Three… two… one…

As my husband sings, off-key but with honest enthusiasm, “It’s the final countdown…”

Final countdown to classes being done for me. For now, at least. A Bachelor’s degree is something to be proud of, and I’ve worked hard these past three years to attain one. I’m two tests away from passing my classes, and I’ve spent all week studying for both. It’s completely possible that I’ll panic and flub the tests, but I’ve done all I can to make sure that that doesn’t happen.

And thus will end my college adventure.

I will miss college. I love learning and the school environment, I get a lot out of it. I was spoiled – my professors were all good, with a few that were great. (Okay, there was one that started rocky, but we managed to work it out.) I also met a lot of students who were interesting. Intelligent, sarcastic, open minded, opinionated.. if it weren’t for college I wouldn’t have any stories of the woman who worked as a clown and wrote stories about serial killers. She’d bring cotton candy to class.

The job hunt, on the other hand, I did not miss, but it has already begun. I likened it to the dating scene – there are so many misses and so few hits. I have only just started this journey, though, and my hopes are that I’ll land a job soon. I owe my husband a nicer house, you see, and the only way we’ll get it is through my gainful employment.

This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my dream of being a novelist. However, I have discovered that you can produce books while having a full-time job, it just takes time. If I hit it big on one of my titles, then things might change, but it may be a few years before I make it J.K. Rowling big. It’s good to have interests outside of work, after all. I mean, I also plan on getting a gym membership when I can pay for one.

The big change starts tomorrow, after the tests are done. I shall raise a glass to my college career, and then chase it with another for my future endeavors. Then I’ll be sure to be thankful that the summer’s not over yet!

Jiyeon Park

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Happy New Year

This is what I’ve been waiting for. The end of 2017. It was a dramatic year, a painful year, and the end was the most intense – my husband had a concussion, I had finals, and the holidays were looming. I had to grit my teeth and get through the season, get through weeks of my husband not being quite himself, organize the holidays, and troop through the season. Which I did, and it was harrowing, but it was good, too. I ended up with a 3.9 GPA, as well as a prime rib dinner for Christmas and the glint in my child’s eyes when he saw what he got for the holiday.

What got me really jazzed, though, was coming back to school. I have a strange schedule, Tuesday and Thursday each week, three classes each. I’m in school from 10-4, which isn’t a full work day but it’s the closest one I’ve had in two years. It’s also not for the faint of heart… by class 3 my brain is full, and I’m trying my best to concentrate on what point the professor is going to teach.

My brain has kicked back into high gear and I find myself more able to remember the little details that were in danger of being dropped, everything from Toby’s vitamins to when I have to pay bills. I had been keeping on top of things over the winter break, but there was much less to keep track of. Being in three senior level classes, I have so much piecemeal work, a little reading here, a little writing there, a little watching movies there, and you have to keep track of all the authors, all the titles, all the story content, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, what are we looking for? It’s been a ton of stuff.

I also went to a poetry reading for one of my classes. The reading was hosted by another one of my professors, so I got to kill two birds with one stone. Three, honestly, I’m sure my Creative Non-Fiction professor would have been glad that I went as well. The poetry was timely, and well crafted, and even though some of it wasn’t my favorite, I felt all of it was well written, which was a pleasant surprise.

Balancing school with the world is the hardest part of it all. I have friends I want to see that I can’t, business partners who are in need of help that I can’t offer, all of my spoons are taken up. It’s frustrating to be a student, there are so many demands, and my time is already shred finely and sprinkled over my life in a very thin layer. I want to do more, but I am finding my edges pretty swiftly these days. If time management is the key to success, then I will be pretty much down to the second by the time I’m through with this quarter.

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Fall Quarter

We have reached mid-terms, that nebulous point in the quarter where Big Tests are taken and everyone begins feeling anxious. To me it felt like we spent six weeks shooting the shit, only to come back around and sample those conversations and remaster them into something the teacher will feel reflects a modicum of processing and retention. It’s intimidating but also bracing, a chance to show off about what you’ve absorbed during those first six weeks.

