Bless the Rain Down in Africa

Grateful for family who make you dance and sing in public and laugh so hard you snort. To toasts and cheers and salud.

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Wagon Wheel

Today a three year old picked up my phone, took a photo of me, then reviewed that photo in the photos app. Never have I felt so irrelevant.

But then she wanted a snack and only I can open the fridge door, so at least I have that going for me.

All Things Briefly Considered

Alternatively titled “47 Things You May Consider When You Have Too Much Time on Your Hands”, for the clickbait.

  1. You will consider sleeping in until 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM.
  2. You will consider not getting out of bed at all, because all that job hunting can be done from under the covers.
  3. Covers? You’ll remember you want to have that cover letter in by 8:45, just so you look like someone with their life together.
  4. You will consider making coffee first.
  5. You will make coffee first.
  6. You will barely get the cover letter in by 8:47 because you got too caught up in drinking your coffee and also reading Buzzfeed.
  7. You will drink more coffee as a reward for getting the cover letter in only two minutes late.
  8. You will feel so accomplished that you’ll go for a run.
  9. While you’re running you will think about That Great Novel you’re going to write.
  10. You will finish running and immediately attempt to write said novel.
  11. You will write two paragraphs, then remember you went for a run and you need to shower.
  12. While you’re showering you will think about what to make for dinner.
  13. You will spend 1.4 hours on Pinterest looking at recipes.
  14. You will decide on a recipe that you have no ingredients for.
  15. You will go to the grocery store.
  16. You will purchase all necessary ingredients.
  17. You will also purchase fancy organic granola bars, for extra sustenance while writing That Great Novel.
  18. You will also purchase chocolate milk, because you ran and stuff.
  19. You will realize you’re buying too much extra food.
  20. You will get one last fair trade chocolate bar.
  21. You will have forgotten your grocery store card.
  22. You will try to remember your partner’s phone number to use instead of the card.
  23. You will not be able to remember because you haven’t memorized a phone number since the seventh grade.
  24. You will guess.
  25. You will guess correctly on the third try.
  26. In your mind, you will shake your fist at your partner for using their phone number instead of yours.
  27. You will try to make a joke about it to the cashier but she will not think you’re funny.
  28. You will wonder if you’re funny.
  29. You will wonder if all your friends laugh at your jokes just to make you feel better.
  30. You will wonder if they’re even really your friends.
  31. You will push your shopping cart into the wall because you’re not paying attention.
  32. You will listen to public radio on the drive home because it’s like you’re still learning, or at least that’s what you tell people.
  33. You will make one very excellent dinner.
  34. Your partner will love you for it and also not understand why you’re so angry with them. (See #27.)
  35. You will watch five episodes of Chopped in a row, knowing you could perform better than all the professional chefs on the show. (See #34.)
  36. You will consider going to culinary school.
  37. You will google “culinary school” and discover how much it costs to attend.
  38. You will watch Chef with Sofia Vergara instead.
  39. You will consider opening a food truck.
  40. Your mom will suggest potatoes as the food theme for your truck, and you will consider naming it Smashed.
  41. You will think yourself so clever.
  42. You will craigslist “food truck” and discover how much it costs to purchase a used food truck.
  43. You will RSVP for that Facebook event with a bunch of food trucks instead.
  44. While on Facebook you will see that someone you went to high school with got a new job.
  45. You will be jealous.
  46. You will eat the entire fair trade chocolate bar. (See #21.)
  47. You will consider sleeping in tomorrow.

Alternatively-alternatively titled “If You Give Christine a Day Off”.

No Desk

It is 3:46 PM and I’m making a caramel apple galette. I’m sooo fancy. No. I’m sooo unemployed.

I submitted my Masters thesis 21 days ago and have been SCOURING the internet for job opps. That is, when I’m not taking a break to make pastry. The problem is that I don’t really know what I’m looking for. My Masters degree is in sociocultural linguistics *pauses to give everyone time to Google it* and my Bachelors degree is in Spanish *pauses to let everyone laugh at my wasteful, idealistic liberal arts fantasies* and my experience is in non-profit administration *pauses to – oh wait, that one’s reasonable*.

