A List of Things.

  1. It’s been awhile since I last posted. I know.
  2. It’s Halloween! Which means I eat a little candy and sit in my room, maybe watch a movie. (I haven’t watched one yet. I will do so after I’ve posted here.) My parents had a strict cut-off date for trick-or-treating: in 6th grade, you’ve officially outgrown it.
  3. My poster fell down. I’m not allowed to use thumb tacks to hang my posters up, but that tacky rubber stuff I’m supposed to use anyways sucks.
  4. I just brushed my teeth. But I still want to eat candy. Gah.
  5. I’m reading Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. It’s pretty good so far.
  6. I’m starting Nanowrimo tomorrow — National Novel Writing Month. On top of my seven classes and attempted adjustment to college life, I’m going to attempt to write 50,000 words in one month. I can’t tell if I’m an optimist or a fool at this point, if there’s even a difference.
  7. I’m listening to “Monsieur’s Departure” by Qntal. It’s a New Agey song based off “On Monsieur’s Departure” by Queen Elizabeth 1 (1533 – 1603).
  8. Everybody else appears to be going to parties and dressing up. You know, having “fun.” I feel very disconnected from other people right now — barely human, just some wisp sitting at a desk and typing out barely-formed ideas.

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That Orange Kitty

So, the name’s a tad obvious. But I am very bad at naming things.

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There are many strays around Sweet Briar College. This cat, who I refer to mostly as “That Orange Kitty,” is very friendly. S/he wanders about the parking lot behind the library. When I took this picture, s/he came right up to me and purred, inviting me to pet him/her. (It’s hard to tell whether this cat is a he or a she. Either he’s fixed or she’s a girl.)

My Early/Medieval Britain professor read out some statistics today: in the month of July, over 100 stray cats were rescued in our county. Less than 20 were adopted. The rest were euthanized. About 40 stray dogs were rescued. Over 50 were adopted.

I love cats more than I love history. More than I love old books and strange-scented tea bags and my laptop. It breaks my heart to have these statistics read to me. Do I know if they’re accurate? Well, those ones I just listed should be taken with a grain of salt because I have a terrible memory. (They are within 10 animals, more or less — I can promise that much.) But do I know if my professor had the right statistics? Do I know the source in her hands was accurate?

And the little voice inside me says, who cares? If even one cat died because no one adopted her, how can my heart not be broken?

My Early Britain professor, you’ll be glad to know, adopts strays who are about to be euthanized. She takes in a lot of cats. Sometimes she has them in her office with her — one day last week, she had brought a fluffy gray kitten named Godzilla into class with her.

And I think this is the sort of person I’ll be when I grow into a house and a job and a life — I’ll be that woman who takes in stray cats, or who at least leaves out food for them around my property. Perhaps I will walk into shelters and save them from the kill room. Because I love cats.

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Founder’s Day

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So, Founder’s Day was Friday.

It seems a little strange to celebrate and mourn the college’s founder at the same time. The people here are incredibly aware of their history here — the story of the college’s founder, Indiana Fletcher Williams, whose daughter Daisy and husband John Williams both died of some disease I can never remember the name of. (It was a genetic disease.) When Indiana died, too, she left what was then Sweet Briar Plantation to a board of trustees to turn the plantation into a college for women. And apparently, in her will, she specified that everyone must commemorate her dead daughter, for some reason.

So we do. Every year, apparently. We march up to Monument Hill, where the three bodies are buried, and we read the Lord’s Prayer, and bits from Isiah and Psalms, and sing Amazing Grace. And then everyone places a daisy on Daisy’s grave. I wish I had thought to bring my camera, but you’ll have to be content with the picture above.

It’s a long walk up to Monument Hill. Very long. My legs were beyond sore by the time I got up there; and I was one of the very last ones who made it back to the main part of campus. And on Friday, the sun had been bright and hot; more so for me, because my hair goes almost down to my waist and it ends up sticking to the back of my head and weighing me down.

A huge monument stands up there, at the top of Monument Hill. I suppose that’s where it gets its name. An angel stands at the top of a huge stone plinth, high above, so high I had to crane my head back to see it. On its base was inscribed the names of the founder’s family — of Elijah Fletcher, Indiana’s father; of Indiana herself, and Daisy. A separate gravestone stood at the foot of the monument, which read Daisy’s name. It’s on this smaller gravestone that everyone heaped a pile of daisies, so many it came up mid-thigh when I stood next to it.

And all of this was really lovely. But it’s not really what I focused on. At the beginning of the ceremony, they mentioned the slave burial plot, because this used to be a plantation. It’s in the South. There are over 60 slaves buried here, all with unmarked gravestones. It stands at the opposite end of campus from Monument Hill. And they mention placing a bouquet of daisies there, too, and a private moment of silence, but the entire campus was not invited to place daisies on one of their gravestones.