And what have I learned? My classes this quarter regard Afrofuturism, Augmented Realities, and Philosophy 101 disguised as an English class. The crossover has been fast and furious. I read a book for my Augmented Realities class that featured the word semiotic, which I’d never heard, but found the definition in my own notes from the Philosophy class. (Hint: It’s the science of signs and symbols.) I have read books about aliens taming humans and books on a murdered woman whose remains were eaten. I wasn’t anticipating my Augmented Realities class to be so disturbing, but that has been the watch word. I watched a movie about phone sex operators (Girl 6,). I read a book about a transgender man who has a lot to say about the pharmacological industry on human life. I would like to think of myself as a ‘woke’ individual who is aware of the status of the world in which we live in, but these classes are taking me to school, as it were, highlighting what I don’t know with savage glee.

So instead, I surf the conversations of each of the three classes, trying to chime in where I am able. The funny thing is that I am the most convivial in my Afrofuturism class. Despite being a white girl from a very white state and having very little interaction with black culture, I find myself drawn to Afrofuturism for its message of hope of a better tomorrow. Here is a people who have been subjected to the literal worst for hundreds of years, still trying to find the best in things. Still thinking positive. Despite this not being my heritage, I can get behind the message quite thoroughly. It has raised a lot of prickly questions for me, recognizing my part in colonialism just by being alive, and I’ve been very uncomfortable. Still, I feel like this has engendered real learning, which is more than just getting passing grades in class.

My Augmented Realities class looked like the easiest one to pass, based on the fact that I would have a class project of my choosing, and I could write a short story as one of the options. I decided to write a short story based on Bento Box, my sci-fi world. However, what I didn’t expect was to read so many books that were so challenging, which took the basis of my understanding of how the world worked and twisted it until it was nothing more than a swirl of color in the forefront of my mind. One book was written by a transgender man who has a lot to say about pharmacology and how it effects every human on the planet; another book instead focuses on journalism in today’s world. Everything is like a quick jab to the ribs, causing you to forget how to breathe and struggle to survive at the same time.

I love my classes, and I love my school, and I am very learning how to navigate the world of junior classes. There is a synergy in having a focus for your major, and the classes meld together until you can’t tell where one stops and the other starts. I’m a little spooked by how this is working, but I’m also a little thrilled, as the whole point of this education was to push me beyond my high school level education and prepare me for jobs where more is demanded.

There is no doubt I will look back at this and miss it, but for the time being I’m looking forward to graduation.

Read, Write, Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I have been in school for a week, and I can already feel myself getting smarter.

Yes, I am gaining knowledge, but I can gain knowledge by picking up any old book and starting to read. There are documentaries out there, if I can’t spare the time for a book. There are YouTube videos that are even shorter, although the danger of being trapped in the Kittenverse is much greater that way.

What I mean is that I can feel spaces in my understanding that I previously did not realize I had. I can feel them because they are filling up, with discourse and reason and logic. Not the knowledge itself, but the framework, like a spider’s web being spun to span a doorframe. Things that I missed, because it flatly wasn’t my strong suit to notice. I’m learning system.

What I mean by learning system is that I’m learning the terminology, the grammar, the rules which construct thoughts. I think all the time, but how I think is changing as I recognize key concepts that I’d never thought about before.

This mind expansion is assisted by the young classmates that I share classes with. A significant portion of them grew up with this kind of mindframe. It is not new to them, or different, so they are not sharing my experience. They are instead adding to it, by showing me realtime how they reflect on the content we are being exposed to for my classes.

One of my classes is a Philosophy class, and while I am singularly unimpressed with the gender bias and general air of superiority that is rife with every reading, the how of it sinks into the cracks and I begin to see how they thought, how they examined the world around them. I don’t want to emulate their conclusions, but we are nearly five thousand years beyond them in terms of science and technology. Their findings don’t make sense anymore, but they are the basis for thought in Western Civilization, so I suppose one might give them a nod for it.

