1,000 miles: step 76

Lately, I’ve had to slow down.

The spring semester is over.  I knew a couple of the graduating seniors–thanks to (a short-lived) student writing adventure, so this was the first semester that I paid attention to graduations. Next year is also my graduating year. I started college fall 2011. Twists and turns have pushed me to George Mason, and I finally feel like it’s where I belong.

These days, I’m a lot more content, particularly when I ignore politics. I’ve had the chance to dig into reading, a hungry kind of reading that keeps me still for hours. Last week, I took a CPR and First Aid training course because why not. Summertime means possibilities.

Stay tuned–

1,000 miles: step 59

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Though this isn’t the snow we got this week, we did get some random sprinkles

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I thought it odd that a banner for New York City could be found along Old Town Alexandria

This week can’t even be called a week, maybe two weeks wrapped in one.

I had an internship interview for the summer this past Wednesday. I’m full of anticipation for this one, because it would involve working with children of all ages and picking up new languages along the way. (Perhaps, I could learn German the fun way.) I’m learning that teaching is a skill that can be applied to people of various ages, not just my dream college-age students.

Of course, working with children is not for everyone, not every educator. Now that my private tutoring schedule has come to a settling point, I’ve had the chance to work with elementary-school-age children. Teaching is a difficult task, particularly with younger kids. Hearing “this is boring” is not easy to deal with–I’ve been there kiddo, I want to say. But coloring isn’t exactly an intellectual exercise (sadly).

My advisor once agreed with me–one of those rare times we come to agreement–that teaching children involves parenting skills. I’m not much of an authority figure, and though I’m a disciplined person, I don’t know how to bring forth discipline. I will learn, like I’m learning to assign homework and plan small lessons. I have checked schoolwork so much this week (including some online tutoring and some volunteer proofreading for friends)… It’s a wonder I’m yet sick of words.

And perhaps that’s what I love about words: they’re the healthiest sweet.

I’ve finished with all my school applications this month, which weren’t that many to begin with. I think the whole transfer process is a disgrace in terms of finances. No one tells you how much simpler and cheaper it is when you’re in high school… or maybe they do, but I was too impatient to get to senior year.

Oh, well. My diploma from Northern Virginia Community College came in the mail this week. It’s a beautiful beginning, and the story must continue.

Also, having some free time here and there has allowed me to check 2 things off from my 2014 Resolutions:

  • Shorter hair [Done!]
  • Get on an ice rink [Survived!]

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I believe, that if I don’t get a day time job soon, at least, I’ll get plenty of new experiences.

1,000 miles: step 42

I’ve been changing my mind.

A lot.

These days.

I’ve always thought of myself as stubborn. That what I say I will do is the final word. It’s not.

….

Lately, I’ve been wondering what I want to do with my college education. More specifically, what am I getting out of it? Is spending my mom’s custodian salary worth chasing my dreams? What are those dreams again?

On my room hangs a picture of a fireworks celebration at the University of Virginia. I have it labeled “GOAL.” I’ve had the picture since my 9th grade year of high school. But high school was centuries ago. This year, I no longer feel tenderness towards UVA.

I’m not as comfortable with making a living as a teacher. Or a writer. Or a professor who writes. Whatever the case, I won’t be making money.  This never vexed me before.

Today, one of my teachers rephrased my money question for me: can I manage happiness with “lack of money”?

I want to tell myself, that if anyone can make it work, that would be me. Because I’m already there. I’ve been here since the day I was born to a 15-going-on 16 year old mother. And if God granted mothers, I would choose her all over again in a heartbeat. I can’t imagine it any other way: rich or poor, she’s mine.

When there are days like this (and there are many), it all goes back to Mami. Being a first generation student, a college education is dear to me. Education is dear to me. In my mother’s struggles to pay the rent, I have reason enough to be patient, to endure these many years of college.

If only my heart weren’t so fickle.

poem of womanhood

I have a truth to tell about last month. It was a disaster–you already know April is a cruel month dear-reader. But for a poetry fanatic like me, it was an utmost disaster, with bits of poems sprinkled on random sheets of paper and some words refusing to stick on any page.

I won’t even be spending my weekend with DC’s second annual Louder Than a Bomb high school poetry performance competition. I had no idea the first one even happened, which goes to show you how fickle my love for poetry must be. Now, it isn’t that I think less of poetry. Truth be told, in a parallel universe, I am still in high school–where Poetry Out Loud and Louder Than a Bomb welcome me.

Right now, I am old. Old in the sense that I don’t need to be told that poetry can and will channel whatever troubles float through my head. And old in the sense that I have to take poetry seriously–it’s not always about my therapy. I have to remind myself: above all, Claudia is an academic, a future educator. It is because I’m such a fantastic academic that I am spending the weekend studying the things I really love… things like precalculus and sarcasm.

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things like scattered, poem-less pages

So, to start May on the right foot…

Poem of Womanhood

Momma used to say only grown women

wear make-up, and I would stare,

seeing little girls playing pretend:

their eyelids stealing strips of the rainbow

with pinks sprayed on their cheekbones,

and their eyelashes sprinkling desire

their lips coated in red, which so easily turned into hatred.

Momma used to say being a woman meant being chased.

I demurred and resolved to never play tag again

or parade my face in cosmetics…

until keeping my word was no longer a choice,

and I found the occasional necessity

to wear my smile with the softest of lips

and to conceal the pink in my cheeks

to keep secret that I was holding my breath

that my heart turned into drums when I woke,

and I could no longer deny that I was in love,

doomed to be crushed and be second class

to a lover aware of my insignificance.

