03 November 2010

Strange dreams

I recently have experienced a number of very odd dreams, ranging from the innocuous (like dreaming that I was handing someone a blank application to fill out and realizing, as I turned at my desk, that I was instead rolling over in my sleep) to the outright bizarre. My dream from last night falls into this latter category, and I can't help but share it.

I was walking in an open hallway when I suddenly was caught up in a mass of people heading toward a large room/small auditorium. It became clear along the way that all the students (of which I evidently was one) were being gathered for their thesis presentations, and along with this came my realization that I not only had not written my thesis yet, but I had not even begun any preparations for writing the thesis. I pulled out a large book (probably with 200 or 300 pages), which was evidently a prompt book to assist with writing the thesis, and not a single page had been filled in.

In an understandable state of panic, I was ushered into the room along with the swell of students around me and began to notice specific friends and acquaintances, all of whom were clearly prepared for their presentations. Apparently, writing a masters is, in my subconscious, like writing an in-class essay - you're given a range of topics and prepare all of them so you can answer whichever essay question the teacher assigns in class. In this case, my Vikings professor from senior year of college came to the front of the class and announced that we would be presenting a Norse-style saga.

A student came forward and began showing his saga; intimidatingly, this was in the form of a movie which he wrote, directed, and in which he starred. As this frightening evidence of how far behind I was rolled on the screen at the front of the class, I frantically began planning my own presentation. I would have to go with a story-teller mode, of course, not having anything better planned. Unfortunately, my status as a raconteur is shaky at best, so I decided to provide an existing story from an unusual point of view.

Here's what I had (in a bare-bones sense):

There was a beast, a demon monster who terrorized the king's domain. This monster was born to a human mother but in the presence of beasts, and with such a beginning he could not fail to exhibit odd powers: he could walk for miles in desert without suffering; he could create mud demons; he could and did strike down his opponents with unnatural forces. The king feared for his people and rightly so - the monster was gathering an army, preparing to attack with great force.

The wise ring-bearer called upon a champion, a warrior proven in battle and of great strength, to free the kingdom of this foul beast. This warrior went into the town, subverted the power of the monster, and flushed him out into the open and away from his army. The warrior, proud of his conquest, marched his captured prey through the town. Then, not unlike Beowulf with the arm of Grendel, he hung the monster such that all could see him.

It was then that the centurion pierced Jesus in his side with a lance.

At this point, I woke from my dream and realized, with great relief, that I was freed from the obligation of producing thesis-worthy material out of thin air/turning the New Testament into a Norse saga from the Roman's point of view.

I present all of this as a lead-in to the following conclusion, made minutes after I woke:

Either my subconscious mind is insanely creative, or I need to find out how it is getting access to illegal drugs.*

* This is a joke. Please laugh.

31 July 2010

Work Ethic

[Before I begin, I feel obliged to note that I've just published a few posts that were sitting, unpublished but 99% finished, in my Blogspot queue. These are all post-dated, so I'm going to link them here in case anyone feels the need to have read each and every one of my beautiful pieces of prose:

- On Bullying
And now, back to our regularly scheduled post.]

Work has been insanely busy as of late. I'm currently working as an office manager in an apartment complex near NC State, which means that the summer is on the whole the busiest time of year: students move out, students look for new housing, students move in. Unfortunately for us, each week has been busier than the one proceeding it, and will continue to do so until school starts on 18 August. That disclaimer being noted, things definitely hit a new high yesterday. Over 60 apartments were scheduled to be moved into either the 30th (Friday), the 31st (Saturday), or the 1st of August (Sunday); as the office is not open on weekends, I and my two fellows had to get leases signed, keys cut and allotted, and parking passes assigned to all of those people. Though we did manage to survive, we're not out of the clear yet: an insane number of people will be moving out over the weekend, as it is the 31st, so we can count on having a lot of paperwork to process on Monday as well.

