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Self-Deprecation Seems Okay: Mini-Essay

5 Apr

You can’t live right if you hate your life.

I’m serious. If you hate your life, what you do with your days isn’t living, it’s an uncomfortable imitation. We sit and we stare at the world passing us by, converting oxygen into CO2 and food into feces. Breathing and shitting isn’t the only purpose to our existence, but sometimes it might as well be.

It might as well be because we hate who we are, hate who we see in the mirror every day even if we try to paint our faces and pin the corners of our mouths into smiles. Self-loathing is the new status quo ladies and germs, and its so cliché it’s accepted and expected.

I don’t live right most of the time. Most days I wake up hungover and feeling like last night was a mistake I won’t live down. I feel hungover even when I spent the night before sober, my mind a mess from the dreams of the night before, from the toils of existing. My working day is a haze of computer screens and fingers on keyboards, my nights mostly solitary, also mostly in front of screens. My computer is less an accessory and more an appendage, my gateway to an outside world I try to avoid even on my good days.

I make elaborate plans for self-improvement involving work-out schedules and the proper intake of sustenance, but find myself sitting on my ass three days later surrounded by empty bags of chips that smell of fake cheese and somewhat of shame.

Shame smells like cheese in a can. It smells like snack cakes and delivery pizza. Once or twice a week I scrub off my shame with a home-cooked meal, pasta or a grilled cheese, because I’m too poor to afford shame 24-7. I spend my money on long nights and poor decisions, on videogames and liquor, on cake mix and frosting, on the gas I need to run my car, on groceries that I select in the store carefully, trying desperately to do math in my head despite suffering from discalcula because what loser carries a calculator in a grocery store to make sure they only spend ten dollars on food to last a week?

Self-deprecation comes to us as naturally as breathing. It’s ingrained in us from the beginning and holds on with sharp and sticky fingers. It’s like a little monkey, a gremlin, some mutant creature clutching our back and whispering hateful thoughts into our receptive ears.

I hate myself most of the time. I wake up and stumble into the bathroom, staring at my hair that never sits right and my ass that isn’t perky enough and my tits that refuse to stay the same size as each other and the same shirt I’ve worn to bed since high school and I glare at my blurry reflection and tell it I hate it and wish it would just go fucking die already so I could stop dealing with it and everything it represents. It represents the degree I got that wasn’t worth anything. The half-dozen half-baked novels sitting on the hard-drive of my computer, all of them mediocre when read despite hours, days, weeks, months of hard work. The job I go to with the hope of advancement even though I’m only working part time at a job a monkey could do better. The friends who clearly don’t know me well enough or they would have run for the hills by now. The boyfriend I feel I don’t deserve no matter how many times he tells me I’m wrong.

When I was a kid I hated myself so much I was violent. I didn’t start fights or ram my head against walls, but that would have been less stereotypical. Less cliché.

Maybe that’s part of being a writer. Being a bit of a cliché. At least I’ve quit the cigarettes, even if the alcohol shows no sign of stopping.

We keep trucking though. We’re human, and we know we aren’t perfect no matter how many people try to put us on pedestals with their words and expectations. No matter how much we hate ourselves for our lack of perfection.

I’m occasionally guilty of loving myself. Of being okay with my out of shape body and never sits right hair, of liking my wonky tits and the shirts I’ve had since high school that I still wear for the memories. Of sitting down at my computer desk and typing up a novel that I want to write because even if it sucks, it’s a story I have to tell. Sometimes I think about how hard I worked to get through my BA, how far I’ve come since high school and the sad, broken girl lying on the floor of her bathroom, not caring if she gets blood on the tiles because then at least she’s feeling something. I feel lucky that I work in a basement with a dozen other nerds who type at inhuman speeds, that I can read at the speed of light and make ten bucks an hour part time practically right out of college. Lucky that I have people in my life who love to watch funny movies and mix strange drinks and make really bad penis jokes. That I have a boyfriend who loves me no matter how down I get on myself.

Maybe I’m mediocre. Maybe I’ve fucked up in too many ways to count. Maybe I’m just a hack.

But hating myself for it is no way to live my life. It isn’t living.

So, sometimes, if I try really hard and nobody else is around to see, I love my life. And in doing so, just for a little while, I really live.

