On Voting

My very first federal election is coming up. After changing my name and residence for voter registration, I looked up my ballot. There are a lot of names I don’t know. The only political commercials that air on television don’t even apply to my congressional district, and presidential commercials don’t even air around here because not enough Obama voters live here, so I guess Romney’s using the money he saved from Utah to campaign like crazy in other states where Obama has a competing influence. Which I know is Mitt’s biggest concern. I just wonder where he gets and how he keeps his tan.

Anyway, here’s what my ballot looks like. I’m about halfway done researching the list, which sort of helps, but it’s mostly overwhelming. I recognize some of the names from billboards. My votes may just boil down to whether I like the spelling of names or if I can write poems from the anagrams of names or if my favorite letter of the alphabet that day is A. It is no coincidence that the initials of my new married name are the same as Mitt Romney. So, I could vote that way. Also, I like the Yes or No questions for the judges. Nothing about voting in Utah, America is confusing in the least little way.

Polls Are Great

My first week of school was pretty much amazing, but I’ll write more about that later.

In the past few days I’ve asked people what I should do with the rest of my life, and they came up with some pretty interesting answers. If you have an opinion either way (because you know that I will hold you completely responsible for my life), feel free to comment.

x: for a while i was gunning to live by a river with an irish poet-explorer. i’m way off-track, so you could take over for me
This definitely has a lot of appeal, and really, I don’t see why this couldn’t happen.

C: hard to say
Other people are supposed to have an easy time figuring out my future, but I’ll let this one slide.

H: ummm….go to paris eat really amazing food and find a handsome french man that admires you and buys you really pretty dresses and takes you to balls and then let me come visit you and then in a few years after you’ve had you’re taste of paris, move back to the states to be closer to your family and friends and of course your husband will have an amazing job that will let you travel when ever you want, but he wont want to leave your side, so he’ll have to come with you wherever you go in the meantime, you’ll be an amazing writer who will have your own column and eventually book that everyone in the world wants and becomes a number one seller in seconds then you could donate some of your money to charity and go on excursions to help the less fortunate people of the world
too much?
Is it really ever too much? Is there ever a detail too small? I say no.

B: grad school

  rock climbing
  love life
  reading
  teaching
  family
  Go

And then there’s the list approach, an outline with some really basic ideas. Then I get to fill in the gaps. Not bad.

J: we need to find a professional decision maker

 just do something that you like to do
 you don’t have to obsessively LOVE to do it
  but like it
  and be challenged by it

and feel like you’re doing something worthwhile

  or there’s always bellydancing
I like this advice, too, because not only does it leave my options open, but because I don’t have to wait to obsessively love something to pursue it. Also, bellydancing just seems like it should be impossible.
 

K: I don’t know much about life plans, but I believe in your ability to make choices

I like this a lot.

F: You ever read any jack kerouac? I say you either do something like him, minus the drug dependency, or write total money making fluff. It doesn’t have to be writing. I just came up with that since you seem to enjoy it and be decent. I suggest getting a publicist or agent. And don’t be afraid to get bad reviews at first. They can’t all be winners. I’ve been thinking about that as I write stand-up. I want to get a decent amount of material, then if I get any time off, looking into getting a booking agent or manager and doing some traveling gigs to get a feel for it and getting my feet wet. I feel like we were raised to struggle or hit it big. Nothing in between. But I guess that would be okay too.
Okay, maybe you can figure out who this one is. His response impressed me. He does often say substantial and wise (and often raunchy and funny) things, but I’m glad that he’s also thinking about his life.

You folks are so great. I’m so grateful for all of you.

You Can Skip This, Too.

My first actual memory of Jera Gunther was a random spring evening in 2003 in the west foyer of the Inwood ward building. She sat on one of those floral print couches, reading a book. I can’t remember why I was there, but seemingly out of the blue, she asked me if I’ve ever read the Scarlet Letter. That’s pretty much all she had to say. We’ve been friends ever since.

When I walked into Jera and Jordan’s house last Wednesday night, Jera told me that I looked the same. I can’t imagine changing that much in the past four years, and I told her that she looked the same, too.

We played with the kids and toured the town and talked about grownup things like politics and economics. We laughed about old times.

I don’t remember how I met Summer and Joel. I do recall going over to their Manhattan apartment for karaoke parties. It was me and Adam and Sheridan, and we’d choose songs from the computer and sing silliness into a microphone.