All of this stress and hard work has been altering my personal life, as my post-work life seems to have been taken over by the strains. A lot of this is because I am, on the whole, of worrying stock - it's hard for me to let go of the things I have to do just because the office door is locked behind me. Another aspect of it is that I fall on the introverted side of the personality scale: I need time alone to recharge and, with a strong and consistent strain, the time necessary to reset my personality grows exponentially. Add to that a heavy dose of personal pride in the work I produce, and thereby a need for it to be right, and you have a pretty strong concoction of Leslie-Going-Crazy.

That being said, Stephen pointed out something that I find intriguing, even though I don't necessarily agree with it. An employer, he said, would naturally value any employee who put a lot of personal pride and effort in to their work, as it would ensure not only quality work but an employee who would diligently work long hours providing it was for the good of the work produced. However, when it comes to the employee, it is not necessarily a good trait: for me, someone who does not plan to make a career of this job/in this field, it seems that I'm putting myself through an unhealthy amount of strain and punishment for the same rewards I would receive were I not so stressed and caught up in my work.

While I understand the point he makes, it still seems to me that I am reaping benefits above and beyond what I would were I not so concerned. Practice makes perfect: will I be able to put in effort when it was important if I did not practice such behavior now? There's also the matter of references: what if a glowing recommendation from my current employer gets me that career-worthy job? Nevertheless, I don't like that I have been for several weeks now too stressed to socialize well. The past three or four days were particularly bad; I created a deeply rutted path from work to my apartment because I declined invitations to deviate from that route - I went to work, came home, spent a few hours gathering myself before passing out at 10:30, and then went to work again the next day and repeated the cycle once more. Though I can tell myself that this is just a bad stretch, that after school starts it won't be like this in the office again until next summer, I cannot fully disregard the point that Stephen makes.

So, dear readers, what are your thoughts? Where should one's priorities lie?

21 July 2010

Read on, true believers!

The past seven weeks have been successful ones in so far as my goals of socializing are concerned. I've had dinner with my Gymboree comrades, attended two book club meetings, witnessed a matrimonial union, and have on the whole been quite the social creature.

The biggest triumph of my social life as of late was being partner/host-in-crime with Stephen in the holding of a 4th of July party. We held it in honor of the death of Jubilee, the most worthless X-men ever.

Jubilation Lee, codename Jubilee, was made prominent in the 90's cartoon version of the X-Men. Her power: shooting weak sparks from her fingers. (I feel obliged to note that whining and running away from home whenever possible, while not normally super powers, were certainly possessed to a super-strength degree when it came to Jubilee). After a few episodes it becomes clear that her only use is as mutant bait: whenever the X-men needed a distraction, Jubilee runs out and sparklers anyone within sight, distracting them from the mutant of worth who was sneaking up from behind to incapacitate them.

Though our hatred of Jubilee was inspired by many an episode of X-men, her death itself arose from one particular episode: an alternate future wherein mutants are put in concentration camps and all of the original X-men team are dead but one, Wolverine. As Wolverine is being brought into the mutant prison, a panning shot of the courtyard shows tombstones as its only decor. The familiar names of the X-men team adorn many of these, and there, standing out in glory for all to see, is one graced with two blessed words: "JUBILEE d.2010" (3:45 to 3:50 on the linked video).

Here it was, 2010: the year of Jubilee's death. Celebration was in order! And what better day to celebrate the death of a glorified sparkler than the 4th of July?

There were three essential aspects to the party:
1. Fireworks. We celebrated in the parking lot with a 50-count box of sparklers and a firework-stuffed effigy. As is tradition, I did my mother's Sparkler Dance.
2. X-men. We played the cartoon series as well as the movies throughout the night.
3. And, of course, drinks. What would an adult-themed party of nostalgia be without them? An extensive menu of 13 different drinks was created by myself, Stephen, and fellow nerd Brent; each drink was named for a character from the show and somehow connected to them. Though some things could be figured out (the "Mystique" drink was sure to involve blue curacao, for example), none of our party-goers were apprised of the contents before their drink was ordered.