 

 

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Daily Post Writers Block: Experience is the Best Teacher

7 Feb

Today’s Daily Post prompt is to describe the worst teacher you’ve ever had. Since I’m feeling uncreative, as all of my creative energy has been swallowed by building my doom fortress in Minecraft, I’ll make use of this prompt and give you a brief overview of some of the worst teachers I’ve experienced. No names mentioned, since this is the internet, but I should be able to give you an overview of some of these profs (since they were basically all in college) in amusing soundbites:

Prof #1: American History after 1877 (Fall 2007, Sophomore Year)
“Hey folks, I know you’re mostly freshmen and sophomores but I’m going to give you assignments even grad students have trouble with. Got a bad grade? Obviously you just weren’t working hard enough at it. Oh, and that syllabus I gave you? You should probably burn that, because I’m going to pretty much ignore it. To top it all, I’m going to spend way more time on the subject of my Doctoral Thesis than any of you care about, so we won’t get to anything remotely interesting about American History. Have a good semester!”

Prof #2: Intro to Medieval Literature (Fall 2008, Junior Year)
“This is what I’m going to teach you. What I’m teaching you is everything you can read in the notes in the back of the book, but I’m going to repeat it anyway. Attempts at humor and lightheartedness will not be tolerated. Your reading assignments will be godawful prose translations of Arthurian legends that read like bad soap operas. If you try to bring up an original thought, I will squash it. If you want to write an inventive final paper, I will squash it. If you start having fun, you will be squashed. Did I mention my voice is like a cheesegrater in your ears?”

Prof #3: Oceanography (Fall 2008, Junior Year)
“OMG guys! An Icthyosaurus! And weather! The ocean is really neat! The rest of this class will be me reading awkwardly from the slides and putting you to sleep! I was obviously once in a sorority and drank so much I can’t stop talking with enthusiasm! Yay!”

Prof #4: Fascism in Europe (Fall 2009, Senior Year)
“The tone of my voice and my poor grasp of the English language is going to take one of the most interesting aspects of European history and make it so boring you’ll want to kill yourself. Also I’m going to play favourites on your paper assignments, so if you try to write something remotely interesting, I’ll give you a low grade if I don’t agree with it.”

Prof #5: Fiction Writing (Fall 2010, Final Semester)
“Good writing cannot come from genre fiction. You should strive to read and write classic literature and never make any money off of your writing, doomed to teach others or seek other professions. Some of you aren’t very talented, but it’s cute that you’re trying. I’m going to encourage you all to be nice, but make extremely dickish comments whenever I can. This class will become your own personal hell and make you question ever trying to become a published writer ever. And if you have any success? Forget it. Your book can’t be quality literature if it’s successful. I’m a hipster! Woo!”

Remember how sometimes I don’t miss college? This is one of those times. For sure.

 

 

 

 

2010: A Review

31 Dec

So here’s the run-down of my 2010, complete with the occasional picture:

JANUARY:

Started the year with new friends, a new boyfriend, an old boyfriend crashing on my couch and a kitten who liked to attack my feet in the mornings. New semester started, which included my second semester of Latin and a lot of English classes. Joined another D&D group. Started going to karaoke regularly.Met Jeff at a party.  Got my first hangover. Got unceremoniously dumped by said new boyfriend. Picked up smoking briefly. Finished my NaNo 2009 novel. Skipped a lot of class.

Me in early January.

FEBRUARY:

Awkwardness ensued with the recent ex at various D&D games. School continued to be slack-filled, but I started going to class again. Survived Valentine’s day by going out dancing. Got my hair cut and dyed:

Yeah, there’s a little blue in there, just for fun.

Stopped smoking as it was too expensive. Continue going to karaoke. Finally fixed my crappy old laptop and played as many games as I could find, including Starcraft. Things became slightly less awkward with the ex, but only slightly. Such drama, really, I swear.

MARCH:

Started hanging out with Jeff more. Signed a lease with current roommate for a new apartment. Went on a date with the ex to see if we wanted to try things again (I wanted to hold off for a while). Played Halo for the first time and sucked at it.  Spent spring break with family in Oregon. Returned to the ex pulling a complete 180 and deciding we would never work out. There was drama. Got my tattoo. Got my car. Started going to class more.

APRIL:

Started dating Jeff. Moved into new apartment. Got in a huge fight with a close friend. One D&D group disbanded. Studied for impending finals. Panicked and flailed a lot. Still more drama. Discovered Netflix.

MAY:

Finished the semester with straight A’s. Started driving up to Omaha on weekends to visit Jeff. Got Morbo the hamster as a gift. Worked 30 plus hours a week at the campus Library. Saw Motion City Soundtrack in concert.

