Category Archives: Everyday Life

last semester tirades, part 39,297

This is my senior year. Normally, this calls for celebration, mixed with a little anxiety, and a pinch of nostalgia. Yesterday, I registered for classes for the last time. Ever. It’s a bittersweet feeling, really, for many reasons. Sweet because I’m only taking four classes next semester, for the first time ever. Compared to this hellish, mind-numbing semester lacking any time to breathe, sleep, eat, or work on my writing, this 12-credit course unload is like the North star in my chaotic life. Also, for the first time since freshman year – ever since New Paltz decided to reformat the entire class schedule making it impossible for anyone to have off on Fridays – I will have a day off. Granted, it’s Wednesdays, but still. Glorious.

Bitter is an altogether different story.

Now, you’d think with my senior status and therefore early registration time in tow, that this normally excruciating process would be somewhat simple. Hell, last semester I registered for classes on another continent – at my aunt and uncle’s house, in Ireland, while being stuck there during the Icelandic volcano – and it took me all but 5 minutes. If that. This year, in New Paltz, I spent the two hours before registration scrambling around like the madwoman I am because one of my classes was already closed out. On the morning of the first day of registration. Please, someone tell me, who the hell is registering for an intro art class on the first day before 10:00am? I’m baffled. Not to mention, totally caught off-guard. Wasn’t this supposed to be easy? Weren’t last minute replacements meant for freshmen? Sophomores? Even juniors?

When I first started here, registration week started on Monday (mostly seniors/those with the most credits) and ended on Friday (freshmen). So of course, as a junior I was shocked to find that I was registering on a Thursday afternoon, as were most people upon discovering their later-than-usual registration slot. New Paltz told us they shifted everything and spaced out the registration times so that there will be less students registering at one time, thus decreasing the anxiety in the case of someone encountering a problem. Oh, I see. So how is it that I am being shut out of an intro art class on the first day of registration? Are there that many grad students/honors students/athletes in need of such a class? No. The answer is simple:

My school is out to get me.

I’m only half-kidding here. So far, I have dealt with being told I need to take Freshman Comp I as a senior English major (getting a 3.7 in her major) because the school lost my high school transcript; that I “didn’t hand in a thank-you letter for my scholarship” that I actually handed in at the end of July; that not only will I not receive my $500 refund check because of said thank-you letter, but I now owe the school $1600; being denied a measly $29 paycheck because my boss didn’t notice I didn’t sign a paycheck and then preceded to ignore e-mails from payroll; being ignored via e-mail by the chair of the English department and professors; and finally, being jerked around by the designated driver for a fund raising walk, resulting in me missing the walk. And this is just in this semester alone. Almost all of these things were resolved, but of course not without a fight. So what would my final semester be without one last tug at my nerves? Oh what’s that, Liz? You need this class to graduate? As the lady in payroll ever so condescendingly droned at you, making sure to nasally pronounce each syllable, “We apo-lo-gize for the in-con-ve-nience.”

Perhaps this is what my high school teachers were referring to when they relentlessly told us “College prepares you for the real world.” They weren’t actually talking about a lack of familiarity with your professors (Most of my professors prefer to be called by their first names) or the amount of independence in a classroom (My professors all remind us about papers and exams). No, they were all talking about the thickening of my skin and the strengthening of my backbone. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but as of right now (pending a response from this art professor) I’m signed up for a time-less, instructor-less Tuesday/Friday art class. Thanks New Paltz for being reliable in your unreliability. Much appreciated.

This rant was brought to you by the letters F and U.

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mini-rant + apologies on being aloof

Hands-free = brain-free?

First of all, sorry for being a terrible hostess. I was under this very inaccurate delusion that senior year of college would be like senior year of high school – a joke. Well, I’d say that assumption was more of a joke than anything else. I have been up to my ears in homework: I’m reading books for three classes, painting for my painting class (naturally), and working on a short story for my fiction class. In other words, I have not had a spare moment to breath, sleep, or eat the proper amount of meals a day, let alone write anything other than papers and impatient e-mails.

Which brings me to the main focus of this post. My shortcomings as a blogger are far from my point.

What is the point of having cell phones? I mean really. It went from having house phones, to having cordless house phones, to having e-mail and cell phones. Now we have smart phones, which allow us to do all of the above and make some toast and fry an egg all from the comfort of your home. Or the bus. Or work. Or in the middle of a boring class. Or while someone is in the middle of talking to us. Essentially, these gadgets allow us to be connected and plugged into the entire world at all times, anywhere.