I did my Masters degree in London, where apparently having a resume that sounds like mine is a good thing. I was prepared to move back to the US and have some trouble applying my new degree, but I didn’t expect to never hear back from any job I applied to. In the last two months, I’ve applied to 18 jobs. Is that a lot? Is it too little? No one is quite sure.

At the beginning of September, when I handed in my thesis, I told myself I had a month to find something I’m really interested in. If I didn’t find something by the end of the month, I’d just find something.*

But it’s almost the end of September! (!!!) And I don’t think I’m any closer to finding a job with any relevance to my new degree. Ah.

So as I was running the other morning I decided I should do something potentially productive with my currently unstructured time. Obviously the something potentially productive is writing a blog! (Also, I might try to learn Italian?) I’ll explore what I’m doing to keep myself sane while spending a lot of time in my parents’ basement. That includes forcing myself to be vulnerable by posting a blog with my actual thoughts and feelings. (Ew.) It definitely does not include having extended conversations with my cats.

What’s next?

(Next post: 47 Things You May Consider When You Have Too Much Time on Your Hands)

*A note: I want to make it clear that I am very privileged to 1. be able to spend time blogging while unemployed rather than continuously looking for jobs, 2. have a place to live while I look for a job and save money, 3. have a partner who does have a job with a steady income, and 4. have the luxury to find humor in my unemployment. This blog is solely meant for entertainment and may only be relevant to other middle class (and/or: white, female, straight, cisgender) millennials who also live in their parents’ basement.

Friend Dating

I thought it was terrifying to make friends as a kid. When I moved to London I wasn’t worried about making friends; I was just worried about going back to school. But it turned out that as much as J and I like each other, we also like to have other people to hang out with.

The whole “making new friends” thing is really difficult. First you have to find people you like. Or think you’ll like if you actually spend time with them. Then you basically have to date them. Work up the courage to ask for their number. Ask for their number. Work up the courage to text. Make ~cool~ plans. Try not to embarrass yourself. Then hope they like you and want to hang out again. Then you go through the whole cycle until you’re FINALLY actual, real-life, wanna-grab-a-bite-to-eat friends. I have anxiety just writing about it. I need a cuppa tea. With a shot of whiskey.

I know, there are articles. There are so many articles. How to Make New Friends in Four Easy Steps. The first step in that article is “Start By Getting to Know Yourself.” Okay, Huff Post, step off. I know myself and what I KNOW is that I’m not good at making friends and I haven’t been since that first day of kindergarten when I didn’t talk to anyone. Or that first day of second grade in a new school when the teacher had to physically put another student’s desk next to mine so that I would talk to someone. #neverforget

Let’s move to a more reliable source of articles: Thought Catalog. Okay, maybe not more reliable, but I still read them like I eat popcorn. (BY THE HANDFUL.) One TC article in particular is helpful because it ends with “Nobody wants to hear about how you sit around and watch the Harry Potter movies on repeat every weekend. Trust me, I know this.” which I feel is directed pointedly at me. *turns off HP soundtrack*

But let me stop before I get sucked into the black hole of internet quizzes that will end with me having read every Buzzfeed article posted this week. There’s this really terrible movie called The Duff which I originally thought was only redeemed by Allison Janney’s brief cameos of hilarity (xoxo Allison) but it turns out I’m thinking about it as I’m writing this. There’s a scene where the main character is practicing asking guys out on a date and she just asks every guy in the mall. They all reject her. But she tried! It’s okay to fail. That’s the point. She eventually dates the coolest guy in her high school, who drives one of those totally-open Jeeps, which I love. Okay, wait, I’ve gotten away from the point.

Moving to a new city didn’t alleviate my fears of making friends; if anything, it amplified them. But I think I’ve made a couple friends (knock on wood and also pray they don’t ever read this), but it’s still tricky. I still get nervous when I text new friends. I still worry they won’t show up. I overcompensate with jokes. Then I get worry that I’m obnoxious. I consider bribing them to be my friends, but I don’t own any cupcake tins so I can’t go that route.

