Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Year In Review, As Told By Snapchat

As junior year draws to a close, it's only natural that I would reflect on the past 9 months. Unsurprisingly, the results of this reflection are somewhat along the lines of "huh." I laughed, ate, drank, and was merry (coincidentally, the whole "being merry" bit seemed to coincide with the drinking). I could sit here and bore you all with dreadfully woeful tales of getting a B+ in English or indulge myself in an equally woeful (and cliché) tale about breakups (oh wait, already did that). But in this particular instance, I'm gonna let the Snapchats do the talking, as Snapchats are wont to do.

So how did this year pan out? Well...

I studied hard...


I made healthy choices that would benefit my mind and body...

My friends and I improved our style and made smart fashion choices...

I learned how to adult...

I partied like it was 1999...

...And I made new friends who always appreciate me

Let's just hope senior year is this impressive. Nothing says "successful junior year" like learning how to balance a water bottle on your head.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

My Feet Cause a Great Deal of Strife

So, the other day, in attempts to look cute, I bought some shoes. As someone who was too awkward and weird busy to go out during my first two years of college, I thought it was perfectly normal to only have a pair of sneakers that smelled like a wet dog (that gets all the guys, amirite?), winter boots that have absolutely no purpose in actual winter, and a pair of ratty flip-flops that I'd had since high school.

Since then, I've managed to go out like a normal(ish) person, and have found a multitude of cute, skinny girls wearing cute, skinny heels. Thus the desire to look "adorable" was born--and since I'm not about to stop eating obscene amounts of Ben & Jerry's, I decided to invest in a pair of heels. Normal, right? Something any college-aged female would do, and presumably succeed at, right?

Wrong. Oh how very, very wrong.

I'm typing this with my left leg hanging over the edge of my bed in order to avoid getting foot blood on my comforter.

It all started when I found a pair of wedges that looked (relatively) comfortable, and my roommate was all "ohmygosh! Those could be your class shoes!" This was a perfectly innocent suggestion, as my roommate is someone who can successfully wear adorable things without looking like she had a run-in with an axe murderer.

So, I bought these shoes, wore them to class with a pair of floral-print pants to top off the look, and 4 hours later, this is what happened:
My roommate had to lend me her gym shoes because my wedges ended up scraping against my feet so much, a sea of blood came gushing out. As it turns out, it continued to gush out all over my roommate's sneakers. Because, apparently, all I do is win.
The face of evil.
This would seem like a relatively insignificant problem, had I not encountered a gazillion other problems with my feet. Basically, it all started when I was eight years old and had to get warts frozen off my feet because the universe didn't hate me enough as is.

To make matters worse, in high school, it didn't even take nice shoes to make my feet bleed. All I had to do was wear something, anything at all that weren't flip-flops and my feet would come at me with a vengeance. As my friend Keri noted in 11th grade, I'd walk around school with blood in my aggressively un-cute sneakers:

Ten-odd years later, my roommate had to write an entire blog post about how problematic living with me was because, as previously stated, my shoes smelled like wet dog.

And now my left pinky toe looks like it's been flayed simply because I was trying to be like the cool kids...not only do they all seem to get it, but they seem to pull off walking on tip-toes like they've been doing it for ages.

Maybe I'd figure it out if I went out more. For now, I'll just sit in my room and bemoan my flayed feet.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why We Tutor: Thoughts From the Writing Center

When I was introduced to the idea of becoming a writing tutor at PSU, my first instinct was to retreat to my room, binge watch Gilmore Girls, and never speak to another human again.

Okay, so that's my first instinct when I'm introduced to a lot of things that involve other people, but just go with me here.

I find it extremely unnatural to be in authoritative positions, so the very idea that I could present myself as someone who "knew more" or was better at writing than someone else wasn't something that I could easily grasp. I objected that I got a B+ on an essay once, and writing tutors just don't get B+'s. I was sure that anyone at the writing center could see through my phoniness and instantly demand a real writing tutor, a wise, learned writing tutor that says impressive things and writes groundbreaking essays about Paradise Lost.

As it turns out, none of this is true. Because, apparently, people at the writing center are not pretentious assholes who come straight out of British films. Good job, self.

 I've gotten a clearer idea on what it means to be a writing tutor, but it's not something a lot of students readily talk about--there's still a misconception that the writing center is a "fix it shop" where we'll instantly turn your commas into glittering pieces of gold and guarantee that shiny A on your paper.

