Part One: Decafé

editoreyals

Fluhr sat in Decafé on a Thursday morning, watching the Martian from across the room. No, it was not polite to stare. She knew that. But did he really have to pick his antennae right in front of her?

She should be in class right now. Her schedule is packed on Thursdays, but she just couldn’t make herself go to class. She tried to drop Ancient Intergalactic Politics after the first week, but there was nothing to replace it with and she needed a minimum amount of units. So instead of taking notes in a stuffy classroom, Fluhr elected to go to her favorite cafe.

It was a strange cafe, that went without saying. She was probably the most “normal” customer in the cafe (aside from her friends who, unfortunately, were good enough students to not skip class). Most regulars at Decafé were strange, not because they were a different…

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Are you there, readers? It’s us, Torey/i.

Readers: this is my 2nd blog (co-run with my friend Tori), check it out!

editoreyals

Two writers, one name, one plan. Torey and Tori, taking on the Internet world to better our writing skills and procrastinate on our reading assignments as English majors. Regularly (we will not specify times, as we are busy and attempt social lives), we will post one chapter of an on-going book. Or short stories – who knows what’s going to happen? It’s a blog. There are no rules. We will alternate writing these chapters, just to shake things up. Talk to you soon, readers.

– Torey/i.

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The Best 3.5 Years of Your Life

I am graduating next December. My graduation plans, having changed yet again, are set for me to end my undergraduate career a semester earlier than I’d planned. And knowing this, recognizing that my undergraduate career is almost over, has sent me into a bit of a… subdued panic, if you will. I run through people’s statements about college in my mind, over and over, about the ‘best years of my life.’ I love college. I do. But I’ll be damned if it will be the best years of my life.

Four years to define who I am as a person, to make the following decades a slow decline? That’s terrifying, and that’s horribly sad. I’m going on to complete a Master’s, to teach, to be a better person. And yes, it is scary to end a lifetime of school. That’s what it is, really – a population graduating after spending their entire lives in school. How do you move on from that? How do you make that transition?

It will be rough at times, I’m sure. I certainly don’t look forward to taxes (gag) and adult responsibilities. But I’m looking forward to the rest of my life, and though this may be the best three and a half years of my life in other people’s eyes, it won’t be the best years for me. I’m graduating to something better.

Here Comes the Breakdown

Being a major in English literature, it may be a bit needless to say that I read a lot. Like, constantly. But living in the 21st century, I am also an avid television and film consumer. Which, to some, may soon be more important than novels or poetry. (Sob.) Long story short, I both read everything I can get my hands on and binge watch Netflix originals.

This somewhat lengthy introduction leads to a core belief of mine: watching or reading whatever is fine, but it means little if you aren’t an active consumer. By active, I mean thinking about what you are watching, analyzing it, discussing it. This act of analysis makes us more active members of society and, honestly, better people.

Recognizing why something or someone in a television show or movie makes you feel strongly is important because you can then analyze those traits, tropes, or various aspects of society. Literature and film is, after all, only a reflection or criticism of our culture. A film like Dear White People is important because you can, as an active consumer, recognize the flaws in our society and how different sub-populations of our society feel about these flaws. A television show like Parks & Recreation, which is phenomenal for reasons that needs its own article, is worth analyzing because you can (like I did) realize how few shows have great, complex representations of women on television. Don’t even get me started on Game of Thrones (literature and film, oh, be still my beating heart).

When the day comes that I am out of school and working as a full-time teacher, I hope I can communicate this to my students. If I can successfully get across the message that individuals in a working, healthy, educated society need to be able to analyze what they consume, I have done my job.

Also, isn’t it just fun to obsess over a show or book?

Calm during the storm

Listen to this: classes from 11am to 3pm, work four (possibly five) nights a week, and a mission to complete 45 hours this semester for my Spanish major. Does this sound like the Semester From Hell, yet? More importantly, does this sound as hectic as your schedule? Deep breaths, reader, and repeat after me: we will get through this together.

When I finish with my shifts as a waitress, I decompress in my apartment by lying on the floor for up to a half hour. Just laying there. Oh, how I wish I were kidding. But after almost twelve hours of nonstop work, I need to lay down and just be for a while. In the middle of the storm, I need to find my calm.

Sometimes, that means lying on the floor. Sometimes, it means a glass of wine while I do my assignments, or forcing my roommate’s cat to cuddle with me for a few moments. It’s important that we find these moments, and recognize them when we do find them. It’s important to acknowledge the breaks in our crazy, over-packed lives, and breathe while we can.