We’d also meet at ward picnics and go on bike rides and there was this one time we went to an Egyptian restaurant and paid way more for the meal than it was worth.

Summer and Joel haven’t changed much, either. We remembered when and listened to the kids sing the Beatles and laughed when the older sister dressed her younger brother as a girl in a polka dot dress and purple hair bow.

St. George in August is hot. Around 10:00 one night, I came out of the Gunthers’ house to get something from the rental car and  felt the heat from the day and in the driveway against my face and bare feet.

Their house is on a hill. At night, the valley twinkles. When I saw that, I wondered if I could live in the town of St. George, Utah.

This past Wednesday night, I went to dinner with my friend, Angie. It had been four? or so years since I’ve seen her. We met when she moved into the Inwood ward, and we had a few mutual friends. We caught up and gossiped and laughed and talked about important television and people we remember from New York.

On Thursday, my friend Cristi and I caught up over Jamba Juice and chocolate-covered cinnamon bears. I asked her when we first met, and she said that it was probably through Becky. Which: of course. We talked and laughed about everything in the shade of the JFSB courtyard.

I’ve known these cool cats for years, but I’m convinced yet again that time doesn’t always determine quality. It felt amazing seeing those friends, but when I see people I love from Utah/BYU, I’m equally pleased.

The Williams family has been generous to me. I started hanging out with Cynthia in January 2010, and we’d go to the music documentaries at Muse Music, where we learned about Daniel Johnston, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, and Arcade Fire. Then she made sure to invite me to everything she did. Potlucks, concerts, family drives, birthday dinners. We went with other friends and her other family members to the Festival of Colors and the Llama Festival, and we have inside jokes about peeing on ourselves and share a few family stories and secrets. I have been able to meet a lot of people through them. My boss knows their dad. They have been a stabilizing force for me here in Provo. I’m truly grateful for them.

Then there are Africa friends. With them, I shared things about myself that I normally wait to tell people in “normal” circumstances. I’ve been ever so fortunate to run into Natalie twice in the computer lab this summer. And to hang out with Sarah and Kylie. The Skabelunds and I met for lunch this past Monday. And I saw Spencer once, too. I’ve only known these kids for only four months, really, yet when I’m around them, it feels like home. Like we can kick back and talk about anything or watch tv or not feel any pressure to talk at all.

My heart has been so full this week. I have loved the quality time.

This past week was also Education Week at BYU. I’ve joked trying to compare it to EFY and Women’s Conference, because campus gets crazy and crowded and annoying during those events. Walking around these past few days, I met a lot of kind eyes and smiles, and it was rather touching to see how happy all the adults of all ages were to be at BYU learning fun and cool things. They get a week each year.

I’m coming up on two years. I pay tuition for each semester, but still.

It’s easy to forget how exciting it is to be here. To have access to all sorts of information and the academic community. To be someone to offer a perspective  of a roundabout path that might actually be valuable.

And I’ve been thinking about grad school. It’s my last undergraduate year, and I’m trying to reconcile the joy in moving on to even greater opportunities and the heaviness of my heart that also comes with moving on to even greater opportunities.

Yes, I do have to plan for the future, but I need to be ready to make the most of now. Of BYU. Of Utah. Right, Thomas Traherne?

Entering thus far into the nature of the sun, we may see a little Heaven in the creatures. And yet we shall say less of the rest in particular: tho’ every one in its place be as excellent as it: and this without these cannot be sustained. Were all the earth filthy mires, or devouring quicksands, firm land would be an unspeakable treasure. Were it all beaten gold it would be of no value. It is a treasure therefore of far greater value to a noble spirit than if the globe of the earth were all gold. A noble spirit being only that which can survey it all, and comprehend its uses. The air is better being a living miracle as it now is than if it were crammed and filled with crowns and sceptres. The mountains are better than solid diamonds, and those things which scarcity maketh jewels (when you enjoy these) are yours in their places. Why should you not render thanks to God for them all? You are the Adam or the Eve that enjoy them. Why should you not exult and triumph in His love who hath done so great things for you? Why should you not rejoice and sing His praises? Learn to enjoy what you have first, and covet more if you can afterwards.