JUNE:

Started working on a new novel. Watched a lot of TV on Netflix. Visited Jeff a lot. Played through Portal for the first time. Didn’t sleep enough. Decided I liked being a blonde and that was how I was going to stay. Continued being fairly hermity. Played less D&D.

JULY:

Jeff moved to Lincoln. Starcraft II came out. Everything else kinda fell by the wayside due to starcraft II. Discovered my laptop was dying. Attempted and failed JulNoWriMo. Watched even more TV.

AUGUST:

Spent an inordinate amount of time at Jeff’s place. Close friend got married. Went a little crazy waiting for the semester to start. Went out drinking with coworkers. Visited my parents on the other side of town a lot. Started scheming for NaNoWriMo. Semester started, immediately became consumed by school. New D&D campaign started. Ex unfriended me on facebook and began fleeing the room every time I showed up, which was amusing.

SEPTEMBER:

Sister left for study abroad in England. School escalated. Made amends with some friends, grew apart from others. played some D&D. Hated my writing class with the fire of a thousand fires. Applied to graduate. Continued to be a hermit.

OCTOBER:

Continued planning for NaNoWriMo. Celebrated six months of dating Jeff. Got eaten alive by school and studying. Drove to Kansas City over fall break for a weekend away. Helped recently married friend with her husband issues. Helped friend with a painful breakup. Had my 23rd birthday. Started playing thr0ugh Bioshock.

NOVEMBER:

NaNoWriMo. Plus school. Got sick with the flu OF DOOM and didn’t write as much as I would have liked. Realized my Nano novel would work better as a graphic novel. Started working on creative final projects for classes. Had a weird Thanksgiving with my sister absent from the country. Started applying for post-college jobs. A lot of friends got engaged.

DECEMBER:

Finished finals and got straight A’s. Started drawing more. Helped friend begin the process of divorcing her abusive husband. Graduated college with a BA in English. Sister returned from England in the midst of an ice storm. Started new job as a cook. Ended the year with a few good friends, a new boyfriend, and a mostly stable view towards the future.

So that was 2010. I wonder what’s in store for 2011?

Reverse Nostalgia: Rueing my Days of Undergraduate Education

12 Dec

So that’s it; I’ve taken my final classes, turned in all my multicolored forms, purchased my obligatory cap and gown and had the joy of filling out course evaluations for the last time (I take perverse joy in filling out teacher evaluations. seriously, I’m like a really fucked up kid at Christmastime). My last college paper, which I wrote about with such fervor yesterday, now sits completed and printed out in my backpack ready to be turned in tomorrow at 10 AM. That’s all folks. I’m done .

Looking back on my undergraduate education there are certain things I reflect fondly on. I’ve made some excellent friends, had some totally balls-tighteningly awesome professors, and engaged in enough randomness and crazy hijinks to fill at least a triloy of novels. Say what you will about Nebraska, but it does have its high points.

That said, there are more than enough things I’m incredibly excited to see the back of, and even though I don’t doubt that at least a few of them will follow me into the real world, there are plenty that I’m going to be rid of forever the second I get that diploma six days from now. Here are a few of my choice favourites:

Homework

Papers. Review sheets. Fifty pages of reading a night. Group presentations (the most vile of assignments, where you have to rely on OTHER PEOPLE to get a passing grade). Yes, that beast. The thing that truly ruins lives, sleep cycles and sanity levels. Homework assignments, that thing I’ve loathed with a fiery passion since the very first time I was handed a brightly-colored large-lettered worksheet as a small child, innocent and in pigtails and not knowing of the horrors that would befall me and various incarnations of this piece of paper for the next sixteen years.

I’m sure homework will still show up in some form or other if I end up with a certain kind of job. Paperwork is really just a more grown-up way of saying ‘homework’ I guess. But the stuff I’ve had to put up with for the last four and a half years? The fifteen page papers, the reading assignments and peer reviews and midterm exams? Gone. Kaput. Shuffl’d off the mortal coil. That’s it. Good riddance to you homework, and I hope to never see you again.

Class

Class is almost as bad as homework. It’s that extra obligation that sits in the middle of your day, bookended by ‘drop off rent check’ and ‘go work at wage slave job’. Not all class is bad, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been known to look forward to class on some rare occasions, and I’ve met some of my best friends in this academic sphere. That said, having to drag my sorry, (occasionally) hungover ass out of the safe and comfortable realm of my bed to sit in a stuffy/freezing room with two dozen other bedraggled reprobates who just dragged their hungover asses out of bed AND be expected to be coherent is a special kind of hell for me. Good riddance to you class; I spent most of my time inside you wishing I could be somewhere else. (That’s what he said?)