I don’t think Sweet Briar College is racist, or that it forgets or glosses over its past. Everyone here — especially my Honors Inquiry professor, who’s spent the past 14 years researching the history of this college — brings up the past again and again. They tell us over and over that diversity is great, that they know this used to be a plantation — that’s all the more reason to be respectful to everyone. But I wish we had a school-wide tradition of honoring those men and women in the slave burial plot, too, even if it’s not mentioned in Indiana Fletcher Williams’s will.

I think I may visit there, in the next week. I want to see that cemetery for myself, and honor it in my own way. They don’t get as much love as the founders of the college. They have their own section in the Sweet Briar Museum — a slave cabin still stands near the slave cemetery — but these are more niche things. People who like studying history/archaeology/African American studies visit the museum and the cemetery. Women interested in the past. But not all of the women studying engineering or English or psychology go down to these places.

There should be some lesson here to draw from, some storybook moral. But there’s not, really. It’s just life. People promote the understanding of the past, of honoring the dead, and it gets applied unevenly across the campus. The founders get priority. The slaves, who worked the land, get some remembrance.

There’s no active, vicious prejudice against them — they just sort of get left behind, in the discussion of the founding of the college. They, after all, did not come up with the idea to turn this place into a college. In fact, no one will likely ever know their opinions of what should have happened to the grounds they worked. They suffered something awful in life, and their graves stand unmarked in death — but I don’t think anyone on this campus will let them lie un-remembered.

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On Habits (And Changing Them)

Guess what? I’m not dead.

While I get settled into my new routine at college, I will be a bit patchy in my blogging habits. This is a fact of life.

But if you really wanted to know, there are several plans I have for changing my habits to healthier ones, now that I am at college:

  1. Changing my diet. At home, I had the excuse that my parents only liked four or five different types of vegetables, and then they liked them overboiled. But here, I have access to a dining hall with all sorts of food, and I suddenly have to decide what types of food I’m comfortable eating, what types of food I’m interested in trying, and what types of food are just nasty. This effectively means that I’ve been eating pizza, french fries, and a salad at every meal, as I establish meal times for myself. (My parents only had one main mealtime for me to attend: supper.) I need a set time for lunch and supper, and to eat more food at meals (as my typical lunch over the summer consisted of a couple handfuls of potato chips or perhaps a Michelina’s microwave supper, and that was it). I have managed this so far. Next to work on is the type of food.
  2. Changing hygiene habits. I took a shower every day at home. But here, I use body wash, too. I also brush my hair here, and (occasionally) brush my teeth. I will be attempting to brush and floss my teeth on a daily basis. (My parents are very lax. They never really enforced the brush-your-teeth routine.) I am also setting a bedtime for myself, and since school does not start at 7:00 am (as it did in high school), I can actually get a 10-hour sleep schedule while still going to bed at 10pm. (That’s from 10pm-8am, if you don’t feel like doing the math.)
  3. Changing my exercise habits. Okay, to establish any exercise habits at all. My college is nestled right at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so while the views are spectacular, it means I need to start exercising. I’m out of breath getting to my classes. This is ridiculous. So I plan on going for a walk — maybe every day, maybe every other day. It depends on whether I decide getting to my classes counts as exercise. In any case, it’ll do me good to leave my dorm room. Also, see my last post on rock climbing — every other week.
  4. Changing my study habits. In high school, I never studied. I mean, I still graduated in the top 10th of my class, but that’s more a reflection on the school than on me, in my opinion. I never did homework, or if I did, I turned it in late. I got good grades by somehow doing well on tests and quizzes, from a brief spurt of studying in the 4 minutes before class started. But here at college, my circumstances have changed. They simply give out too much information to memorize than can be studied just before class starts. And I have these huge blank spots in my schedule that I don’t know how to fill now that I don’t have a couch, TV, and several cats to keep me occupied. (For example, on Wednesdays, I have three classes in the morning — and then the entire afternoon free. What do I do for the 8+ hours I’m awake?) So, studying at the library or in my dorm room it is.

This is a rough 4-area plan of how to change my life. My life, such as it was less than a month ago, was pitiful in terms of healthiness. And it is still not what you would call “healthy.” (Pizza twice a day, let me tell you, is not healthy. It makes you feel kinda greasy. But until I’ve solidified what I like to eat, it’s a go-to food.)

But college is not about the Class of 2018. It’s not really about doing Class stuff together, not about hanging banners or “rivalries” with the sophomores or having “Class Spirit” or cheering on sports. It’s not about any of that. At its core, college is a force of change in your life, that takes away much of what you’ve known and take for granted, and in exchange it gives you a new set of skills to learn and new, hopefully better habits for you to grow into.

