Sunday, 11 December 2011

In Which I Ramble About Exams & Books;

That may be the most expositional title I've ever used.

Hi! So, I'm blogging from a place of no deadlines, no responsibilities, and no clutter on my desk, also known as the CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS :D!!!!

Of course, to get here I had to traverse the nightmare landscape that is exams. Let's recap, shall we?

Well, Classics was cancelled on Thursday due to Death Winds, or Hurricane Bawbag if you're from this neck of the woods. Friday was double English, Language in the morning and Literature in the afternoon. Language was one of those 30 multiple-choice EDPAC sheets you have to fill in with an HB pencil. It started at 9.30, most people were done by 10, and they wouldn't let us leave until the exam ended at 11, so I got to sit for an hour contemplating the fact that this was theee worst piece of crap I've ever handed in. At one point I got so bored I started counting the fleur-de-lis on the columns.

Outside, where it continued to be frost-bitingly freezing, I checked my phone and amongst other things, there was a message from Meejin saying 'Good luck good luck we all wish you good luuuuuuuuuck' as Phoebe Buffay sings. Then I headed to the QMU to meet my friend who was just in the same exam but in a different Hogwarts hall, and we spent the next hour and a half wandering around Byers/Great Western Road trying to stay warm and appease her appearing and disappearing appetite. In the end we just sat upstairs in the QMU, which is charmingly rustic, with a heaped plate of gloopy macaroni cheese on one half and a mountain of chips on the other. Oh, and a can of Cream Soda for extra class. And so we counted down the minutes till it was time to fail miserably by alternately singing, whimpering and laughing. And I totally got caught in the Circle of Freak Out, whereby I started freaking out because I wasn't freaking out except I wasn't really freaking out about not freaking out, and that made me freak out, except not really. You can see where this is going, right?

The Kelvin Gallery was decked out like it was awaiting a wedding party and not two hundred English students in varying states of consciousness, and I managed to pick the only desk in my row (number 5) positioned just so behind a pillar so that I couldn't see the giant clock on the screen. My friend, sitting behind, started reading out the questions and I kind of died a little inside. There was the usual 'The exits are here, here and here' from the invigilators, the exam started and I spent the first ten minutes reading the questions over and over, knowing that I was going to have to answer 2 of them but having absolutely no idea which ones. Two hours later we emerged in a state of shock and I thought, No, actually, that was the worst piece of crap I've ever handed in.

So, yeah, I'm not getting into Honors. But that's okay. I don't need an English degree. I can always make a living at um... *thinks* ...ummm *thinks some more* ... Who am I kidding, I gotta marry rich.

Anyway, exams are over, and I now have four weeks of freedom ahead of me! I completely forgot what that feels like. You know when you have so many options that it's overwhelming and you can't pick? I reckon I'll mostly read and write and see my friends for more than a couple of hours on a Friday! And cook proper meals with real vegetables @_@. Mmm. I also promised myself that I'd get a headstart on the reading for semester two because there's a lot more of it, so don't let me forget that, okay? But right now I'm just having fun watching Friends DVDs and doing absolutely arse all and NOT FEELING GUILTY ABOUT IT :).

While I was off with the cold/studying, I somehow managed to read three novels in the space of three days. If only I could read for uni that fast @_@.

1. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher has the most awesome premise I've heard in a while. So simple, and yet so compelling! Clay Jensen (ignore the name for now, focus on the story) comes home from school one afternoon to find a shoebox full of cassette tapes (LOVE!) on his doorstep. Enter Hannah Baker, who over the course of 7 tapes, 13 sides, explains the reasons, and the people, who drove her to commit suicide two weeks earlier. Creepy, right? I loved this book enormously, but I'll spare you a review and cart myself over to Amazon instead.

2. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green was like the antidote to the previous book. I have a nice little story about it. A few weeks ago when I was yet again in that bookshop beginning with W and ending in an apostrophe S where I always am, Meejin and I ventured into the Young Adult section. Okay, it's less of a section and more of a corner, but whatever, it used to be merged with the kids' section to make one extended 9-15 area, and anyone over 15 was just kind of left out in the bookless cold :(. So, we go in to have a nostalgic looksie, and in amongst all the paranormal romance stuff, I spot a familiar name and begin squealing and jumping up and down. I love John Green because He Is Awesome, end of. An Abundance of Katherines was facing me, so I picked it up, flicked through the pages... and out fell some scrap lined paper. Intrigued, I opened the missives only to find they were notes for other John Green fans! Or, more specifically, Nerdfighters. You can go look that up for yourselves. Naturally, I took pictures, and then put the book back. Every time I went in to Waterstone's after that I went to see if the book was still there and if anyone had left any new notes. There's just something so romantic and exciting about it, don't you think? Complete strangers bonding over books like that, it's lovely. Then on the day I-was-v.-v.-sick-and-looked-like-I'd-been-crying-but-hadn't-been, I was once more in Waterstone's waiting for la friend, and to pass the time I went downstairs and got the book. And then proceeded to read and cough into it for the next hour and a half. After that I felt obligated to buy it, notes and all. I didn't want to because that meant I was ruining the note-leaving thing, but I also didn't want anyone else getting infected with my mega germs, so, you know. It was a selfless act, really. Anyway, I devoured that book in one sitting. It was laugh-out-loud funny, completely quirky and yet still completely grounded in reality, touching without being maudlin, and also rather politically brave! Spontaneous anagramming, footnotes, Dumpee/Dumper mathematical theorems, 19 Katherines and 1 washed-up child prodigy - what's not to love? I also now can't stop saying fug and fugging. Read the book, you'll understand.

3. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. Weren't expecting that, were ya? Well, neither was I. I bought it on a whim a couple of months ago and banished it to my drawer, but when the storm came the other day and I didn't feel like cramming, I took my mother's lead and read instead. You know the way you only intend to read the first few pages of a book and end up reading the entire goddamn thing, forgoing food and drink and sleep? Yeah. I've never seen the film, and I thought of reading the book as research, as a prelude, but it was amazing, and oh-so-creepy! The storm helped, too.

Man, if only I could make a living from reading books and then talking about them. That would be great. Or talking a lot about nothing, I could do that too.

So, I've gleefully scrunched up all my notes and chucked them in the recycle bin (eco, baby) and can once more see the surface of my desk after two months of, well, not being able to see it. And, holy freak show, how I have missed it! I could write a ballad expressing the love I have for my desk, and perhaps I will at some point, but not tonight. Just know that I love it and its little pull-out extension <3. I also signed myself up for a creative writing workshop my uni is doing through next semester, so that'll be fun :). If scary. I also think I'm falling in love with the Beach Boys. And tomato-cucumber-and-cheese sandwiches on wholemeal bread. And my heater.

Anyway, since I have nothing else of consequence to report (which is probably a good thing) and four weeks worth of podcasts to catch up on, I'll be off now! Laterzzzzzzzzz

Monday, 5 December 2011

When In Doubt;

How would you finish that sentence? Everyone will have a variation. When I'm in doubt about something I kind of grind to a halt, so I like to do something active, even if it's not a direct solution to the problem. Sometimes I cook, or clean, or go out, because the physical exertion of it makes me feel as though I'm actively working through the problem, and a lot of the time the Tetris blocks just click into place without me even thinking about it. But if I'm being honest, I implement that trio because I want to be distracted and to escape for a little while. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as I fully intend to come back. But there are times, like now, when the problem is that I'm already distracted, so instead of doing something to take my mind off the problem, I need to confront it. Writing helps me do that. Sometimes the thoughts in my head are like a big knot of string, and I need to find the ends to gently untangle it into one long coherent piece again. It might not solve the problem, whatever it is, but it helps me get things straight so I can see exactly what I'm dealing with. And then I can say okay, and compartmentalise until I have time to come back to it. It's more the vagueness of the problem that is distracting, rather than the problem itself. If I'm not entirely sure what I'm dealing with, it gets bigger and bigger in my head, so this is a way of bringing it back down to a much more manageable size.

I guess the two central pillars of the problem are 1) I have exams at the end of this week, and 2) I can't seem to study. Or maybe that should read 1) I can't seem to study because 2) I have exams at the end of this week. See, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to do terribly well in these exams. First of all because the workload this semester has been insane to the point where I've had to abandon some of the reading because there is no possible way I could get through it all in time, and secondly because I've missed a week of uni due to being ill. Two of the exams I'm not overly fussed about, but if I want to get into English Honors (which I do, duh) I need to get at least a B first time around. No resits for Honors candidates. And, okay, I've never gotten below a B before in English, but I didn't enjoy the course as much this semester, the lecturers were totally hit and miss, the texts were difficult (I gave up on Redgauntlet and Troilus & Cressida) and I'm starting to doubt my whole theory about it being scientifically impossible to fail an English exam. Me and my friend were half-greeting about what would happen if we got a C, and I honestly couldn't imagine what would happen because getting an English degree is the way my life has to go, there is no other option, I cannot allow myself to fail this round. I'd have to resit the entire year, and that idea of time being written over again and yet not actually stopping, of me not advancing and wasting 365 days, that really scares me. Because I feel like it would just be one more nail on the coffin. So much of my life is spent waiting. Sometimes I feel so passive in my own life. When I look back at how deeply unhappy I was at this time last year, I know I'm not unhappy at the moment, or at least not in the same way. Maybe dissatisfied is a better word. This image keeps recurring to me over and over again: everyone is bobbing along in this current, the water's way too deep for our toes to touch the ground, and there's just enough space between the water and the underside of the ice sheet to breathe, and I'm banging on the ice trying to break through it because I know there's something up there beyond this, but it's a solid ceiling, and I'm thinking—is this as good as it gets?*