Parking

Dear UNL campus, you utterly fail at organizing your parking structure. Trying to find a place to park in one of your lots was like a middle-schooler behind the bleachers. It sucked, and not in a good way. Lots were constantly overcrowded and a far enough distance from the academic departments that it was god awful to walk that far in the instances of sudden onslaughts of Nebraska weather. Not to mention expensive. Good GOD on a rocket is parking expensive. I’d almost rather park at meters and get charged $10 a day in tickets, because it’s still cheaper. Not to mention students get kicked out of their own lots for football games and special events. Whose fucking genius idea was that? Oh that’s right, I attend a school where every student is equal, but sub-human compared to the almighty sport of football (more on this later).

Textbooks

Shopping for textbooks? Yeah, I stopped doing that in the bookstore YEARS ago because I was sick of paying over twenty bucks for a book that I could find on Amazon dot com for less than fifty cents. And when my professors insisted I HAD to have the edition the bookstore sold? Yeah, my wallet needed therapy after that kind of violation. Thank you, and now please go die in a fire.

‘Frat Boys’ and ‘Sorostitutes’

I can hear the people derping now: “But Lora! Not all boys in frats or girls in sororities are horrifically dumb and obnoxious!”

I’m aware of that. My first college roommate was in a sorority and she goes down in history as the second-best roommate I’ve ever had (the first is my friend Stevi. She has a blog over here. Go read it. It rocks). The vast majority of my experiences with dudes from frats who say ‘bro’ unironically and dress like douches is negative. And as for the girls? I have this nervous tic that makes me want to punch you in the face if you say the word ‘like’ more than five times in any given sentence. I think of it as being allergic to stupid people. I’m sure people like this still exist in the Real world, but most of them will remain confined to campus, where they will stay trapped as I run away skipping with glee in my eyes. Possibly cackling or screaming the word ‘FREEEEEDOMMMMMM’ Mel Gibson in Braveheart style.

Football

I am about to say something that might get me killed should this information fall into the wrong hands, but in the interest of full disclosure I am going to say it regardless of that fact:

I don’t care about Husker Football.

Yes, I am a UNL student. Yes, I respect the ideals of tradition and school spirit and all that jazz. What I cannot abide, however, is how this sport turns normal, civilized people into complete and utter morons in everything from their drunkeness to their driving, to their drunken driving.

See, there is a special kind of drunk reserved for the people of the world who love football the way the Husker fans do. There’s normal level drunk, which is a fairly standard rise and fall from rowdy to mouthy to vomity to occasional alcohol poisoning. Then there’s Husker drunk, which comes in two varieties:

1) “Oh my god you guys we won! we beat the fuckers at [insert name of rival school of the week here] and we beat ’em good! GOOOOOO BIIIIIIG REEEEEEEDDDD! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” *runs around in public wearing a corn hat, causing high levels of irritation and mayhem and potential drunken car accidents until collapsing and needing to be rushed to the hospital to be treated for liver failure*

2) “Goddamnit, I can’t believe we lost against the fuckers at [insert name of rival school of the week here], the officials were totally off and completely fucking us over! *drinks copiously to drown sorrows, gets in fights to raise spirits and ends up in the drunk tank with several dozen other Husker fans*

Not all Husker fans are bad. I know you’re out there, and I know you are good, respectful, rational people. Hell, my father likes the Huskers and will happily take advantage of the tickets my mother gets as part of her faculty package as a University professor every year. But for every reasonable, respectful husker fan there are at least a hundred senseless assholes taking up my space and my roads. Did I mention the roads? God forbid you have to get anywhere before or after a husker game, because the roads are completely impossible to navigate (during the game isn’t so bad, because everyone in town is either at the game or inside somewhere watching the game on TV). If they aren’t packed full of people leaving the game, they’re interspersed with people driving in a semi-drunken state even though it’s nine in the morning and the game doesn’t start for another five hours.

As long as I live in Nebraska I will deal with this, and I know it. But it’s a damn sight better than having to deal with it while existing on campus, especially on a Saturday. I’m not opposed to the Huskers winning: if they win, I’m less likely to get yelled at by my neighbors for not wearing red and cheering like a deranged howler monkey.

I could go on. There’s the drama, the high school issues that followed me into college, the unpleasant string of past relationships, the overpriced food, the misery of living in the dorms, shitty professors, crappy part time jobs.