And since my old habits have been washed away, I need to adapt. I have been adapting, in small ways, ways I don’t notice unless I am writing blog posts specifically about them. But at the back of my mind, I know I’m changing. And I know I’m adapting. And hopefully, I am adapting to healthy new habits that will lead to a new woman.

TS Eliot Quote

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Rock Climbing

So, yesterday I went rock climbing.

As we drive into the city, I take note of it. I’ve only been into (any) city a couple of times; where I’m from, it’s mostly suburban residences and the occasional Wal-mart and Food Lion and school and library. This city, closest to us, sprawls across the horizon like an indolent actress; at night, when we leave the college grounds and head towards the rock climbing gym, the lights shine bright and yellow, the buildings blacker against the dark sky.

Most abundant in this city are hills, steep inclines; and second most abundant are churches and antique stores. It’s an unusual place, a city: people stand on the sidewalks, cars drive too fast, and walking around, you could find most anything you wanted, be it a restaurant, a secondhand furniture shop, a Criminal Justice Academy (right across the street), or a rock climbing gym. At the same time, the concrete sidewalks beneath your feet are cracked, the buildings crowd tall over your head, and their brick surfaces appear rough and dignified.

And then we walk into the rock climbing gym. The lights are not too bright, but the climbing walls are high. I nearly wondered at the significance of putting mats beneath them, because if you fell, how much good would they do? Of course, I’v never really been rock climbing, so I have nothing to judge against. Perhaps the walls are of average height. It doesn’t particularly matter. They are tall to me.

They show the first-timers a video about how to put on the safety harness, the basics of clipping yourself to the rope, what to do when you are climbing and what to do when you are the spotter, keeping the rope taut and keeping the climber in the air when they let go of the wall to rest or come down.

I manage a few climbs, and a couple times “booleying”. My fingers ached after the first time keeping someone in the air; my knees went weak after the first climb. I never make it to the top of the wall, but I make it halfway up before I look down and my stomach clenches and my head grows dizzy. It’s not really the height affecting me — it’s trusting the other person not to let me fall from that height. And I don’t really know anyone going on this trip, except my RA, who I’ve never talked to. But I never fall. Letting go of the wall to rest or to be lowered is terrifying. Clinging to the wall is a kind of comfort, but without it, you’re simply stranded in the air with a safety harness and a rope to keep you from plunging to serious injury.

By the time we get back to campus, my fingers are sore, and when I take a shower, squeezing the shampoo bottle makes my arms ache. But I go to bed pretty happy. This is a new experience to ponder over, one I never really thought I’d have the courage or the will to try.

It’s a strange experience, to try something new. I’ve spent most of my life in my bedroom at home, reading books, listening to music or reading internet articles on my laptop. Over the summer, in fact, I left my house only once or twice a week, and that to go to Wal-Mart.

But here, I have to learn new things. I am not dependent on anyone now; I don’t have to inform my parents I’m leaving my dorm room and going rock climbing. I don’t even have to inform my room mate. No one is forcing me to go anywhere, or leave my room for anything except classes. But I have to keep myself doing something, anything, or I will go slowly crazy sitting in this room.

And honestly, I think I might try this experience again. That is not an experience I have ever associated with any physical activity. But I kind of like this new something.

Walt Whitman Quote

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Weekends

So, 

Yea. Yesterday morning, I am about to take a shower when a girl and her boyfriend come stand outside the doorway to the bathroom.

 

Boy: Are you about to use the bathroom?

Me (holding up my towel and shower caddy): Yea, I’m about to take a shower… so…

 

There’s no “boys” and “girls” bathrooms here. Which seems rather obvious in hindsight, considering this is an all girl’s college… but I probably should have seen the whole “invites boyfriends over on Fridays” thing coming. I mean, I don’t invite mine over, mainly because I don’t have a boyfriend. But I probably should’ve foreseen other girls doing so.

They have a sign on the door instead. WOMEN is written on one side, while MAN IN THE CAN is written on the other. Which is a decent solution to this problem, but it’s awkward checking the sign and then skedaddling back to my dorm room when I have to pee.

In other news, I spent way too much on posters during a poster sale the other day. Now I have some poster choosing to do: which ones can go to my sister, which to my mother, and which I can keep.

Yea, one of them is of Starry Night. It's classy. It's easily recognizable. And I just love the swirls.

Yea, one of them is of Starry Night. It’s classy. It’s easily recognizable. And I just love the swirls.

Otherwise, I have to study.

  • Greek homework: accents on nouns/verbs (practice).
  • Early/Medieval Britain: chapter 2 of my textbook (dry as dust).
  • English: questions on Memorial (Oswald), “Blood Rites: the Religion of War” (Ehrenreich), and “War” (Bennett, Royle). Edit and print out copy of my essay on “The Loneliness of the Military Historian” (Atwood).
  • Introduction to Archaeology: read chapters 1 and 2 of a textbook I do not own yet.
  • Etc. etc. etc.