(Pictures of the menu to follow...)

In addition to having a variety of drinks on the menu, we had three achievements for the night: The Apocalypse (drinking all 3 villain drinks), the Professor X (drinking all 7 X-men drinks), and the Nightcrawler (accomplishing the Apocalypse and the Professor X, upon which, we surmised, one would be inclined to black out in one place and wake up in another. [If you're a nerd, you'll find this hilarious.])

A not-so-essential aspect to the party, but great nevertheless: our party favors rocked! While supplies lasted, each of our party attendants was given a glass with the X-men logo etched on it and "Jubilee Dies 2010" written underneath the logo. (The glasses were the result of my recently having bought a lifetime supply of glass-etching paste and having not nearly enough glass upon which to exercise my newfound skill.) In addition, anyone who accomplished an achievement received a "WINNER" medal, officially making the medals both the cheapest and worthiest favor of the night.

I think it's easy to say that the party was a raging success. We had at least 20 party-goers stop by throughout the night, and though the party lasted for 6 hours, no one was sick and the apartment was relatively clean when we shut the place down at 2 am. The only downside of having such an epic shindig is that it is now the new standard we must meet or surpass with any future parties. I think Stephen and I are up to the challenge, however, so should you ever be in town for one of our party nights, be sure to stop by!

05 June 2010

:Still Alice:

In the hopes of creating tighter social bonds, I've recently joined a book club. I've yet to make it to a meeting; there's only been one since I've joined, and I had to cancel due to the stress after my first day at a new job. Despite this seeming lack of dedication, I can say that I've not only kept up with, but thoroughly enjoyed, the reading thus far, all of which would have never made it on to my plate were it not for my involvement with this book club.

I'm ahead on the reading at present. This month's meeting is still two weeks away, and, with my usual lack of self-control when it comes to books, I'm already about half-way through July's, having just started this morning. (In my defense, it's a 300 page book.) It's called Still Alice, and is the tale of an independent, intellectual woman of fifty who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. It is written from Alice's perspective as she (forgive the Wonderland phrase) falls further down that mental rabbit hole: forgetting things she's just learned; forgetting how to get home; being diagnosed and having to tell her three children that yes, they too may have the disease. Watching her husband's fear of the disease and the strain it is putting on his life. It was this last point that forced me to put the book down.

My grandfather recently passed away, and, toward the end, he had a number of difficulties. The worst of this, for his family, was the onset of dementia. Paired with a large dose of paranoia, his forgetting of where he was and who we were was annoying at best, painful and frightening at worst. I hate that I'll never be able to think of him again without remembering that he accused me, in his last days, of having killed my mother (his daughter) in a plot to get his money, and that he hoped I'd go to the electric chair for my crimes.

Reading Still Alice gives me a glimpse of what that time must have been like for my grandfather: how the fright of not knowing made him lash out at us while latching on to anything that explained his surroundings, even if that meant doubting whether this girl who looked like his granddaughter really was his family. In truth, we were all lucky - my grandfather was 92 before his dementia became a problem rather than just another symptom of old age, and it only was in his last few months of life that he lashed out at my family and the nurses of his rest home. And yet, being provided with this in-the-head glimpse of the fall makes even a short time like that all the more frightening and horrible. My emotional pain pales to nothing in comparison to what must have been his constant fear and panic.

Like a first-year medical student who, after memorizing diagnosis after diagnosis, can't help but diagnose himself with some strange and awful disease, I can't help but feel scared for my own future. How can one love others, have a family, take constant steps forward in building a life when something like Alzheimer's, terminal cancer, or any other of a number of awful diseases could come along to punish loved ones with financial and emotional burdens? And yet we do it every day, and have done it for centuries. I suppose the human condition is one of a terminal nature - we live knowing we will die. But that knowledge doesn't seem to make my newfound fear any easier to swallow.