While I've answered my fair share of grammar related questions, that has rarely been the most helpful part of a tutorial. I've also heard more than zero freshman composition students say that they came to the writing center because they didn't trust peer review and wanted advice from someone who wasn't in the same boat as them.

If that's the case, go to your professor's office hours. Because as an undergraduate tutor, I'm still in the exact same boat as an Engl 15 student.

There's a lot of ways I can tell you how we don't tutor. We don't tell you you're "wrong," and, as much as I love em dashes, we don't start throwing them into your essay like they're made out of gold. We don't write your essay for you. We try not to sass you back when you get annoyed that we don't write your essay for you, although this sometimes fails.

It's more difficult to explain why we do tutor, especially at a time when we want to be better writers right now, and get that instant A like it's a cup of ramen noodles.

I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that students come into the writing center to experience the joys of the collaborative process --that's a far too hippie-ish perspective, even for me--but in all honesty, it makes for a much better tutoring session when the student comes in wanting a second perspective on his paper, rather than wanting someone to fix it.

A couple weeks ago, a student came in with a rough draft of her speech outline--it turned out that we had the exact same speech professor and both felt that our speeches relied too heavily on narrative rather than informative techniques. I wasn't going to try and trick her into thinking that I was the great speech master of the 21st century; rather, I expressed my frustration that our introductions had to "state the thesis and preview the main points" like we were in 6th grade. There's no way to make this not sound cheesy, but the fact that we were able to collaborate on an assignment we were both struggling with made both our speeches stronger.

Plus, just by working with people who are applying to graduate school, I now know how to write a killer personal statement. So there's that.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Will the Real Hipster Please Stand Up?

So, my friend recently talked about how she's an accidental hipster, and at the time I was all "that's kinda weird; you're either a hipster or you're not." It seemed pretty obvious that anyone who listened to records and sported large glasses was a hipster, and that was it. End of conversation.
Sooo hipster

But then something strange happened--more and more people started defining me as hipster. I mean, I get it. I'm at Webster's pretty much every moment I have a second to breathe. I do yoga. Come at me. But I also am freakishly obsessed with glitter, pop music, and hot pink--all aggressively anti-hipster things. It wasn't until my friend explained that I was a true hipster because I was so indifferent to my "image" and just wore and listened to whatever I wanted, that I realized a great cultural shift is happening right before our very eyes.

Friends, the great hipster shift is coming. Brace yourselves.

We're now witnessing the great divide between the poser hipster and the true hipster. Those who try to be alternative are mainstream, and those who admit to being mainstream are hipster. I never thought I would see the day where I apologetically listened to Katy Perry and start getting labeled as alternative. I don't go in search of music that no one has ever heard of (unless it's Lindsey Stirling because she's amazing; don't ever fight me on that) because if I do try to bring up an obscure band in conversation, I know I'll have this give-away expression of hipster-ness. I don't know what a hipster expression looks like, but it can't be good.

While I've gotten more comfortable with this title of "accidental hipster," my friend gave me a label that better fits: I am a quagmire. I engage in hipster activities and have a hipster personality, but I almost always prefer mainstream music, books, and shows. Like, sometimes you just need some Zooey Deschanel in your life. There's no hidden deeper meaning in that. Sometimes you need some T-Swift to tell you to shake it off (and whatever Taylor says, goes). But these more mainstream forms of entertainment are so looked down on, it's almost cool and edgy to like them.

So where I'm going with this is that my 6th grade self was ahead of the times for being obsessed with The Cheetah Girls. At least that's what I tell myself at night. 

In ten years, all the new poser hipsters will probably love pop music and wear little black dresses and accidental hipsters will be ashamed of their beanies and typewriters. It's a vicious cycle.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chasing Chaucer: The Plight of the English Major

So, as those in English at Penn State are aware, we are required to take a course on early British literature. As I'm trying to keep it a secret that I'm an English major who is not well versed in the classics (shhhh), I did my very best to feign excitement about this course. Fortunately, every student who has taken/is taking this course says it's terrible, except for grad students in training, who say things like "let me suggest that the agency of women..." Even my roommate, who is pretty much a literature genius, came back from that class with a look of fear in her eyes.

Needless to say, (except I'm saying it, so hah!) I wasn't exactly thrilled to face Engl 221 this semester.