The bottom line is that friendship is difficult, and making new friends as an adult isn’t any easier than making friends as an eight year old. I have no mind-blowing conclusions. All I’ve learned is that I have to take a sip of tea, send the damn text, and then remember to exhale.

Oh, Come Off It: The English and Earnestness

An ethnographer through-and-through, I’m complementing my research on British culture with a book called Watching the English by Kate Fox. (Kidding about researching British culture. I’m just trying to blend in… #observersparadox) It was a birthday present from an actual Brit who offered that it might help me fit in better. (WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M NOT FITTING IN IS IT BECAUSE I’M TOO LOUD?) Anyway, the last chapter I read was on English* humo[u]r and mentioned a rule called the Oh, come off it rule.

The Oh, come off it rule applies when someone is being too earnest rather than actually sincere. You might say politicians do that a lot. You might also say I do that a lot. A relevant example is a Bernie supporter who says that if the US doesn’t #feelthebern they’ll abstain from voting rather than vote for Hillz. Oh, come off it. See what I mean?

Like I slyly mentioned, I break this rule pretty frequently. I’m constantly making grand, sweeping statements about something I will or won’t do or an opinion I’ll never change or a topic I love or hate. Ugh, like all those times I’ve said I’ll move to Canada if Trump wins. Oh, come off it, Christine. You like soft pretzels too much to do that.

What can I learn from the English and their aversion to earnestity? (Okay, that’s not a word, but doesn’t it sound like it should be a word? Maybe I should have gone into lexicography.) That I should stop treating my enjoyment reads like one of my actual research books? (I’m looking at you, Language and Superdiversity.)

In my effort to understand, is this post too earnest? Is there a quiz to tell me?

I’ll keep reading and let you know.

*I say English here because the book is about English culture, not British culture. British culture would include all the countries in Britain, meaning England, Scotland, and Wales. Great Britain is the island where they’re located. The United Kingdom includes those three countries as well as Northern Ireland.

The Pit

In the highlight of the weekend, Beyoncé has an athletic wear (athleisure wear?) line. There’s a video, there’s a website, there’s a lot of drooling. Just take all my money, Bey.

But the best part is the video, in which Beyoncé does Beyoncé things while wearing her Beyoncé athletic clothes and talking about running. And WAIT – what? She talks about running? *Replays video for the thousandth time.* The narration over the video is about how as a kid, she ran in a park in Houston and how those long, demanding runs made her who she is. How when she needs strength, she “goes back to that park”. Then she asks, “where’s your park?”.

When Beyoncé asks a question, you answer it, dammit.

My park was (perhaps still is) called The Pit. No, it’s not a setting from an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It’s a soccer field.

The Pit was called the Pit because it’s lower than all the other fields in the lot. The large grassy area between my middle and high schools contained all the fields for the school sports. The football field, track, baseball fields, tennis courts, and soccer fields. The high school soccer teams and the boys middle school soccer team got to play on the fields level with everything else. The girls middle school soccer team played below, in the Pit.

(Down with the patriarchy?)

It was really just down a bit of a hill, and though it got really muddy whenever it rained, it did allow us a bit of privacy from the rest of the world. (And by world, I mean the rest of the school. I’m an introvert.)

I remember summer soccer camps there. The camp was run by college kids from England, though my coach had a Jamaican accent (and now that I live in London I better understand why someone from England might have a strong Jamaican accent). I remember the day it poured but we still had a game to play and I wore a hot pink raincoat and it stained my clothes and skin. I remember not really minding. I remember being one of three girls in my group and needing to prove to the boys that I could hold my own.

I remember the middle school soccer team practices when we learned how to be “scrappy”. Our two goalies would stand six inches apart and we’d have to run through them. I remember having to fight for it.

I remember running what we then called suicides up and down the fields for hours. I remember hating running.

Back then I wanted to be an author, a journalist, a biochemist. I wanted to be everything. I’m not any of those things now, nor do I still want to be. But I still run, not in the Pit but on the Schuylkill River Trail when I’m training for a marathon. I think I’m still scrappy, but maybe more in mindset than in slide tackles. And I definitely don’t mind the rain.

Pub Culture and the Trump Question

Oh, British pubs. What else is there in London besides you?