Sounds convenient, but my question still remains, what is the point? I assume that these smart phones, and laptops, and Wi-fi are all supposed to be helpful, allowing us to be available to others whenever they need us. Well, given my experiences so far this semester, they serve no purpose. Every time I’ve needed to get in touch with someone via e-mail or cell phone, my questions have gone unanswered. I e-mailed the Dean of the English department back in August regarding an internship panel I was interested in being a part of. Last week all English majors got an e-mail about upcoming events, including that internship panel, not including me. Gee, thanks. Earlier than that, in mid July, I e-mailed the scholarship coordinator my thank-you letter required for receiving my cashmonies. Just a few weeks ago I was told that they revoked my scholarship for a “lack of a thank-you letter.” Uh, wrong. And now, I’m supposed to be participating in a walk tomorrow, and am unsure if I even can because the first girl responsible for giving me a ride changed her mind and didn’t think it necessary to tell me, and now the new designated driver has yet to answer my voicemail which I left over 3 hours ago.

Clearly, me and technology do not get along. So, why get a Blackberry or iPhone or any of that crap in the first place if you aren’t even going to make use of the practical functions? What is the mystique if I still have to be sending a follow-up e-mail or two or seven? As my 2-year plan comes to an end in February, I am on the prowl for a new phone (preferably one that doesn’t shut off sporadically) and the more frustrating situations I am thrust into, the more I don’t see the point in spending exorbitant amounts of money getting a phone with internet capabilities. People are still going to ignore me, whether I’m in a car, on a bus, or in a cardboard box on the sidewalk. Puh-lease.

EDIT: In the time it took me to write this, I finally heard back from my DD for tomorrow. So that’s 1 in about 50 that actually acknowledged me. Somewhat promising.

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musings on a feather

Another hidden gem: circa 2008, Creative Writing 1.

Musings on a Feather by Liz Van Buren

I stare. I observe its fragile beauty and the careful way it rests on the table, almost levitating. I note its elegance as the wind carelessly carries it across the counter, hairs aflutter. But beyond its mannerisms – beyond the way these hairs dance like tiny hands when my breath escapes me – I see something else, something more. I find peace in the way something so fragile can stand on its own – in the way it can be detached from everything native,
drift

to

the

ground,
and yet survive, independent, after suffering a lifetime of hiding behind others. Once alive, it is now battered with the harshness of time, yet still floats on. I am actually inspired by this resilience.

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battling the buts

Confidence. That dirty bastard seems to be poking his giant, mangy head into my life these days. In fact, a lack thereof has always been an issue for me for so many reasons, really. But more specifically, I remember that being a theme in my teachers’ comments on my performance: “you’d do so much better if you had more confidence,” “your biggest issue is confidence,” “have more confidence in your work!” You get the picture. As if my lack of confidence in my body, my social skills, and myself were hard enough to handle back then; now we were throwing my strong suit into the mix.

So, in high school, confidence in everything from my formulas in math class to my paint strokes or color choices in art class was an uphill battle. I thought once I graduated high school, moved away to school, and began living (loosely) on my own, that I would shake most of that off like wreckage from a construction site.

Well, as it happens, I noticed this annoying little habit I’ve developed recently: when I meet someone for the first time, I talk to someone I haven’t spoken to in a while, or basically whenever I’m in any slightly uncomfortable social situation, and the topic of my post-grad plans comes up (thus taking any level discomfort and maximizing it by, oh, 1000), I always seem to respond with some vague description of my not-so-vague goals, followed by, “but yeah, I have no idea!” As you can see, I have an issue with my buts (and my butt, for the record).

Or say someone asks what I’m studying at New Paltz. I always respond in a confident voice, “I’m majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Visual Arts,” then wait a few seconds and sheepishly add, “but we’ll see where that takes me I guess,” as though my major/minor combination is so bizarre, or as if majoring in creative writing can be likened to majoring in friendship bracelet making.

In reality, neither one of these circumstances reflect how I really feel; I know exactly what I want to do, and therefore I have a legitimate reason as to why my major/minor combo makes sense. I hoard a lot of solid goals for the future up in my noggin. They change every day, sometimes every hour. But for right now, I’m working towards becoming an interior decorator (with my own business) and/or (eventually) a published young adult author. I figure both careers could be done from home, and neither are full time in regards to being cooped up in a stuffy cubicle with Casual Fridays. When I graduate college, I’d like to work in publishing for a few years (haven’t decided what area of publishing yet) and save up a lot of moolah and eventually get my own apartment. I’ve also started researching decorating and potential online classes I could take. While you don’t need a degree for decorating, I imagine it would probably help to have some kind of experience in decorating-related color theory.