With a blush of my cheeks I had confessed

I love this volatile existence,

even though Momma always says,

the truth about Life is that it behaves like most men–

out to capture hearts for breaking

and the strongest of sufferings is the sting of love,

but I believe if I love honestly, madly enough

Life will crumble at my humbleness,

refuse to see me as child, daughter, woman,

or could-be mother, but as an equal (and a fool).

an undergraduate struggle

Rarely do I admit this, but most of my undergraduate courses don’t inspire energy. On the contrary, they rob me of energy. For 4 semesters (and one more to go), I have gone through requirement courses: general education or transfer suggestions.

In general, a community college student doesn’t have freewill when it comes to courses. Though I spend much of my time worrying about the future, two years ago, I didn’t anticipate landing at NOVA. I’m both blessed and distressed.

Distressed because I shouldn’t have been so picky when I took courses at Simon’s Rock. Blessed because I was selective enough; a lot of my credits transferred.

Yet, I took 3 courses my freshman year out of whim:

  • Psychology–whose little biology was too much for me and signaled one of my greatest weakness as an academic writer: flowery language. With two semesters of biology (the last this semester), I’m correcting this criminal offense with ease. But not enough. My English professor this semester threw in another offense: my use of metaphors. For the record: Disguising a poet sucks, thanks academia.
  • Art of autobiography–the one place where my papers sounding like Claudia was not a problem. A class with overwhelming space for discussion and growth. Probably the class that’s taught me most about being a woman of a color…. not surprising, an all-girls class. Oh, and among the few classes that didn’t transfer over.
  •  Dalcroze Eurhythmics Thesis Performance–this was not transferred over, accordingly to the 1 credit rule: they won’t transfer. I didn’t dive into knowledge with this “course.” It was a senior’s project. I did spend quality and weird time with a mixture of rhythmic and nonrhythmic people (me usually being the latter).

And eurthymics has (what seems) permanently embedded this song into my head:

While general eduction courses have brought me headaches and once, contributed to a shingles onset (yes, I’m talking to you math-class-that-never-transferred), I have learned a great deal. Here’s but a brief, incomplete summary:

  • Freshmen seminar taught me to tolerate over-imposing opinions and to accept that logic is as good as any method of persuasion (except for Claudia, she’s allowed all the emotion in the world).
  • My history courses have reinforced my belief that history is repetitive and we’re not going to move forward without knowing where everyone’s been. The Chicano during the 60’s. The Native American during colonization. The African during enslavement. The European during religious prosecution. The Chinese during the 1880s… All our brothers and sisters during genocides. Wars. Economic collapses. (And you get the gist, reader.)
  • My precalculus course, this semester, well, that’s a secret love affair. (I discovered math and I are alike in this: crazy logic.)

And all the curricula combined have filled me with appreciation for the privilege of education. Even with my limbo status, I’ve made it far. And Lord knows, it’s a tough, merciless world out there.

Courtesy of my English professor’s teaching:

1,000 miles: step 22

This school year, I’ve taken fewer calendar breaks. It’s the holidays that have kept me going until spring break, which is this week. This break is supposed to hold me together until classes end. A point in the future which is near, but not near enough.

Break so far has been filled with more food than I expected—pho noodles for example. And as planned, several spectacular and sleepy dates with pre-calculus. The most exciting of the dates being today.

When I arrived earlier today on campus, it wasn’t a ghost town. I was taken aback. In fact, the motorcycle gang was at it again–NOVA motorcycle classes, of course. I briefly stopped by when something else caught my attention:

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I’ve been waiting for these buds to bloom for ages, and the rain knows how to highlight flower petals. Take this for example:

My absolute favorite shot from last year

My absolute favorite shot from last year

Of course, I’ve yet learned to dance in the rain, and if I’m ever out in a hard pour, it results in a story worth forgetting. Like strangers kindly asking to offer a ride, ill-chosen shoes soaking wet, squished and wormy earthworms, extra frizzy Claudia hair, and that one time last year: walking the highway home without an umbrella. Consequently, I prefer rain’s aftermath or light rain. Time periods in which I can look out for the small wonders of earth.

The raindrops on spiderwebs, glittering and magical.

The raindrops on petals, gorgeous and silent.

The possibility that something good is up ahead and the worst is behind.

And math might have been the something good today. I am undecided since I’ve never given math this much attention.

Colors courtesy of me, picky Mac, courtesy of newest math buddy

Child’s play materials, courtesy of me; picky Mac, courtesy of newest math buddy

1,000 miles: step 18

One of the biggest changes from traditional college to community college has been housing and commuting.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday running on 5 hours of sleep.

When I was at Simon’s Rock, if I ever needed to stay up all night doing schoolwork, I resorted to the endless suggestions my roommate had for keeping my eyelids open. Once the work was out of the way, and I had exhausted myself, the next problem was waking up on time.

But at least the classrooms weren’t over an hour away.

Wednesday I woke up 30 minutes before my morning class. My commute is at least an hour. I walked out anyway, hoping to hear some part of the lecture. By the second (and last) bus wait, I figured it was best to return home. And so I did… only to walk out 30 minutes later. Wednesdays this semester, I’m not home until past 7:30.

Wednesday’s sleep managed to throw off my Thursday. Good thing I’m taking a history course in the afternoon. This means I don’t oversleep for class. This also means I know or appreciate the information being thrown at me.

I can’t get enough of history, and yet… I spent majority of class blinking and squinting, and missing the days of returning home–my dorm room–within 5 minutes. After class, I found the library and took a nap.

It was then I couldn’t help but wish I was a lot more fluffy.

Nevertheless, a nap is a nap. Though I didn’t wake to a bunk bed in a small liberal arts school, in the middle of Berkshire woods, I woke up to a college. And for now, that’s enough.