I’m a good expat. I love pubs. I love local beers. (Here’s looking at you, Gipsy Hill Brewing.) I love chips. (That’s french fries for you Americans.) I love when it’s late enough in the evening that strangers start talking to each other.

Except. EXCEPT.

“Oh! You’re American?”

Well, first they usually ask if I’m Canadian. I’ve been told this is because I sometimes use typically British intonation, and that mixed in with the usual American accent makes people think Canadian. I often consider just saying yes and avoiding the question that always arises when I say I’m American.

“SO YOU LOVE DONALD TRUMP?!”

This question is generally accusatory. The question-asker anxiously awaits for a reply. They want me to say yes. I think with their eyes they’re willing me to say yes.

“No, of course not. Most Americans don’t like Trump.”

This is disappointing for the question-asker and their friends, who gathered at the name Trump like a magnet. Now they can’t debate me. I’m on their side. And yet the conversation spins off into a monologue on American politics – a monologue by said Brit to me, the actual American. It’s at this point I very much regret saying I’m not Canadian.

We continue the conversation by discussing the merits of both Sanders and Clinton. It feels like a test, like the Brit is actually an undercover agent attempting to survey my political knowledge. I try work Nate Silver into my replies to sound impressive.

And I always end the conversation with the same joke.

“If Trump wins I can always move to Canada.”

Methodology

It seems like I can never find the time to write as much as I’d like – to journal, write letters, attempt to write on this blog. Blah, blah, blah. I thought I’d manage to think of interesting things to blog about but I’m not quite sure if anyone’s interested in hearing about narrative discourse and conversation analysis and ethnography. (YOU ARE?!)

And these days, when I sit down to write, it doesn’t feel like I’m describing an unknown world, full of strange and exciting landmarks and history. I just live here, and mostly I go to class and do research and spend hours transcribing conversations to analyze. Jonathan and I travel and our friends and family visit us, but in those moments I never think, “oh I should write this stuff down so I can rewrite it again later.” Is that what good bloggers do? Is that what good writers do? I used to keep a Moleskine notebook in my purse at all times, but now I just have my Oyster card.

Maybe I’m figuring out that one New Year’s resolution that I always break: to be fully present. In order to be present, I can’t always take photos and videos and write notes on my phone to read later. I can’t promise to journal every night because some nights I’ll be at Westow House until it closes or on a ferry back from Belgium.

I want to have all these memories after I leave this place, but some of them are just going to be memories in my mind and not in my phone.

So maybe I will start blogging about narrative discourse. Who knows the four elements to all storytelling?

A Pocketwatch that Doesn’t Work

When Harper Lee’s second book was published last year, I went back and forth on whether or not to read it. Of course I wanted to read it, but I wasn’t convinced I should – it seemed so strange that this great author who said she wouldn’t write again would want a manuscript be published.

Lee is my favorite author. She has been since I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in the sixth grade. I wanted to be Scout. I took Atticus’ words to heart. The necklace I wear almost everyday is two gold feathers, one engraved with “Scout” and the other with “Boo”.

I eventually did read Lee’s new book, To Set a Watchman. I bought it. In hardback. And, contrary to  popular opinion, I liked it.

Most critics were disappointed. Atticus isn’t the hero of this one! In fact (spoiler alert), he’s proven to be racist. But Atticus is still Atticus, our Atticus. TKAM’s Atticus is a father through the eyes of an eight year old. Of course he’s deemed perfect and brave and invincible. GSAW’s Atticus is viewed through the eyes of twenty six year old Scout as a whole human, flaws and all.

The new manuscript was a gift, to me at least. People are more complex than we imagine at age eight. As a child, Scout and Atticus taught me to be a good person, a better person; to treat others fairly; to not judge; to believe in justice and truth. As an adult, they showed me I can love people who I don’t agree with and accept places I’ve come from even if I’ve changed.

There’s a time for both of Lee’s books. I was fortunate to read them both exactly when I needed them.

Thank you Harper.

“Why doesn’t their flesh creep? How can they devoutly hear everything they believe in church and then say the things they do and listen to the things they hear without throwing up? I thought I was a Christian but I’m not. I’m something else and I don’t know what.”