But honestly, I’m not going to outline a long-term life plan – complete with presentation boards and WordArt, of course– every time someone asks me this question.

I’m just tried of being asked the same follow-up questions. Let me demonstrate:

“So you’re going to be an English teacher?”

“Oh, English? Like, English education?”

“Do you want to teach?”

“What grades would you teach?”

Et friggin’ cetera. I am in no way knocking teachers. One of my role models happens to be my eleventh grade English teacher, not to mention several members of my family are teachers and several of my friends at New Paltz are doing education. So obviously, no disrespect. I just don’t see why that has to be where everyone’s minds go when they hear I’m an English major. Sure, I guess it’s the most obvious? The more economically wise decision?  Okay, I’ll give you that. But then, I have to almost guiltily reply, “No…just English. I want to be a writer,” and feel as though I’ve just slaughtered an animal right before their eyes. It makes me feel like my choice is a giant “<” in the face of everyone’s expectations, especially when followed by a furrowed-brow response.

So, after two years of this hogwash, I’ve learned to put up yet another proverbial wall in my life. I find it easier to sound like some lost puppy of a soon-to-be-graduate than to have to explain that, no, I am not planning on becoming a teacher.

Either way, I need to minimize the “buts” in my life (and then maybe I can finally work on the butt). In fact, why don’t we go ahead and erase the preceding commas altogether? They serve no purpose. I need to learn a thing or two about assertion.

I bet we all could use a good detox in that department, whether the “but” is any general nay-saying Negative Nimrod or, if it’s a nagging feeling, a cloud of doubt holding you back from truly embracing all of our nooks and crannies.

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breakfast for the brain

Stop creativity: You are Entering a School Zone?

So my brain has been going through a drought lately. A writer’s drought. It’s like, whenever I get a somewhat interesting thought process going, it just fizzles out like a campfire in a storm. I figured it’s because I’ve been going through a funk these last few weeks, and haven’t really been up to doing anything productive. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been so focused on getting back into a school zone that I’ve sort of put my creative on the backburner, which is completely unfair to the creativity that seeps through my veins on a daily basis. Either way, I’ve been needing a creative pick-me-up, a breakfast for the brain.

Lucky for me, tonight, while at home for Labor Day week, I happened upon a box full of my old writing from high school, mostly from the hundreds of writing workshops I attended during those four years, but also a bunch of free writes and undeveloped short stories. A lot of it surprised me – I didn’t realize how good I was even at age fourteen – but it also really made me miss the good ol’ days. I was so passionate about a lot of things back then. I still am passionate, I guess, but it’s different now. Back then, I used to write all the time: on napkins at Starbucks, or in the margins of my class notes. I used to be known for this passion; my teachers would come to me whenever they heard about a writing workshop or something of the like. But now, I’ve become more passionate about writing to impress my professors, or writing to impress my blog audience, or writing to jumpstart a career, but when it comes to just plain writing, for the bloody hell of it, I can think of 100+ other things to do instead. How sad, that that’s how I treat my life’s fervor – like some old childhood trophy that’s destined to a life of dust-collecting on the back of the highest shelf in the house. I quickly shook off that heavy feeling and realized that that’s the missing piece: excitement. True, honest, raw excitement. And belief, I suppose, in my talent.

Anyway, after that momentary soul searching, I realized how helpful it was that I happened upon this little treasure chest. Like I said, the bulk of this canon-of-sorts was from local teen writers’ workshops: cheap folders full of dozens of unfinished free writes, and useful free writing ideas. Finding a large source of inspiration in the midst of creative drought? Pretty sure you couldn’t write better coincidence even if you tried.

Point is, expect to find some finished (or in some cases, updated) versions of these little gems in the near future. And it’s time for me to rekindle that true excitement and fervor!

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a very new paltz

New Paltz, New York

So, these have been the most unexpectedly bizarre past few days of my life. I am officially back at New Paltz, back to everything I’ve known for the past 3 years, everything familiar to me. Only problem is, I’ve never felt more lost.