Faced with this kind of significant failure, I should be panicking. Panicking would at least motivate me to blast through my studying. But I just feel very listless. It's not that I don't care, of course I do. It's more like I've already given up on myself. And do you know what the really pathetic part is? Earlier today, when I was all preoccupied, I was thinking it'd be so great if, just for this one week, I could switch off every other need and desire in order to direct my full attention to studying. But in truth, I only really need to switch off one. All the others are symptomatic. I know that if I could fix that one glitch in my life, I would be much happier. My life would not be perfect, and I wouldn't want it to be, but it would be much fuller and less fraught with insecurity and this stultifying enervation. It would be much more complete, without sounding trite. There wouldn't be this niggling doubt always in my mind, or this shadow waiting for me when I go to bed and the whole world is silent, or this jagged piece missing from my side. I'm not ungrateful; I never forget what I have, and in my lowest moments, remembering my friends and family is what pulls me through. But still, I hate that this thing has the power to taint everything else. I hate that it forbids me from fully enjoying what I do have. I hate it, point blank.

See, I've realised that everything does come back to it. For a long time it represented all these huge issues that slammed into me from behind and sent me sprawling; I had to grab onto something, and so it became my floatation device. I pinned everything on it, reduced everything down to that one relationship, because I thought that would be easier to deal with, if everything was in one place. And then it started to drift away, so I clung on tighter, terrified of losing it and of drowning. Eventually, I realised it wasn't about that one relationship and so I worked through the other issues, but that one remained damaged, and so now, ironically, it is the actual root of the present problems. It always is. And I'm sick of it being that way. I'm sick of it always coming back to this point, of reliving it over and over like ground hog's day and never progressing, never getting any closer to a solution. I'm tired of feeling like a fourteen year old with no right to feel what I do feel and no right to say what I need to say. I'm tired of not being able to give into the moment, or give my full attention, because it is always haunting my mind. I'm tired of being pacified like a child and not being told the truth. I'm tired of being punished for finally learning how to care about someone. I'm tired of feeling like I'm walking around in a nightmare where things do not make sense, where anything could be an illusion, where everything is inside out and I'm just - lost. I'm tired of all the reminders and associations there to trip me up and bring me right back. I'm tired of thinking in the past tense, about how it used to be, and wondering what went wrong. I'm tired of doubting myself, of thinking Are you mad? Why are you mad? Do you hate me? Why do you hate me? Did I do something wrong? What did I do wrong? Because I know I did nothing wrong. I'm tired of blaming myself, of apologising, of second-guessing my anger. I'm tired of explaining myself, proving myself, defending myself. I'm tired of trying to guess what you're thinking—I shouldn't have to do that, I should know how you feel, I should know where I am. Isn't that the only thing I have ever asked of you? To tell me where I stand, and to be honest with me? I'm tired of you saying one thing and then doing another, or saying one thing and then doing nothing. I'm tired of you allowing me to be ashamed of who I am. I'm tired of being afraid that this time you're gone forever. I'd rather you used me than left me alone. And that right there is not good.

Basically, I'm tired of waiting for you to quit being a douchebag.

I keep wishing that things could go back to normal, but then I realise - we never really had a 'normal'. It's always unhealthy, this business between me and you. Unbalanced and unfair. We use each other. When you're done, you leave, and when you want more, you come back. I try to redeem myself through you. But it was different this time because I was so vividly aware of not getting attached, and then you trusted me and opened up and I couldn't be selfish, I had to care. I remember the exact moment it happened; I remember it felt like I'd just sealed myself to my fate, like I'd just chained myself to a rock that was falling ever downward. Except, you never wanted me to care, did you? You liked me better when I didn't. You liked me better when I didn't have a stake in your well-being, because you could be as selfish as you wanted. You were your own person, independent of any authority or influence. You were free. We both were.

If I had the chance to stop caring, would I take it?

One small relief I have is that I regret nothing.

Here's a little story. The other day I went into Waterstone's. It's my safe place. It is a sanctuary rather than an escape. All morning I'd avoided looking at people because I was sick and I looked exactly like I'd been crying all night. But when I got to the counter to buy my hot chocolate, I glanced up at the barista. He recognised me because I'm always there, though we're not quite at the acknowledgement stage. But when he saw me he looked right into my face like he was silently asking Are you okay? And I thought, my God, can you just take me away from here and ask me what's wrong and why I've been crying and even though I haven't been I will tell you why I would like to cry and then you will say Shh, it's okay, and stroke my head and make it all better? Strangers have the power to do that. But then I thought: isn't seeking out strangers how I got into this mess in the first place?


Okay, I feel a little better having gotten that out :). And, *incidentally, As Good As It Gets is a great film.

Taylor Street, Australia, October 2009.
For December.