Thursday, October 29, 2009

the internal struggles of squirrels

Sometimes, I am fully aware that I appear to be insane.

A few days ago, I was on my way to lunch after Spanish class. While I was walking, I realized it was colder than I had thought that morning, and I made a mental note to grab a coat after lunch. I was within sight of the cafeteria, making confident strides towards food, when I thought, “I’ll just get my coat now. It’ll be faster.” I pivoted and headed for my dorm. But I was starving! I wanted food ASAP. I turned around again and took a few steps towards the cafeteria, but just a few… my logic told me again to just save time and get my coat first, and so I turned abruptly towards my dorm. Repeat this spastic cycle a few more times...and it’s not like one or two people witnessed this obvious display of insanity. Nope, it was passing time; the sidewalks were flooded with students watching me march up and down my own invisible balance beam. Squirrels are supposed to struggle with issues like this, not people. You’d think the human capacity for decision-making would have gotten me through this one…

Yesterday, too, my brain kinda just quit on me. And also, I’m pretty sure every MSUFCU employee had me on their red-alert bank-robber radar. On our way to Meijer, Mallory dropped me off curbside so I could do some quick banking. To avoid paying for parking, she was just going to circle around the block-- but I was in line longer than expected, and I saw her drive past twice while I waited. After finally completing my transaction, I stepped back out to Grand River. I watched cars pass for about five minutes before deciding to check the back parking lot. (Walk-through #1.) It was empty, and Mallory’s blue station wagon was nowhere to be seen. (Walk-through #2.) Again, I watched afternoon traffic build up on Grand River, but didn’t see Mallory. I went to double-check the parking lot. (Walk-through #3.) No. Dumb idea. (Walk-through #4.) Cars pass. More cars. More. No Mallory. Maybe she parked in the alleyways? (Walk-through #5.) No Mallory. I turn around to head through again JUST in time to see her blue station wagon round the corner towards Grand River. Walk-through #6 turned into more of a sprint-through (I swear, nervous-looking bank teller, I’m not about to rob you!) and I made it through the doors to see Mallory flying past me. Luckily, the stop light turned red, and so I hightailed it up a block and jumped into the car just in time. After some really unnecessary craziness: mission accomplished!

As mortifying as these things felt while they were happening, I’ll admit, I love having a good story to tell at the end of the day. My roommate even humored me by laughing at my reenactment of the hunger vs. coat dilemma. The best ones are totally those that come at your expense, too. A regular dose of embarrassment betters the world around you...and either serves to humble you or feed your vanity, I haven't decided. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

a season to work

Searching for a job sucks so bad. The monotony of the application process feels much the same as re-learning the scientific method at the start of every science class..."Ugh, this again?" My employment history has been pressed into every corner of my brain- I couldn't tell you the home addresses of any of my close friends, but I could spout off the address and phone number of every place I've ever worked.

Besides the mass application I sent in to University Housing (which, hey, MSU-- I'm guaranteed employment...right?), I've applied at something close to 10 other stores. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of places that are already hiring seasonally. But I mean, I did hear Christmas music on the radio over the weekend,'s that time, I guess.

I don't know what I love so much about plain old customer service, but I really just want to be a cashier. Talking to people is so much easier than it seems sometimes, and I'd love the opportunity to grow in this even more. When I was younger, I always felt awkward and uncomfortable around store employees. Side note: this might have had more to do with me feeling awkward and insecure around everyone, but it was always heightened in stores. At some point, I realized that as the customer, I'm expected to have questions and need service, and some of that insecurity dissolved. Those experiences are part of the reason I want to work in a customer service arena. Working in a public environment is such an easy outlet for showing simple Christlike friendliness, care, and service.

Yesterday and today have been Phase 1: Apply. Tomorrow begins Phase 2: Follow up via el teléfono. I will probably take the first thing I can get...the time for being picky has passed. Prayers would be sweet. I need a job.

And, completely unrelated- but this blog thing! I'm not sure why I started it. I like to write. Sometimes I think about interesting things. Sometimes I think about boring things, like getting a job. But I thought I'd give writing about those interesting (and, like today, sometimes boring) things a shot. So this is it. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a philosophy of apathy

I’ve never appreciated my nerdy childhood as much as I did yesterday afternoon.

I walk into philosophy just as class is starting. Immediately, I notice each student staring expectantly at the chalkboard, pencil in hand and paper waiting on each desk. Surprise! My sloppy academic habits strike again: a quiz I’m not prepared for. The professor scribbles two questions on the board comprised of several unfamiliar and perplexing terms. Dread and frustration wash over me, and I feel mildly annoyed with myself. By my own laziness, I wasn’t even aware we had new readings to do, and the only thing I know offhand about Aristotle I learned from Legally Blonde.