Another one of my classes is investigating Augmented Realities, and how those realities affect the people that exist in them. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until you recognize that every book every written is an alternate reality, created by a person who saw things in a unique way. We may only just be scootching our way in to virtual reality, but humans have been taking trips into their imagination for millennium. Hell, once every couple of weeks I indulge in the same process, of sharing an illusory world with approximately 40 other people. I am aware that I am not actually my character, but for several hours I have a different set of priorities, principles, goals and beliefs, and I portray her with all the cleverness and pathos I can muster. I am invested in a world that doesn’t exist, and I have learned a lot even in the short time I’ve played with the troupe.

The last class is a lesson in culture, focusing on black science fiction. Octavia Butler, Sam Delany, but more than that, musicians like Sun Ra and George Clinton, and let’s not forget Nichelle Nichols, who became a cultural icon as Uhura. I grew up in a small white community in Wyoming, with very few friends that weren’t white. I wasn’t exposed to black culture in any meaningful way, but this is something that I can plug into immediately. The stories they tell are unique, powerful, and inspiring, and I am expanding my understanding in ways that I can’t even calculate yet. Better understanding often leads to better communication, and I am all for that.

So, this is how I’ve spent my days since school started. Getting smarter, feeling more confident, enjoying the hell out of my classes.

Things are turning out all right.

 
Photo credit:
Ryan Holloway

Autumn is Coming

I’m not going to lie, I think I forgot how to blog.
I used to be able to whip out a few lines about my life, but that was when I was in school, when things were jam packed and exciting.
This summer has made life Slow. Way. Down. And while I’ve been enjoying the pace, let’s face it, there’s nothing gripping in 88 lines about 4 things that happened. I’ve been writing about my adventures over the summer, of which some were mighty, and of which some were just a mention.
One of the things I like to talk about is my writing. I am learning so much I feel like every blog post is a chance to document my milestones. I also imagine that other writers might find it interesting. I imagine, on the other hand, that some people think it’s like watching paint dry. This leaves me trying to find a balance.
I am working on an exciting achievement and something I’ve never done before. I wrote two rough drafts in two months, in tandem. I’ve written one book in the course of a month, last summer, but two separate books in different genres was a whole new level of achievement. I used to wonder how my other writer friends pounded out manuscripts so fast, but I see now that it simply matters how much time you have. When I have enough time to treat my writing like a full-time job, I produce crazy books. When I’m a student, my output slows way down. It makes sense, but to know a thing and to experience a thing sometimes turns out differently. I always thought I was underproducing. Turns out, I was just overachieving in other areas of my life.
Speaking of overachieving, I was accepted to Sigma Alpha Pi, which is a national honors society for universities. I am stunned and pleased that my grades are getting noticed. Of course, this always raises the bar as well, but I figure anything to make my resume look more shiny is welcome in my world.
I’m a year out from graduation (or so,) and I’m making plans for how to finish out my year even as I begin it. I love being a student, love all that I’m learning, but it’s a race against money, as the student loans rack up. The whole point of going back to school was to raise my income potential. That, and to get a job that I could marginally stand while I wait for people to fall in love with my books.
I am looking forward to school. I love school. I love learning. In another life I might have been a teacher, if I wasn’t so obsessed with spinning yarn.
Speaking of yarn, I am trying to teach myself to knit. Let me tell you, for a clumsy lady, that is some slow going. But it has taught me the secret to learning a thing; never give up. And just keep trying.

So here is my relearning how to blog.

Shoot for the Moon; Land among the Stars

Have you ever wanted something so badly you could taste it? Something that seemed so out of your reach that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t do it?

Did that stop you from trying?

I know the likelihood of me being a successful author is low, with so many authors being already out there and amazing at what they do. Everyone is so prolific now, and self-publishing has made writing easier to distribute. Book prices range from a dollar to fifteen, but you damn well better have the last name of King before you can command those higher prices.

The market is saturated, it’s beyond saturated, it’s Houston in Hurricane Harvey saturated, and not even rafts of fire ants to be seen.

And yet.

There is a fire inside of me. It began when I was young. I wrote constantly. There was never a time that I didn’t have a notebook and pen with me. (Okay, maybe when I was riding my bike. Maybe dinner. You get it.) I won awards, although they were little kid awards, meant to bolster that tender self-esteem necessary to ford the slings and arrows of later unsolicited feedback.