As my summer wound down – in a most anticlimactic fashion, in case you were wondering – I started getting excited for New Paltz. For getting back to my school, which inadvertently became a second home of sorts, after spending a semester in a foreign country. While most assumed I should be sad to be back home, I was actually excited. I would take the things I learned in that foreign place – about the world, about myself – and apply them in a setting with which I was more familiar. And holy hell, was I wrong.

For one thing, I don’t even recognize half of campus. While I was away, and then while I was at home for the summer, construction workers finished up their “love child” – a giant glass…something. A mountain, a pyramid, a sad replica of the Louvre. However you want to refer to it, it’s gaudy, unnecessary, and a HUGE waste of money. There was no need for its construction, save for aesthetic “purpose,” though I can’t seem to find one. Except for the occasional, “Hey man, I’m at the big glass thingy. Meet me here in 5 minutes.”

As if this exterior was bad enough, the inside of the “glass thingy” looks like the front desk of a museum. Downstairs features a bunch of futuristic couches, a giant flat screen TV and a “rec center” complete with pool and an air hockey tables. From this area, you can see inside the bookstore, because they changed it to look like some store in the mall: floor to ceiling “store windows” complete with mannequins adorned with our over-priced campus merch. There are now two separate lines, one devoted solely to textbooks (the only good decision made), and it just looks bigger. Speaking of malls, they also felt the need to renovate the entire food area inside: adding, fixing, changing, ruining. I walk into the student union building and I feel like I’m in a food court at a mall. I can no longer recognize what was once there, what it looked like before all our Bob the Builders came along. Most offices in the basement were refurbished – because that many students honestly noticed the aesthetic errors of the R&R office when trying to drop Calc or Psych? – with full glass windows and modern furniture, much like a doctor’s office. If I can’t solve in 5 minutes what I came to that office to do, I’m not going to bother poppin’ a squat on one of their new and improved armchairs. Pointless.

I guess for a newbie, all this new crap must seem exciting. Like, Wow, I go to an under-funded state school but with the illusion that we have a decent budget! But for someone whose past three years were practically planted out in the quad, these changes are a bit jarring. Frightening, even. Especially since I found out that redesigning the school – from the logo to the lobbies – cost us $300,000,000. YEAH THAT’S RIGHT. Upon arrival, my room had one garbage can instead of two, our phone jack was completely destroyed, and they didn’t have “enough of a budget” to provide things like free planners for students – something, I don’t know, useful? – because they spent all their money building a glass thingy and all that came with it. I could vomit.

I can’t help but wonder if I should have lived off campus this year. I’m sure half of you are screaming, Yes!, but honestly, I just didn’t see the point, seeing as how I’m a senior who doesn’t plan on living here past graduation. I didn’t see the point in schlepping even MORE of my stuff up here than normal, and spending time and money (re)furbishing a house to which I didn’t have any long-term commitment. I guess I still don’t see the point. But 90% of the people I talked to on a regular basis here are now living off campus – which, although in some cases is down the street, might as well be in the next town over –  a fact which makes things even more foreign for me.

And the weather, I assume, doesn’t help. Rain comes and goes – in drizzles, drops, and downpours -like a drippy faucet immune to a plumber’s work. I didn’t realize when I arrived in New Paltz, I was also arriving in October, with its bitter air and its bleak, gray sky. Pour me some cider and pick me a pumpkin, where the hell am I?

Here’s to hoping the next 15 weeks aren’t as lackluster as this. *clink*

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too old for standing room only

Roseland Ballroom, NYC

I went to Something Corporate’s reunion show last night with my friend Mery. Once we reached Grand Central, thus began my hunt for a bank after a much needed pretzel pit stop (aka dinner). I know what you’re thinking – for every Starbucks in Manhattan there are probably about four banks/ATMs, so why must a “hunt” be involved? Answer: I’m not about to pay to withdraw my own money. I was going to include a simile here but quite frankly I can’t think of anything quite as ridiculous, especially when the sum of my fees – between the ATM itself and my own bank – would total $4.50. No thanks. Turns out, there are not as many HSBC banks as I previously assumed. After trying my bank card in four different machines – when did they stop posting the fee upfront so you don’t have to waste your time being asked what language you speak or if you’d like to check your balance first four separate times? – I finally reached an HSBC. Bada-bing.