As our class dove into the texts, however, a strange thing happened to me. Not only did I not want to shoot myself in the face after reading, I found myself enjoying the texts. I mean, Le Roman de Tristran let the hopeless romantics such as myself indulge themselves in the idea of true love. Beowulf was chopping off arms left and right and fighting dragons like a badass. Even Sir Gawain, a story that put me to sleep in middle school, made me want to drop out of school and start fighting green men with magical powers.


Then we got to Chaucer. And let me tell you, I have some things to say about this guy. 
Don't give me that look

First off, this isn't a direct complaint to Chaucer, but more so to the geniuses who compiled the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Every old and middle English story has been translated enough so that you can have some clarity about who the characters are and what happens--two essential traits in a story, in my humble opinion.

Then you get to Chaucer, and all of that is thrown out the window. Reading comprehension, who needs that? Why not just speak a bunch of gobbledy-gook and pretend you know a totally different language??

I know, I get it. It's middle English. But just like the middle child, it's irritating, takes forever to understand, and everyone forgets about it.

I mean, honestly. How am I supposed to read this without making my brain explode?

But then by time you actually have an inkling of the prologue to The Canterbury Tales, you realize it's actually dreadfully boring. Chaucer takes an entire chapter to list out every single character and describe their best/worst traits. I swear, it's like speed dating, minus the inappropriate attire. Like, if I ever were forced to meet 29 people in the course of an hour, I'd kill myself. It's certainly not any better to read about it. 

While the actual tales are slightly more thrilling, there are parts that make me question why this is presented as sophisticated literature. For those of you that aren't familiar with The Miller's Tale, basically this married girl and some guy fall in love and trick the girl's husband into thinking there's a flood so that they can spend some time together (doesn't everyone?). While they're shacking up together, some other guy who's into this girl demands a kiss from her. The girl thinks it's hilarious to stick out her behind so that the guy kisses her ass, and then when he asks for another kiss, the girl's lover sticks out his butt and farts.

That's the highly abridged version, but you catch my drift. Chaucer is writing fart jokes, everyone. I feel like I'm in the 4th grade. 

I mean, honestly! All I ask from an author is to make an insightful comment or two about the nature of love, and leave people's butts out of it. All I got from this is that these people need to cool it and learn some basic manners. Oh, and not to sleep with people when they're married, but...priorities. 

Maybe I've failed as an English major. But I just cannot for the life of me understand the appeal of Chaucer. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Understanding Girls: The Breakup Hair Edition

So the other day, my friends and I were discussing the purpose of breakup hair. Breakup hair, in its purest form, is the drastic alteration of one's hair cut, color, or style immediately after the termination of a relationship.

Basically, it's an excuse to shell out $200 for the sake of emotional cleansing.

I myself have taken it to a whole new level and made breakup tattoos a thing, though I wouldn't advise it. #lifechoices.

But we're not here to talk about me, okay? We're here to reveal the true meaning of breakup hair. Hold on to your hats, guys, 'cause stuff's about to get real here.

My guy friend, who is perpetually perplexed by stuff girls do, claims that "girl logic is when you dump someone then try to make them jealous by looking extra good." One of these things is not true.

While I try not to generalize and I can't speak for all girls, it's hardly fair to say that we're a spiteful species that tries to tear out guys hearts by dumping them, only to make them feel worse because we hop out of hair salons looking like Heidi Klum. It doesn't matter if you're on the giving or receiving end of a breakup--you still want to outwardly show that you can move on, that you can look hot, and that maybe it took being single to realize that you were destined to be a redhead. Or something.

After feeling the immediate sting of loss, there's not much to look forward to. There's that sense of "I'm waiting for a new person to fill this void," irrational as that may be. While that void goes away with time, breakup hair allows that immediate sense of urgency to go away. When you're anticipating a new person, you have no control. You have no idea when Johnny Depp a new guy will waltz into your life. However, when you're anticipating a drastic change in appearance, you know that an exciting new thing will happen next Thursday, at 3:00 PM. It may be a distraction from all the new unknowns in your life, but hey, it's more constructive than alcohol or staying up till 2AM watching The Notebook.