I thought it had died. I spent so long not writing, or maybe typing up a page or two before giving up and going back to life, which at the time was so much more interesting, and so much better than applying ass to seat.

I was surprised when it roared back to life. Being laid off and having a two-year-old child left me with time on my hands but being mostly housebound. I wrote two books, one that would later be published and one that may never be. I was hooked, I had to keep going.

Now here I am, years later, and my storytelling style has gone through a complete renovation. I outline. I forecast word count. I write two books at the same time because alternating stories means less mental fatigue. I can estimate where a book is going to end, and if it’s not going to hit the submission requirements, I can take steps to fix it. I submitted to an online ‘zine on a whim. I have short stories on standby if my friend wants to publish them. (Edit: Except she took them all, and now I must write more. Yay Hot Mess 3!)

So, if anyone tells you that your dream isn’t worth chasing, my expert advice is to tell them to Fuck Right Off. Even if you don’t make it all the way, the things you learn in your pursuit are worthy, and can change your life.

 Photo Credit:

NASA

The Pause that Refreshes

I can’t believe that school has been out for almost a month. Well, that’s a technicality. I’ve been out of school almost a month; my classes didn’t have classic finals so finals week was kind of a freebie. I was so stressed out from my classes. I loved them, but they were hard and pushed me to new edges of limits. Even the debate class was better than I expected – not that the bar was set high.

As soon as Toby was out of school, we swept away to Central Oregon, to visit the Three Sisters, Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor, and several others. Where I grew up, we had the Black Hills and the Bighorns. Neither one of them were fraught with individual names, so the idea of naming mountains struck me as superfluous. Then again, these mountains jut well above the hills that surround them, snowy peaks breaking up the landscape dramatically.

Oregon is like the bastard child of Washington and Wyoming. There were lots of trees, but we left the rainforest behind and entered the high plains. The sage brush and pines rolled out mile after mile, and at one point I even saw an antelope in the high grass.

The vacation itself was fun. We stayed at a condo that had a very fine pool, and after some shenanigans with our key cards, we settled in for some fine dining and swimming. The next day we went out to Tumelo Falls, which were gorgeous. While we were there a confused butterfly landed on my hand and proceeded to unfurl his proboscis, licking me furiously. I was too stunned to move for a minute, but I managed to sneak out my phone and catch a hand selfie with the butterfly contentedly moving his tongue this way and that, trying to discover where I’d cleverly hidden my nectar. It did get the hint eventually, only to veer off to my son’s shirt for another fruitless search.

Then we left the condo and drove off to my first adventure at an AirBnB. I could go on for ages about what happened, but I’ll condense it to saying that after a drive through four-by-four tracks to reach the place, I was stunned by an open floor plan that opened up into a kitchenette, a daybed, and a random mannequin. The upstairs floor plan was wide open, with a futon, a queen bed, and a view of the neighbor’s goats. Lying awake in the dark and listening to the goats bleat softly to each other was a new experience, as was having the bathroom door knob fall off in my hand at two o’clock in the morning.

My son’s birthday was celebrated by a long drive and an expansive spread of dirt. We went hunting for thundereggs, which are like geodes but solid, full of agate. They are easy to spot and were all over this site, so the challenge level was low, but on a hot day under the scorching sun, you don’t want it to be difficult. We dug up at least twenty pounds of rocks and brought them home. They are awaiting The Great Project, where my husband will rent a tile saw and saw them all open. Which leaves me to wonder, what exactly are we going to do with twenty pounds of semi-circular rocks, but that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Did I write? Yes. I pledged to Junowrimo (yes, it’s a thing) and wrote 20k words on one project, and 7k words on another. Not bad for being away from the keyboard a significant chunk of this month. I’m juggling a lot of projects, mostly short stories.

Oh, and I got my grades back from school. A B+ in my Debate class (I would have accepted less, was quite pleased with this) and an A for both of my writing classes. Not bad for bucking teacher recommendations and heading out into the weeds.