There’s a lot I’m not going to miss about college. But these are my highlights, and they are the reasons that I will calmly walk across this campus on Saturday morning after receiving the official bit of paper that takes me away from academia, and flip off this glorious institution and the innumerable headaches it has caused me in the last four and a half years.

Goodbye UNL. For all the things I’ll miss about you, there’s a dozen more experiences that make me want to give you a well-deserved boot in your big red ass.

Thanks for the memories.

See you in hell.

And Good Riddance: Reflecting on Undergraduate Nostalgia

10 Dec

It is Friday. I am sitting in the last class I will ever take in my undergraduate academic career, ‘Religion and Culture before 1000 CE’. My classmates are presenting their Viking projects, and we’re currently watching a video about a Viking longship in Norwegian.

I have mixed feelings about this (the fact that this is my final class, not the subject matter). I considered blowing it off, as I gave my presentation Wednesday, complete with pictures of gorgeous viking loot and treasure, but this class is taught by my favourite professor, so I wanted to ring in adulthood with a pleasant memory. Had I chosen not to attend this class, the final class of my undergraduate education would have been my 400-Level writing class, and that is the VERY LAST class I want to hold in my memory as the final experience of classroom education I’ll have in college.

In brief, my writing class this semester was rather on the side of disastrous. I hadn’t expected much out of it knowing my school’s creative writing department and their attitude towards so-called ‘Genre fiction’ (“you can’t write sci-fi and fantasy! It’s all cliche’d and been done before! Now write a coming-of-age story about someone living on the Great Plains!”), but all the same it was an exercise in having teeth pulled. In our final meeting yesterday our professor assailed us with his opinion one last time, giving us what has to be the most unusual backhanded compliment I’ve ever heard.

It started out nice enough:

“This class has more talent than any undergraduate writing class I was ever a part of…”

but then rapidly progressed downhill:

“Granted, that talent was not evenly distributed among you.”

Wow. Talk about words of inspiration. My friend Thomas and I gave each other a look that had grown familiar between the two of us in the sixteen weeks we suffered through that class, a look that expressed  the thought: “Is he serious?”

We stumbled out of the English building, high-fiving in jubilation that our misery was finally over. Our portfolios were turned in, our god-awful stories we vomited out at the last minute for the assignments at last behind us, and I turned with a double middle-finger salute towards the English department, crying a mighty “FUCK YOU” to literary bullshit, academia, and all things close-minded and ridiculous.

Good riddance to you, English department. The good things you held up were sadly not enough to make up for the ones that made me want to commit violent acts upon you with an army of bears. I hope you choke on your hipster attitudes. Choke on them like you would a dick.

Anyway, happier times are ahead, since this is my final class, and we are learning about viking longships before I bid my favourite professor farewell for the last time. After this I have one final paper left to write, a ten to twenty page research paper on the religious philosophy of Saint Augustine (which sounds harder than it is). It is a week and one day until I drag myself out of bed at ass in the morning to don my ridiculous regalia and slowly cross the stage in the graduation ceremony, trying to remember to smile and not trip in my heels.

I could take some time to reflect on my college experience, but I’m not usually one to wax nostalgic. So I’ll be brief:

I’ve learned that a lot of people brought high school with them when they moved on to higher education.
I’ve learned that gen eds will follow you everywhere until you want to kill yourself instead of study another rock sample in Geology 101 (despite being a fucking Lit major).
I’ve learned the joy of Shakespeare under a good teacher (and the hell of Shakespeare under a bad one).
I know now that I will never succeed as a writer of ‘literature’ and my classmates have often had their dreams crushed by the pressure of pompous literary fiction. Seriously. It’s like these people don’t understand what ‘fun’ means any more.
I’ve discovered the joy of holding down two part-time jobs at once.
I’ve had awesome roommates and god-awful ones.
I’ve lived in dorms and apartments.
I’ve eaten godawful cafeteria food.
I’ve gone out dancing until 1 in the morning when I have class at 9.30 the next day.
I’ve gotten drunk at 3 AM and woken up six hours later still incredibly drunk.
I’ve experienced heartbreak and been responsible for a few heartbreaks in my own right.
I’ve studied things I never thought I’d find interesting (like Latin), and things I always thought I would (like the Holocaust).
I’ve made some friends I’m pretty sure will want to put up with me for the years after I get my diploma.
And I’ve had enough painful and nonsensical experiences in my four and a half years here to write fifty novels, let alone one.

So there you have it. Brief undergraduate nostalgia. Class will be over in 12 minutes and I’m ready to get my diploma now.

You know, just as soon as I get a job lined up for post-graduation.

(Fuck).