Several scenarios fly through my head. Perhaps I can draw a clever picture that will get me some pity points. Would a pithy, honest statement about my failings as a student suffice? But as I search for any part of the question that I can respond to, I notice that while my sleepy and unconcerned brain doesn’t recognize the terms themselves, I do recognize a Latin root or two in the words that conjure more familiar associations. And so I begin to compile what I know about philosophy and what I know these Latin roots refer to, and I manage to make some messy guesses about what the terms mean.

I am so convinced I’ll be receiving zero points for the garbage I’ve written that I feel an urge to write a cute apology to my professor. “Awful guesses from a lazy student who may or may not have done the readings! Sorry!” Maybe I’ll draw a sad face, too. She’s a nice lady who is clearly passionate about philosophy, and I feel kinda bad.

We hand our quizzes in. I picture the zeroes that will show up in my online grade reports and regret the time I’d spent socializing in my favorite coffee shop before class. I suppose I could have been preparing for- or at least finding out about- this quiz.

My professor walks to the front of the room and gives a quick rundown of the correct answers. I stare at the chalkboard in disbelief. Lo and behold! My horribly strung-together definitions are right on, even down to the wording.

I was amazed. Recently, I’ve gotten a lot of weird breaks like this in my academic life. Some have been more trivial, like my biology professor canceling class because of the swine flu, or discovering that my Spanish professor forgot his attendance book the morning I overslept. But more importantly, I keep noticing that whatever hangs out up there in my brain has made some very fortunate triumphs over my tendencies towards laziness and academic irresponsibility.

Most of my life as a student has been this way. High school consisted of lots of fluffy playtime, homework done ten minutes before class, and zero studying…all while receiving honor-roll grades. I finished my freshman year of college at a pretty great university in much the same manner.

Why am I able to do this? Why can I so easily skate my way through coursework with little or no actual effort? It can’t be any roots in mathematics or science. My mathematical caution tape goes up right around 2x=6, and the world of science interests me to the extent of NPR’s Science Fridays.

I think my valuable BS-ing abilities can only be reasonably attributed to the sick way in which I have consumed literature since kindergarten. It’s kind of far-reaching to claim that the books I’ve read are the sole reason I am even reasonably intelligent. I mean, maybe calculus and complex chemical equations would do me some good. And really? Reading all one hundred Boxcar Children books couldn’t have helped that much, could it? But I’m going to go ahead and make that claim, because it’s the only abnormal thing about my otherwise-uninteresting intellectual development. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for allowing me to be a dangerously bookwormish child! I’m certainly reaping the rewards in my adult life.

So yay! I can do almost nothing for almost any class and get satisfactory grades. But here’s the sad part of the story: this ends up encouraging the biggest failings of my flesh: laziness, apathy, idleness. My confidence in my ability to be a lazy “A” student is bolstered with each quiz I ace unexpectedly. Friends tell me about their 6-hour study days in the library and I wonder if I’ve done that much in a week. I don’t even know what study habits would look like in my life. Would I take notes in every class? Would I go home and study those notes? Multiple times, even? Would I bring out some old-fashioned flash cards before exams? Hey- what if I read what was assigned? I like the idea of being studious and diligent with my schoolwork, but I’ve never been that way, and I’m not even close to that now.

This bothers me. And to be honest, conviction has found me in this area of life before. The first thing that got me was the realization that my parents are paying for half of my college, and it seems like my habit of putting zero work out to get average grades is a really crappy way for me to honor my father and mother. And school is kinda my job right now- wouldn’t it be really glorifying to God if I could focus some energy into being attentive to my studies? Maybe it would be good if my professors thought I cared about their class, or if students sitting around me saw me taking notes and asking questions instead of doodling incessantly.

Gray areas. A 3.0 versus a 4.0 isn’t life or death. Nothing crucial. But if I’m really angling my life towards God, if I’m striving to glorify Him, then I think everything shuffles over a little bit towards “crucial.” And so perhaps I’d do well to re-evaluate the way I approach academia.

Ironically, I am scribbling these thoughts into my journal IN my philosophy class, immediately following the faux surprise quiz. I’m totally absorbed in my writing and am only hearing snatches of my professor’s lecture: ”…mainly claimed that knowledge…might be on the test…important concept to grasp…” I guess she’s preparing us for our next exam.

But hey, nothing crucial, right?