Sycophantism 101

So, I was thinking back to when I got rejected for a Spring/Summer scholarship, way back in February.  The letter I sent to the financial aid office rather firmly asked them to reconsider their decision, that my recent grades should speak more loudly than my grades from prodigal years. They did reply, saying their decision is final, and that they can’t ignore any grades.

It makes sense that they didn’t give me a Spring/Summer scholarship, since those are strictly grades-based. But I also dismissed my chances of receiving a Fall/Winter scholarship; I was ready to apply for federal financial aid and finish off my undergraduate career, business as usual. I’d already resigned to commit to more debt because I was commited to earning a degree. What’s one more year, anyway?

Maybe you can understand my surprise when I received notification about the scholarship. While it’s true that Fall/Winter scholarships are need-based as well as academic, if you fill out the comprehensive application, you also get to submit three essays in some sort of last-ditch effort to prove your eligibility for a happy philanthropist’s money. I guess the financial aid office also considers the FAFSA, but not nearly as heavily as one’s character and intellect.

Those three essays really had to capture my character and intellect. Before I returned to BYU, I applied for a scholarship, and they seemed to regretfully inform me I wasn’t going to receive one. I understood that as well: it had been seven years, and my academic record before the hyperextended hiatus (called New York City)  was pretty shameful. But this time around, while I didn’t quite earn 4.0s, it did look like I was trying to redeem myself. The grades reflected my determination, which spoke for my character; and they also somewhat indicated that I have the smarts.

I couldn’t count on grades being enough, because BYU doesn’t look solely at grades with semester scholarships. Near the beginning of this year, I remembered the application deadline coming quickly, and I didn’t know how I could write three dazzling essays. Nevertheless, I took a deep breath, told myself they were only three three-hundred word essays, and that I had nothing to lose. I typed away.

The three essays are the same topics each time: 1. Tell us about yourself; 2. What do you want to accomplish at BYU; 3. What have you accomplished in the last five years. While I agree to advise people to be honest and sell themselves while writing these essays, I must also have to say it’s sort of a balancing act with saying a few things the scholarship committee wants to hear. It’s part of the business and art of writing in world: of course you have your craft, but if your work doesn’t affect someone, somewhere, then why bother?

The essays follow, behind the cut. I tried treating them as one long essay split into three parts with a few overlapping ideas. Truth be told, they’re not my best work, but I believe they made a difference in the committee’s decision. I’m glad someone decided to share a bit of their fortune with me. That someone reading what I had to say turned something relatively low-risk into a great blessing.

Continue reading

In Other News

I have a job.

It’s not like the clouds parted and a beam of light shone from the heavens.
It was on Craigslist, and it was something that looked interesting.

So I applied.
And they called me.
And I interviewed.
And I can start soon.

Then I realize: the heavens did open.

As soon as everything’s official, I’ll feel I can write more.
And that’s the thing: I’m allowed to write more about work.
Because writing is my work.

Sorry folks, I know you’re sick of the vagueness and nauseating poetry.

Things are picking up.

Florida Morning

I don’t remember being this excited about driving through fog. The entire state is pretty much flush with the ocean, and it’s as if the clouds settle down upon the sea and peninsula, and they’re still asleep as some of us rise from our slumbers around 6am. We drive through the mist. Our commute parallels the state of our brains that early in the morning.

It’s a patchy fog, which means we get moments of clarity among stretches of translucence. The car’s headlights call out these early morning spirits, amorphous beings, gossamer souls who only evaporate as the dawn breaks.

Going north from Green Cove Springs on Highway 17, I cross a bridge over Black Creek. The dew point is no match for the water’s temperature, and maybe the span of the creek instantly dissolves the fog that tried resting on the glassy surface. The creek clears out a vista to the east, where the sun slowly unseals itself from some low clouds on the horizon.

I see it now; this morning belongs to me. I emerge from the hour, the fog, the eerie whispers. I settle into the heat, the humidity; and the sun begins its arc through the day. I am not melting. I won’t disappear.

Rest Assured

I’m having a good time in Florida. The weather started off a bit cool, but it’s warmed up rather nicely. It’s been a little jarring coming back to this reality.

I’m having a good time in Florida. I’m staying at Jenny’s for this short season. Her generosity has meant so much to me the 18 years we’ve known each other.

I have a lot to catch up on.

I’m fighting feeling overwhelmed.

And maybe a little angry.

I’m having a good time, though.