I'm not trying to fool the male species and claim that breakup hair is "100% all about me." I'm sure many a female who has gotten breakup hair can attest to the fact that we want our exes to notice that there is something different (hopefully for the better) about us. But it's a little too simplistic to say that we want our exes to be jealous, or regret ever losing us in the first place. Perhaps we want to invoke some curiosity, but we're not maliciously going "haha, I look better now than I ever did when I was with you!"

Obviously the reasons for getting breakup hair vary from girl to girl. But guys, if you suddenly see a girl sporting bubblegum pink hair, don't automatically assume she's trying to make her ex cry himself to sleep. In the words of Jenna Marbles, "girls are magical unicorns," and we're a little more complex than that.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

English Professors: A Breed Classification

So I've had quite a few English professors over the past three years, and I've made the recent scientific discovery that animals of this breed exhibit a wide range of appearances, lectures, and  obscene amounts of reading homework assignments. Until my entry into college, I had assumed that every English professor was the same eyeglass-wearing, nature-loving hippie, only to realize that I'd spent too much time with my father and it wasn't normal to end every sentence with "let's look at this from an eco-critical lens!" (love you, Dad).

Despite this realization that not every professor is going to rant at you about Lord Byron for an hour (although some will, and he'll spend the first half hour going "Byron is my hero!"), there's something inherently...English-professor-y about these varying breeds. For instance, everyone likes thesis statements--they make for a clear, concise essay--but I have yet to meet a professor who didn't love thesis statements with the same level of enthusiasm that you might have for, say, chocolate cake. And I can guarantee you that every English professor will at least mention Freudian theory, even if they back up their statement with "but that's completely bogus; you guys talk about sex enough as it is."

And that is all true. 

So how do you distinguish these breeds? Of course every professor is his/her own unique snowflake, and you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, blah blah, insert more nice clichés here. But I've at least jotted down some observations on certain trends among professors, in hopes that you can then tailor each essay to your professor's random expectations have a more fulfilling educational experience.

1) The hippie professor.
This professor will go to great lengths to find the meaning in everything. I mean, that's what great literature is for, right? To find deeper meaning and make some grand revelation about life? But this professor will not just stop at the meaning of Hamlet's "To Be or Not to Be" speech. Suddenly he's looking at every semicolon, every comma, and going "what did you mean to suggest to the reader through this comma?"

Um, I meant to suggest that there was a pause in the sentence and I know how to use basic grammar? Hello?

This professor will desperately want his entire class to become lifelong friends--if everyone doesn't sit around a fire together singing "Kumbaya," he considers himself a failure. This can present a bit of a problem to said professor because, as noted by my fellow English major friend, no one talks in English class.

The easiest way to distinguish this professor is through his collection of body jewelry, crazy opium eyes, and a collection of ties that had probably seen better days in the '70's.

The perk of having the hippie professor is that you could probably get away with meditating in the grass for an hour and calling it college. So that's fun.

2) The professor that "isn't here to make friends."
This professor knows that liberal arts gets a bad rep. She realizes that people seem to think that English majors are getting stupider while, coincidentally enough, universities get richer. However, this professor refuses to pity you and your story about how you have to work 30+ hours a week just to pay for your schooling and she has no need to hear your traumatic story about your dying cat Dennis. She is the academic version of that girl on America's Next Top Model who "isn't here to make friends":
If you're in tears and throwing books around your dorm room, you either A) are crazy, or B) have a type 2 professor. She will be sure to assign at least 4 hours of reading each night and will only give A's to the kids who don't seem to need sleep or food or a moment to breathe. Her favorite phrase will be "you need to earn your grades, kids," all while making it impossible to get anything above a B.

3) The professor that is here to make friends and influence people.
This professor knows that college is hard. She sees your creativity being squashed by textbooks and exams. She makes it known that she despises the way universities are being run like corporations and she wants you and your creative spirit to run free. The biggest perk of this particular breed of professor is that she does not believe in exams and she wouldn't give grades if the university didn't force her to. Similar to the hippie professor, this professor wants to talk about the meaning of things, though this meaning almost always relates back to her students' lives. She is forgiving of students who don't do the reading, but only if they have a convincing story about their dying cat, Dennis.

The professor that is here to make friends can be seen wearing floral skirts and tee-shirts with bold political statements. Hence the confusion with the hippie professor.

At the very least, you know you can impress each breed of professor by throwing in a Derrida reference or two, and if that doesn't work, there's always the option of dropping out of college and selling yourself to an art gallery, à la Eddie Izzard.