Next was standing in line. Good news: we arrived late enough in the day that we didn’t have to stand there for 5+ hours waiting to get in. Bad news: the line was four blocks long. I’m all about band-loyalty and whatnot, but peeps, there is no need to arrive at 1:30 pm when doors open at 7:30. You already have your ticket. Do you really think once you get inside and park yourself front and center after waiting outside for six hours you will remain in that very spot for the entire evening? Get real, hipsters. Here’s what really goes down: you show up insanely early, park yourself in the perfect spot, and as soon as the band comes on, everyone shoves forward as though running for dear life and before you know it you are parked behind some six-foot-four, drunk frat “bro” with pit stains the size of Alaska. And to add insult to injury, halfway through the show you are elbowed in the jugular by some three-foot-nine teeny-bopper groupie who shoved her way from the back after arriving just moments ago. Lesson: those that show up at 1:30 and those that show up at 8:30 look no different through the eyes of the band looking out from the stage. I could’ve told you that after seeing Ryan Cabrera in concert in the tenth grade. (Yeah, that’s right. I was a fan.)

So there we were, standing on this line full of self-proclaimed “#1 Something Corporate fans” which, to the untrained eye, could’ve easily been mistaken for the line to audition for a new reality show that combines High School Musical with Jersey Shore and the Osbournes. However, at this particular show, I was a little surprised at the variety of wardrobe choices. Normally at a show like this, the majority of guests are 13-16 year old girls who have recently ironed their band tee for [insert band name] or opted for their favorite hipster/scene outfit, probably purchased at either Hot Topic or Pac Sun for this particular occasion. They want to appear “part of that world” right down to which/how many bracelets on each wrist, or whether they should leave their fake black, thick-framed glasses at home. Braided pigtails? Bump-it? Some dudes may even arrive with a [insert OTHER band name] tee, maybe to appear cool by association or in hopes to strike up a conversation with an unassuming stranger about how “totally sick” that band is as well.

Sure, there was plenty of that last night, but mixed in with that whole subcategory of ridiculous was another in which girls wore dresses and heels. What is this, the homecoming dance? The Oscars? I personally opted for a solid tee (admittedly of a neon color), jeggings (do not judge) and flip-flops. Seriously. If Joan Rivers approached me last night asking “who” I was wearing I’d be inclined to tell her “probably some young sweatshop worker.”

In my flip-flops, my knees buckled as tightly as the belt of a 400-lb. man trying to hide his “love handles.” My heels dug through the bottoms of my shoes as I felt all their little nerve endings slowly dying, standing flat with no support below the toe. And then they expected us to stand for another two hours?!

Cut to inside the venue, post-overpriced-tee-shirt-purchase, post-more-waiting, halfway into the show: there I am, having the time of my life, shaking what my mother literally gave me to the sounds of a band that got me through high school, when this ass-crack of a human being shoves his way in front of me and – get this – stops. Right there, two centimeters away from standing on my bare toes. I could’ve sneezed down the back of his shirt if I wanted. And in hindsight, I should’ve. Because the only reason he pushed his way back was so he could stand on top of some innocent bystander’s toes and smoke a blunt. I mean really, dude. Don’t you have some backseat in which to do that? Or maybe a basement party? And as if that was bad enough, he began dancing. Picture someone spinning onion rings on their index fingers while looking down and repeatedly picking his feet out of the gum he stepped in. That’s kind of what Homeboy’s dancing looked like. In a word, atrocious. In four more words, too close for comfort. At one point I caught the eye of a girl next to me, rolled my eyes assuming there was some kind of unspoken girl code about this sort of thing, and that she agreed. Then she tapped Homeboy on the shoulder and I thought, Sweet, I have a supporter. Then I realized she was asking for a hit of his joint, to which he graciously complied. Then they were friends. There goes that. Eventually he left and I was able to at least enjoy the encore knowing that I didn’t have to close one eye and turn my head sideways to see the lead singer.

There was a time when I could tolerate being surrounded by sloppy-drunk, overweight, shirtless undergrads that swung their sweaty blubber around as they body-slammed into each other for no apparent reason (“moshing”) just so I could be closer to the stage. There was even a time I could tolerate having one of them inadvertently slide his man-boob/armpit – where did one start and the other end? – against my fifteen-year old arm. All in the name of Yellowcard circa 2004. But now I’d much prefer staying towards the back where I have little chance of having a scene kid’s Chuck Taylors land on my ear as he crowd surfs above me, forcing me to participate. Kind of makes me sad, but really, how much am I really missing out on?

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