason! Take advantage of it!
2) Do a little bit of work every single day. This might not be as feasible if you have an 8 AM final on Monday, but if you start now, then your studying will be a lot more effective than if you cram for an hour before the test.
3) If you have a big paper, outline it! I know — who does outlines anymore? But if you have multiple massive papers, it might be a good idea to just throw some things down in a separate Word document like your thesis, your main points, and the evidence you’re going to use. Yes, it’s a bit of work, but it takes loads of time and energy off of your final paper, and it will be better organized too!
4) De-stress yourself! Yes, I know, I just told you to do some work every day, but it’s up to you how much you do. Do just a bit, and do some activities that you’ll enjoy as well! Otherwise you’re going to burn out before taking the test, and nothing is less fun than taking a test that you absolutely could not care less about at that moment in time because you didn’t take ANY time off.
5) Building off of that, keep all-nighters to a minimum. I myself have stayed up three days in a row one finals week, and I don’t plan on doing that again if I don’t have to; while my school work turned out okay, I was a wreck for at least a week after doing that. In some cases, it’s necessary to stay up to get work done or because you can’t sleep because you’re worried about the test and literally can’t, but in cases where it’s not absolutely necessary? Don’t.
6) Keep caffeine consumption to a minimum. Caffeine may be the nectar of the gods, but too much of it can impair your focus. Sleep when you need to, and leave just a little bit of coffee for when you REALLY need it.
7) Drink water! This is especially relevant advice for Reading Period. Staying hydrated can help with a lot of things, including dehydration headaches and improving your focus.
8) Eat at least one meal of actual food a day. I know that everyone is busy, and that it’s just easier to eat the entire package of Oreos lying around in your room than go to the sub, but it’s much easier and more helpful to get actual nutrients in your system if you’re going to be using your brain a lot.
9) If you can’t sleep before an exam (like me), you can do one of two things — first, you could just prepare to go to bed like you’re actually going to sleep, and just lay there with your eyes closed. Attempt to empty your mind, even though it’s difficult. Then, just do that for the few hours you have before your exam. The other thing you could do is channel that energy into studying, which, while it could help, works better for big papers than actual sit-down tests. Either way, do not just stay up doing nothing and drinking caffeine, that will make you an actual zombie when you take your test; if it were me and my test, I would avoid that.
And finally, 10) Do whatever works for you! A lot of these tips are just things that I personally find helpful — this means that if you have something even more effective than this, go ahead and do it!
Good luck on your exams, everyone! <3 I wish you the best grades and the least amount of stress!