Wednesday, September 10, 2014

All in 2 weeks : Embracing Social Atrophy

My friend Ryan, who recently graduated from law school while working a more than full time job (and planning the world's most elaborate theme parties) told me to 'embrace social atrophy' while I'm in school.  Which is something I most certainly did not have to do in college. Fiction writing is an easier degree than anything math or science. For me. Probably for everyone.

My first step in embracing the atrophy of my social life, muscles, and general photogenic quality of my existence, is to admit that I don't have enough interesting photos from each week to warrant a weekly round up.

However, I don't want this period of my life to go undocumented completely, nor do I want to shrink down to a lonely pea. So I'm hoping to get out into the wilds a suitable amount to be able to post photos every two weeks.

As soon as I wrap up school, publish my book or win the lottery, I'll be back to my regularly scheduled All in a Week. Here's hoping.

1. north carolina mountain state fair at night 2. we flew to Jersey for 48 hours 3. sunday's hike 4. the 100 hour chemistry assignment 5. this beautiful cocktail hour at Nell's house 6. Lee, our porch, a violent storm 7. at the gates 8. my 3rd season of Asheville ultimate started up 9. southern style bakery 10. northern style bakery in NJ,  I was so excited I bought a pound of cookies & 2 cannolies 11. fair fish

If you enjoy the 'all in (some number of) weeks' posts, follow me on Instagram @melinadream 

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Now it's September, again. This is my 29th September. I'm fairly accustomed to them by now, although I can't remember one ever being so hot. 

It's 90 degrees during the day, and I sit in biology lab and watch through the window as steam rises from the pavement outside. At the front of the class, someone is flipping through slides of the endocrine system, pointing out thyroid from parathyroid, squamous and simple cuboidal, the two lobes of the pituitary. I'm trying so hard to focus, to dredge up some interest from somewhere inside of my brain, but I'm coming up dry. The words, the cells, the slides, seem to just glimmer away before I've absorbed them, like those first light snow flurries in Vermont where the tiny points of snow melt the very second they hit the ground.

I like school. I've always liked school. I love the way it forces me to hyper-organize my things and my time, notebooks stacked by color, coffee cup cleaned and waiting on the counter for the next morning. I love how it neatly dissects my day into blocks, and I always know where I should be- now class, now lab, now driving to the tutor, now opening my books on the kitchen table for the evening.

But this time around, my attention is waning.

I've heard that the golden gate bridge is so long that the people hired to paint it never get to stop. They start at one end and by the time they get to the end, about a year later, the first part needs to be painted again. And so on and so on and so on for as long as there is a golden gate bridge. This is what it feels like when I'm doing one of those long dimensional analysis problems with a hundred different steps. I start out so strong and confident and then I lose it it, little by little; the numbers collect but I forget why they are there or how I got them, and by the time I'm near the end I have to go right back to the beginning.

This happens on a macro scale as well, which often disturbs me. I'll be plugging along just fine, feeling satisfied with myself as I solve little puzzles, or get to class on time, or a row of numbers marches across the page in a particularly neat fashion, and suddenly I'll look up and wonder where I am. Why am I back in school? To become a nurse? Who decided that? When did I ever, ever express interest in being a nurse?

Not when I was a kid, certainly. I wanted to be an author when I was a kid, even when I was in preschool. Not when I was in high school or college. (If I'd had the vaguest idea in college I would have taken one math class and made this whole thing inordinately easier.) In college I wanted to be a novelist and after college I wanted to be a sitcom writer in New York City.

Out of the blue it will hit me that I've given up on all that and I'm living out a plan B. I'm not an introvert, writing is brutal, fiction is terrifying, print is dying, competition is soaring, other people are making it and I'm not and I have thrown in the towel at 29 with absolutely no excuse other than I don't want to work as hard as I know I would have to work.  

Those are the bad days. On the good days, I remember how completely enamored I was with my EMT course, how I felt useful in a way I'd never felt before. And I do love people and interacting with them. I think about how nice it will be to make a good salary and how many, many options will be available to me if I just keep going.

Am I a failure or am I being sensible? Will I grow to love it and what happens if I don't?

When I read a book I'm constantly analyzing the writing. I never would have written that sentence. That joke was perfect, what made it so subtle? That word was unnecessary, where did she come up with that, that's overkill, why didn't I think of that first? 

But that engagement, it doesn't seem to cross over into other mediums.

One of my jobs on the ship was to be a naturalist, and I was surely the worst naturalist that's ever been. My boss told us during one crew meeting that the key to being a good naturalist was to be constantly questioning the world around you.

But I look at birds and I think: "Oh. Birds." And I actually think ferns are really boring.

Once I saw a grizzly bear and my first thought was, "That looks like a man wearing a grizzly bear suit."


Oh, a pancreas. So that's how it works. Oh.

Look, I'm trying. I have this lemon essential oil and this peppermint stuff, it's supposed to wake up your brain. I'm mixing all these Super Food powders and hellaciously expensive gogi berries into smoothies to stay alert. I have a daily regiment of little logic puzzles that are supposed to boost your concentration or something. I try and see each class as a game that I am going to win, and that's all I can do for now.

