Grad School Diaries: A Prologue

Do you remember the feeling in the pit of your stomach on Christmas morning? The anticipation and excitement caused all kinds of flutters and butterflies. Or maybe the feeling you had as an awkward 7th grader, seeing your crush walk by–the warm, fluttery feeling of contentment and potential that popped up whenever you’d run into them “by accident” in the hallway.

That same sort of fluttery anticipation is how I feel about starting grad school tomorrow. Every time I think about classes starting I get that same feeling of excitement. I guess that’s a sign that I made the right choice?

It’s another first day of school, one I didn’t originally anticipate happening, but here it is.

Is there a specific etiquette I’m supposed to follow now that I’m a grad student? I’ve got the stressed, over-caffeinated part down pat after four years at a newspaper, but is that not cool anymore? Am I supposed to be calm, cool, and collected now, giving off a vibe of “I’m totally in control of my life,” rather than exuding the panic everyone felt during undergrad? If so, that’s a role I need a lot more practice for.

Of course, there’s always the “be yourself” route, but that’s never really what anyone does, is it? What always ends up happening is that, in trying to be “yourself,” you play the role of what you think is the best version of you–the one who shows up in your highly-curated instagram feed, not the one who regularly hits the snooze button and leaves the house with a run in her tights.

Is there a happy medium? I’m not sure. If there is, I haven’t found it yet.

I may be blowing this whole thing out of proportion.

“Pfft, Ange,” you may be saying to yourself, “Of course there’s not a specific code of etiquette in grad school, everyone is broke and stressed, you’ll be fine.”

Sorry, can’t help the whole ‘blowing things out of proportion’ thing–it comes with the anxiety that I can’t seem to shake. 

Speaking of anxiety–I attended my orientation this evening, and while I was nervous to show up to a room full of strangers, it went far better than I had anticipated. Probably because I was jamming to Lorde before I got out of the car, in hopes of a confidence boost. Despite the fact that I made a couple wrong turns on campus, and that I didn’t know anyone in my program, tonight’s orientation  reaffirmed that I made the right choice about the school, the program, and my path.

There are so many incredible, brilliant people I can’t wait to know better, and though we’ve all come from different places and paths, we’re all bound by one common thread: our desire to delve deeper into the pages of the books we love so much. While I wasn’t sure about my plans until last fall, I know now that this is what I am meant to do.

I do truly feel that this is what I’m meant to be doing with my life, but that doesn’t mean I have the hang of it quite yet. Full disclosure: Despite the fact that tomorrow is the first day of classes, I’m not quite caught up on my reading (James Joyce might be the death of me), I have no idea what I’m going to wear (not that that’s particularly important, but I do want to look like something resembling a functional adult), and I’m really not sure what to expect.

I’m sure everything will turn out fine–no matter how nervous I get, I can’t deny the presence of the butterflies that appear in my stomach whenever I think about starting classes.

As someone dear to me once wrote, “Dream big. Learn. Create. Teach. Repeat.”

That’s the goal.

Here’s hoping I can pull it off.

“You Are Here:” Meeting The Bloggess in Philadelphia

I wrote something for the writer who inspired me to keep writing #verklempt

“Weird on, you bad-ass motherfucker.”

Even after a flight delay, several inches of snow, and forgotten medications, Jenny Lawson, better known as The Bloggess, shined during her reading and Q&A in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

Jenny Lawson speaking at the Rittenhouse Barnes and Noble in Philadelphia

I first discovered The Bloggess my freshman year of college, when her first book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) popped up on a list of the best memoirs for young women to read. I had recently been diagnosed with anxiety and depression (though I wouldn’t begin taking medication for it until a year later), so reading about someone else’s struggles with mental illness made me feel less alone. Jenny Lawson is candid about her struggles, and as a young woman feeling a bit lost in the world, I felt understood.

In that book, she writes, “…you are defined not by life’s imperfect moments, but by your reaction to them. And because there is joy in embracing – rather than running from – the utter absurdity of life.”

This quote, more than any other from that book, has stuck with me, even years after I first read it. I needed to learn how to embrace what she calls “the utter absurdity of life,” and I’d like to think that, since then, I have.

Ever since I read her first book, I’ve followed Jenny Lawson’s work. As a young writer, and as someone who struggles with mental health issues, she is the very definition of a role model.

Is bringing a signed copy to a reading to get signed again frowned upon? “Double-signed for awesomeness!!”

Her second book, Furiously Happy, is a collection of essays that completely changed my life. She delves into more detail about her mental health issues and how she deals with them, and again, I saw myself reflected in the things she discussed. It’s rare to find an author whose writing strikes such a chord; I felt understood and loved and not alone. I felt like, in a way, she was writing about me. I felt like she could be one of my best friends.

During her book tour for Furiously Happy, Lawson began posting photos of her drawings to social media; she has stated that she draws to “keep [her] hands from hurting [herself].” She revealed during her reading at Barnes and Noble that she was supposed to be starting another collection of essays, but her depression was preventing her from writing. Instead, she drew gorgeous patterns and pictures, which eventually became You are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds.

Signed copy of Jenny Lawson’s latest book, “You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds”

I don’t often go to readings, and I almost didn’t attend this one. However, there was something telling me that I had to go, that I would regret it if I missed this chance. I drove to Philadelphia in a swirling snowstorm, and trudged through the leftover snowbanks to get to the bookstore. I arrived late, and ended up sitting on the floor behind the author’s table.

I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

It’s not often you get to meet one of your idols. It’s even rarer that you’re able to thank them for everything they’ve done for you.

After her reading, and a Q&A session that was honest and inspiring, I got in line to get my books signed (well, Furiously Happy would be getting signed again…). All day, I had thought about what I would say when I finally got to meet her. When the time came? Everything I’d planned to say disappeared from my head. My hands were shaking. I could barely form a sentence beyond, “Thank you.” After a few seconds to compose myself, I handed her the letter I’d written, thanked her profusely for everything, and got my picture with her.

In a matter of minutes, it was over. But they were some of the best minutes of my life.

Jenny Lawson taught me to be furiously happy. She taught me that I don’t have to be afraid of myself, but rather, that my imperfections make me who I am. She showed me that depression lies, and that sometimes, it’s okay not to be okay. She is brilliant, hilarious, and so, so kind, and I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to meet her. I’ll never be able to thank her enough for the inspiration and courage she’s given me, but I hope that, through some cosmic, universal magic, she knows how much she means to me and everyone else whose lives she’s touched.

Thank you, Jenny Lawson, for everything.    

When you get to meet one of your favorite authors!!

Here goes nothing

Well, here we are.

In my reasonless insomnia last night, I decided that 2:30 a.m. was the perfect time to design a website. I’ve been meaning to do so for a long time, and I guess there’s no time like the present. I’m not entirely sure what I want to write about, so this will probably end up as a mess of pop culture discussions, political rants, and a lot of emotions.

The emotions come with the territory of having anxiety and depression. I’ve been on medication for about two years now, and I’m still learning how to deal with everything that the diagnosis entails. There’s such a stigma about mental illness–don’t talk about it, just go on pretending that everything is alright, and you’ll be fine in the end. Right?

Not so much.

I’ve been doing well lately but my brain chemistry always keeps things interesting. It seems to vacillate between being well-adjusted and comfortable, super on-edge, and feeling nothing at all. It depends on the day, really.

As a college student, this can be really inconvenient–school is hard enough without your own body trying to sabotage your progress.

Like I said, though–I’m dealing with it.

Why don’t you join me on this marvelous adventure?