 It looks like a lot, but when it comes down to it, I can’t really study when the only textbook that showed up in the mail is the one for Early/Medieval Britain. Which is dry, and dense, and I’ll get around to reading it probably a few hours before class.

It’s Sunday, which is nice, although I have no clue if the Chapel here does Sunday Services or not. They mentioned bible study groups — a whole bunch of them — and shuttles to other churches, but nothing about when a Sunday Service might start here. They do have a Buddhist-Christian group on Wednesday, though, which I only know because there are signs up for it. I might go. Meditation, inclusion and respect for all types of people — I could roll with that.

Anyways, have a blessed day. Here’s one of my favorite worship songs on this lovely afternoon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub56L5AYyEM

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Fun Facts

Fun Fact: You can totally have male teachers at an all-girl’s college. Of my seven classes, three of them are taught by guys (all of them white guys, for whatever reason. But this is the South.) In fact, the college president is also a (white) guy.

Fun Fact: Our college president, who is not only white but old, looks quite a bit like Alex Trebek from Jeopardy. If I ever refer to him in a post on this blog again, that is how I will refer to him, because that is just how I privately refer to him: President Alex Trebek. 

Fun Fact: My Early/Medieval Britain teacher keeps cats in her office. Stray cats. Whom she names strange, wonderful names, like Ovid and William the Conqueror. 

Fun Fact: they serve pizza and fries at every meal time here. I haven’t been to breakfast (I don’t wake up early enough), but I am about 50% sure they serve it then, too.

Fun Fact: There are cave paintings from over 30,000 years ago located in France. And they are still better drawings than anything I could manage.

Fun Fact: getting through English class is next to impossible when you don’t yet have a copy of the book you’re supposed to be reading. Side effects include a headache, hand cramps from writing down everyone else’s perspectives on the book, and a sense of surprise when you manage to pull some intelligent opinion about it out of thin air.

 

Odin is not a stray. Nor is he with me at college. But he is adorable.

Odin is not a stray. Nor is he with me at college. But he is adorable.

 

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What I Wish I Had Thought to Bring With Me to College

  1. Forks and spoons. (Luckily, a nice young woman down the hall gave me a few plastic forks and spoons so I may eat my rice, peanut butter, and cereal without having to use measuring spoons.)
  2. Extra towels. (I have only two, and a lack of will to do laundry.)
  3. Pots, pans, a colander, and cookie sheets. (How else can I cook my pasta, when the dorm kitchen is so bare?)
  4. More juice. (Oh, how I love mango juice. I ran out is just a couple days.)
  5. Money. (From a job which I did not get over the summer. I really wish I had tried to find a job and money over the summer.)
  6. A driver’s license. (Which I also do not have, because my parents need to reminded every day, and I do not particularly like driving enough to beg for it every day. But it would still be very useful to have.)
  7. More books. (I actually barely have enough room as it is for the books I did bring with me. But I still regret not bringing a whole library with me.)
  8. More food. (I don’t like leaving my dorm room, okay?)

 

James ch1 v2-3 

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Hello.

This is the obligatory first post. You have to start somewhere, right? 

So, let me begin with my name. Or a name. Call me Jess. Jabberwocky Jess. I am a college freshman, a first-year, a girl way out of her depth. I go to an all women’s college. This is about all you will get out of me in that regard.

So, why am I starting a blog if I am uncomfortable with even giving out my name or what college I’m going to? Partly, because I want a record — an online record of my emotions, pictures, intelligence, as I grow into a rose away from home. There is something mildly exciting and intimidating in the decision to go to college. There is no hiding in my bedroom, no excuse for not studying or being social or leaving the dorm room. 

(This is not to say that I’m not trying. I plan on holing up for weekend in my dorm room, studying or reading a book. But I have to come outside to breathe fresh air eventually, mainly because my classes – sadly – do not take place in the same building.)

The other reason I start this blog is as a test. It is a test to my reliability as a narrator and my faith in myself, to maintain a weekly schedule that I set myself to, rather than a college professor who requires my attendance. If I can maintain a blog, I can maintain a study schedule, a writing schedule, or a work schedule, because I can keep myself to my own self-imposed deadlines.

Hold up. A writing schedule, did I say? Yes. I not only pay through the nose to study textbooks and sit in my dorm room all day, I also write books for fun. I haven’t published anything yet, but a writer is a writer, no matter how small. 

I shall get around to posting this information about myself in a nice little box on the side of my blog there, but for now — this being the only post you can read — you may glean my personality from my posts. 

Have a blessed day.

 

RWE Quote

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