2015: Mountain Mentalities

The new year has arrived, a new year of hikes and mountains and sun. I’ve just returned from my first hike of 2015, an easy and familiar hike that surprised me with abnormally large waterfalls (thank you, winter rains). It truly amazes me how quickly my mentality changes when I arrive in the desert, immediately back in my heart’s home, and then improves so greatly when I’m in the mountains.

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It was the push I needed. For my exercise routine (hello, morning runs), for my nutrition, and for my job search. I still don’t have a job here, which, though I know my first job is technically being a student, I hate the idea of depending on money from my parents when they already give so much. I’ve applied to and interviewed for a few places, and so far, no luck, but no matter: I have a page full of places within biking distance of me. Within a month, I’ll have my car, and that range will widen.

2015 is a year of mountain mentalities: keep persevering, and you will reach the summit you seek.

Oh, no, New Year’s Resolutions

I’m sorry for the stereotypical, seemingly washed-out New Year’s post. I’m not sorry enough to not post it, though. While I consider life a continuous opportunity to improve oneself, it’s fun to have a cultural annual date to reflect on what we can or should or want to change. So, without further ado, here are my resolutions for 2015.

1. One cup of coffee a day. I don’t want to cut coffee out of my life. It’s part of American culture and embedded into my heart (that may be the caffeine talking), and I love coffee shop atmospheres dearly. But I drink too much. Yes, I am one of those. During the semester, because of my stress levels, I can drink up to 5 cups of coffee a day (while somehow sometimes forgetting to eat). The amount of money I spend on coffee is shameful. Shameful. So. One cup a day.

2. Exercise four times a week, excluding hiking. This seems like a no-brainer, and is inevitably the most common resolution annually. But why should I need this resolution? I’m an outdoors blog, right? Well… I rarely worked out while in Chile, save the mountain trips and cycling classes once in a blue moon at my university. I’m out of shape, certainly, but my main goal is to so engrain exercise into my routine that I naturally work it in. I haven’t yet reached that, and hope I will this year. (Hope. No. Will.)

3. Monthly weekend trips. I don’t know how likely this will be, given what will of course be a busy schedule and a sadly tight budget, but I want to take a weekend trip outside my city once a month. Not that I don’t love my city, I do. But I’m woefully ignorant of my state and I mean to change that; also, I’ll need the distraction of travel after having returned from a study abroad. I expect and welcome restlessness.

The trouble isn’t making resolutions, the trouble is keeping them. Whatever yours are this year, I hope you find the strength to keep them, and I wish you luck. Happy 2015, everyone.

Family reunion (n.): loving but uncomfortable gathering

Ah, the time has come. Family reunions. A love-hate relationship, I think, exists between the average person and their respective family reunion. We love our families; we hate the questions. Well, maybe you don’t, but you’d be a weirdo if you enjoyed three hours of the same four questions repeated in a hundred different ways. Knowing my family as I do, I already know the questions they’ll ask me this year, and my reaction to them.

How’s school, how’re your grades? Okay, the first part of this question I totally understand. You haven’t seen me in a year! So much can change; I might not even be going to school anymore and you wouldn’t know. (That’s a lie. We all know the aunts talk on the phone for hours and catch each other up, so you’re using this as a conversation starter more than an actual process of gathering information.) The second part of the question is entirely useless and, really, fairly irritating. I’m not likely to tell you I got a C on my last math class (hallelujah, no more math) and I don’t want to brag by saying all my major courses are As. You’ve put me in a tight spot, here, Aunt Nancy.

Figured out what to do post-graduation? Ha. Ha ha ha. Excuse me while I go cry from the stress that question brought to me, reminding me of all the shit I have to do. I have three semesters until graduation (I hear screaming in the distance, do you hear screaming?) and although I assure you I am thinking about it, I don’t want to show you how stressed I am about it. After my undergraduate, I’ll be doing a Masters program, which includes almost a year’s worth of sweat and preparation; please don’t follow that question with do you know where you want to teach? because I will probably have a stroke.

How was your study abroad? This very specific question clearly wouldn’t apply to anyone at a family reunion, but as I’ve only just returned from my study abroad, it will apply to this holiday season. And I loved my time in Chile, and I would love to talk to someone about it – the problem, though, is that they don’t really want me to talk about it. You walk a thin line between being pretentious and being a hippie when discussing your travels (“look at what I’ve done!” vs. “this changed my entire life…”), and the person asking you more likely just wants a clean, quick answer. Trouble is, no time outside your home country is clean or quick. My study abroad was phenomenal. My summary of my study abroad will be subpar.

Are you working right now? Yes. I have a job. My parents may have money, but I do not, and I need some form of income to support my caffeine addiction at school.