28 April 2010

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye...

Well, viewers, the word is in: Elliott is officially totaled.

This morning, I left for work early so as to stop by the body shop on my way in. I only had a couple of things to retrieve from Elliott - a set of jumper cables and a tire iron - but it was worth going to be able to say goodbye to the car I'd had and enjoyed since my senior year in high school.

Elliott was not in great shape when I arrived. Both bumpers were gone, notes were written on him in car chalk, his tail-lights had been pulled out and put in the trunk... Were we having a funeral, I would have asked for a closed-casket viewing. It was depressing to see him like that, and his untimely demise really struck home. Truth be told, I had been considering replacing Elliott for a while. We had grown apart over the years and not together. It wasn't quite time for us to go our separate ways, but that was in our near future. It didn't make losing him any less sad. Still, I didn't have time to linger, so I gave Elliott his final rights (stole his floor mats) and went on my way to work.

In the end, I like to think that Elliott is moving on to bigger and better things. He's doing something I can't - taking over other, in-need-of-repair cars one infiltrating piece at a time. When the Mercury Sables of the world rise up and try to overcome their masters, I can rest assured that Elliott is contributing to the movement.

26 April 2010

An Update

With nearly a year of silence on a blog, I find myself wondering how far back one goes in order to bring everyone up to speed, or how necessary such an act is. Still, I feel the urge to at least bullet-point my last few months:

  • After leaving Japan, I spent a couple of weeks traveling with friends in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. It was harrowing, glorious, fun, and I can't believe I did it.
  • In September, one of my best friends got married. I stood on his side at the wedding, which was a real honor, and managed to not cry, which was a real surprise.
  • I also moved to NC in September, and started living with my best friend from high school, which has been one of the best rooming situations I've ever had.
  • In October, my maternal grandfather died. He was 93, and had lived a very full life. I'm really happy I got to see him a lot before he passed, as such couldn't have happened in previous years.
  • I also met and started dating my boyfriend, Stephen, in October. He's a computer science graduate student, a complete nerd, and absolutely wonderful.
  • I spent Christmas with my family and New Year's with friends for the first time in years, and it was glorious.
  • I started working for Gymboree Play and Music in January, and am still working there - basically, I get to play with little kids most of the time. It was, is, a big step up from working at Old Navy, the only other job I'd been able to find until that point.
  • Stephen and I took a trip to New Orleans at the end of February to visit his alma mater. It was one of the better trips I've taken in a while, and the food was amazing (as one might suspect).
  • I turned 25 in March, meaning I'm good for my quarter-life crisis. It'll start any day now. Stephen and I went to a tea ceremony to celebrate, and I spoke Japanese to native speakers for the first time since I left Japan.
  • Finally, around 5 days ago, I was rear-ended while driving home from work. Though neither I nor the other driver was injured, my car wouldn't start after the accident. I'm fairly sure Elliott has earned his parking pass for the Big Lot in the Sky, which will make my next week of car shopping really "fun."
Is that all too big for a nutshell, or did I fit it all inside?

A Reappropriation

Though I'd originally intended for this blog to be dedicated to my years in Japan, I'm finding I have the urge to pick up blogging, and [Witty Title Here], where I left it almost a year ago. At the time, I found my isolation in a foreign country mixed with a high amount of travel to be the optimal conditions for my need to write. With those incentives gone upon my return, I felt I no longer had a reason to write.

It has occurred to me, however, that my isolation remains. I have been living in North Carolina for 8 months now, and yet I mostly socialize with my boyfriend and my roommate. As they have lives of their own, and rather busy ones at that, there often come times when I am spending my days in an isolation reminiscent of Ota, but with fewer reasons to be alone.

Perhaps it is time to turn my writing into a promise for, rather than a reaction to, interesting news. If I constantly find myself writing the same things, see that things have not changed, it will only be greater pressure to do more - a public accountability of sorts.

So, here goes.