Which is ok. It's ok to be ambivalent. Life is many things.
It's been so hot; everything damp and heavy. It's difficult to sleep, and to think, and the dog is miserable. She glares at me all day from underneath the table while I spin circles around my chemistry problems. I can't wait for the weather to turn, for the crisp, invigorating relief of autumn to sweep through these mountains and make everything feel new again.

Friday, August 29, 2014

all in a (studious) week

Things have changed. Sometimes I go backwards in this blog and look at the 'all in a week' posts from last year. So many activities, so many landscapes, each one matched with the perfect alcoholic apres.

Now? Lots of conversion factors and fluorescent lights. The AB tech math lab followed by private tutoring night-capped with my kitchen table flooded in paper. Not much alcohol as it appears I have interstitial cystitis and I pay dearly for every drink I drink. I found that out this week.  

I don't think the Urologist office will make the post because I could not get a fun-feeling photo out of that place. I tried.

I suppose that's what makes this weekly photo roundup interesting to me, though. How things change.   
1. 94 degree days every day, the dog slouches through her walks 2. my highlighter broke open in my mouth 3. chemistry 4. celebrated one year! 5. weekend in Durham 6. bent creek trails as the sun goes down 7. I saw one friend this week, she made me dinner, I remembered that I like having friends. 8. the dog cooling off 9. late night at Cosmic Cantina with Dave's oldest friends 10. my 'quick ride before studying' became a two hour doozy when I got fantastically lost. 

If you love staged photos of tremendous studying, the dog, and the occasional outdoor sport, follow me @melinadream #longroadtonursingschool

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Dry Lab

My chem lab partner is just a little guy. He has neat, close cropped hair and big handle-bar ears. When I sit down next to him, he smiles and extends his hand.

"You must be one of those super-kids who skipped high school," I say.

His skinny shoulders blades rise and fall. "Not really. I'm just doing a cross-over program and taking my science class here."

 I like this little guy immediately. He's much smaller then any of the kids I used to teach in high school. I have the sudden urge to take him under my wing. Show him the ropes. Be the cool older-girl-chem-partner who talks to him about Ipods, and which local hang-outs have the cheapest wings on Tuesdays. I could help him beef up his college essay. One thing is for sure- he'll definitely brag about me to his high school pals. I smile at him and swing my hair off of my shoulder. "Wow!" I tell him. "Smarty pants!"

We watch a half hour video about lab safety. When the video is over, the teacher turns on the lights and tells us to start working on Lab #1 in our books, a 'Dry Lab.' "Mostly just an overview of conversions. Shouldn't take you too long and you're welcome to leave when you're finished."

"That rocks." I whisper to my new friend. He gives me a shy smile and turns to his book.

 The room goes quiet. The only sound is the furious scratching of pencils from all of the students except one. Me. It's been thirteen years since my last chemistry or math class, and the page full of equations in front of me may as well be in Russian. I have absolutely no clue where to start, and the teacher has left the room.

I stare. Across the table from me, someone flips to the next page.

"Um," I say, leaning over to the little guy. "Where did you get that number?"

He opens his book to a page of conversions factors and points.

"But that's a positive number...?" I falter.

"If you put the number on the bottom, you just make it negative before you cross multiply."

"Oh." I say. Then, "Why?"

He tries explaining for a minute, but he doesn't do a great job. He looks a little confused too, although not about the material.

A few more minutes go by. The teacher is still gone. I sketch an octopus on the side of the paper. Eight legs.

Finally, I whisper to the boy, "So, where are you going to college?"

He looks up. "Don't know. I haven't thought that far ahead."

Oh no. "Are you a junior?"


Oh God he's a sophomore. He's a zygote. And he's racing through the problems with neat little numbers that all line up. I study his work, trying to orient myself. "Okay, um, how did you get that number up there?"

He looks down at this paper, starts pointing to an equation, and then hesitates. "I really don't know how to explain it," he says, obviously feeling bad. He looks over at my page, the octopus, then up at me, and I see it. In his eyes. Not annoyance, not anger, but pity.

And let me tell you, you've never felt shame like the shame that comes with having your skinny little lab partner, who is exactly half your age, feel very, very, very bad for you, on the first day of what is amounting to be a very, very, very long year. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

All in a week

1. beautiful blue ridge mountains 2. return to algebra- my first day of math tutoring 3. long ride on my last day of summer 4. I made spring rolls. this is not a food blog. but I made them 5. the dog in her mountain nest 6. we are down to the tiny details in the new house!!! 7. queen of the wild blueberries 8. hiking black balsam knob 9. I just really liked this twirly thing 10. lakeside picnic for Dave's school 11. Kelli rides through the green, humid Bent Creek 12. it's much hotter than Seattle, and there aren't bodies of water at the end of every block. Finding swimming spots is my latest challenge. 

If you like photos of the dog or the mountains, follow me on instagram @melinadream