What’s your brother doing? This is obviously only asked if my brother isn’t here (and, sadly, he won’t be) but I’ll answer the same as I always do. He’s moved to here, he’s working with this company, dear god don’t ask me what he does because he’s a chemical engineer and I’m a literature major.

So, are you dating anyone? This is the kicker. This is the worst of the lot. There is absolutely no way to win here. If I say yes, I will be bombarded with at least a half hours’ worth of uncomfortable questions, requests to see a photo of him, following by the inevitable will we be meeting this man anytime soon?, which will of course be answered with a quick and succinct no. (No man will be brought to a family reunion without a ring on my finger.) If I say no, however, the conversation is cut short immediately. With most family members, I’ll likely receive a smile and don’t worry, you’ll meet someone (I wasn’t worried, and I know).

Is anyone else in this room sweating, or is it just me? Just me? Okay. I’m going to go get a glass of wine, now.

One Grand Trip

I know this may sound a tad pigheaded, but I’ve figured out my graduation gift to myself. Next year upon graduation, I’ll be taking a backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon.

This has been on my travel wish list for Arizona since I moved to Arizona. I’ve been working my way through the known trails in my city and have a list of state and national parks I can visit on the weekend. But the Grand Canyon is a necessity for me, and it’s something I’ve planned on doing before I finish college. It seems fitting that it’ll be the last thing I do.

The reason I’ve decided this now is that, because of the incredibly high demands for the Grand Canyon, you have to reserve your spot a year in advance. You should, anyway – there’s always a slim, slim chance that you could buy your permit a few months or weeks in advance, but that opportunity is so limited you’d be smarter to book it a year in advance. Which I plan on doing. Today.

I’ll be documenting this, as I tend to do. I may make a category particularly for backpacking, and if so, of course anything related to the Grand Canyon trip will be put in that. I have to thank Arizona for what it has given me these past few years; without my experience living in Arizona, I wouldn’t be a backpacker. I wouldn’t have this aspect of my life that’s so fulfilling, that’s so central to who I am as a person that I can’t imagine life without it. I’m so impossibly excited for this next year of mountains and trails.

Here’s the thing about social media:

I have some beef with social media sites. I say social media sites specifically because the Internet is a beautiful thing and undoubtedly the best part of the 21st century. My perspective on social media, however, differs a little.

After four years or so of half-assed, half-interested scrolling through timelines, I finally deleted my Tumblr and Twitter account. I deleted the Tumblr account mainly because it was a waste of my time, and I had adopted a useless habit of looking at Tumblr instead of doing just about anything else, which probably would have been more productive. I deleted my Twitter account for a different reason, for the same reason I will likely delete my Snapchat soon and have a growing disinterest in Facebook: I spent time communicating with people who haven’t been in my life for years.

My Twitter timeline could be divided into two categories: news, and high school acquaintances. I read the news on other sites, and have for some time, and I haven’t seen my high school acquaintances since I graduated and moved across the country. My family and closest friends are not people I need social media to communicate with. So why had I kept Twitter for so long? Habit, mostly. I also firmly believe that social media is so embedded into our society that it’s more strange and abnormal to not have social media accounts than to have them, and for that subconscious knowledge, I just never deleted the account.

But here’s the thing about social media: it keeps people in your life. Theoretically, this is what’s great about these sites, right? You want to be able to communicate with people. My two closest friends live across the country, so of course I understand and appreciate this; I want to be able to talk to them within minutes should I be so inclined. I don’t need social media sites for that, however. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or whatever – these sites keep people in your life who naturally would not be remaining in your life. As you age, you change and grow and move on. People will naturally be left behind in this process, and as they fade from your life, you will fade from others’. It is normal. It is, as I see it, necessary for personal growth. Though it is a part of life that is more bitter than sweet, this teaches several lessons: namely, acceptance of change rather than fear of change and the ability to say goodbye (which is important when you have toxic relationships in your life). A society embedded in social media doesn’t teach these lessons, but instead keeps those frayed and distanced relationships that are not needed.

It is a frustrated and negative perspective on social media, I know. And hey – I love Instagram as much as the next girl. But I don’t need my ex following me on Snapchat, a guy from high school messaging me on Facebook to “catch up” on the last three years, or be expected to care about the mediocre tweets of a co-worker from two jobs ago. I can’t focus on my future, or even my present, when I am constantly looking into the past. This is being said with my love for the Internet (I mean, really: I’m listening to music for free right now, about to publish writing for free online to the wide, wide world. I love the Internet), and that love should be kept in mind. Because the Internet is a wonderful thing, but the consequences of social media is not such a wonderful thing. Our culture may be obsessed with social media to a fault, but I refuse to live my life through my phone.