مرحبا عليكم!

I study languages.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Today was quite possibly one of the worst days I have ever experienced.

I'm generally a happy person. Sure, I work myself to death, but most of the time I feel like it's masochistically therapeutic.
Not today.

Today began at 4:50 AM after finishing my Arabic homework. Now, you need to understand something about me. I do all my work before I let myself relax. If I am doing homework at 4:50 AM, it is because I have been doing homework ever since class ended. I don't believe in taking breaks. Anyway, I finally finish my last page of simple sentences ("Did you have a blue car yesterday? No, I did not have a blue car yesterday. I had a red car yesterday."), tiptoe into my room so as not to wake the beautiful roommate I haven't seen awake in three full days (our schedules are entirely opposite), set four alarms (6:10, 6:12, 6:15, and 6:18), and fall into bed in the dress I wore to school.

Some time passes.

I awaken without any stimulus. It's strange, but for a moment I relish the feeling. Then I realize that there is sunshine in my room. I don't remember the last time I've seen sunshine in my room. Suddenly, I sit bolt upright. SUNSHINE??? I reach across to the dresser at the foot of my bed and grab for my phone. The digital readout offers me the information I'm looking for, indifferent to my swiftly accelerating emotional pace. 12:32. TWELVE THIRTY-TWO?!

I zoom to my bedroom door and open it right on top of my roommate, Christina.
"IT'S TWELVE THIRTY-TWO," I utter, crazed.
"Yeah...?" she replies.
"Did you just wake up?"
"Oh my gosh...that sucks!"

In an act of childish frustration, I hurl the cell phone dangling from my limp fingers into the wall. I rush into my bedroom and rip a random outfit from my closet (disregarding the fact that it's freezing and raining), then comb through my hair and tear out the door. On the way to school, reality begins to set in. I missed five hours of work this morning. I let down a professor and thirty students. I didn't call, leave instructions, or otherwise arrange to be absent. What did everyone do? Did they wait for me? Did the professor have to skip another class to take over mine?

I have never failed in a professional capacity. I keep every commitment I make, whether that means I stay up all night performing reactions in my research lab or patiently tutoring people I don't have time to appease. I have very close to zero tolerance for those who don't feel as passionately as I do about professional obligations. What am I going to say to my professor? I have no excuse. I simply slept through class.
Sure, I'm taking 17.5 credits. Sure, I work three jobs. Sure, I maintain a 4.0. But that does not and should not afford me any leeway, not in my mind or in that of anyone else.

I slink my way into the Widtsoe building's elevator like a kicked puppy. I have become the person I hate. Upon reaching the seventh floor, I stand sapped outside the automatic doors, searching for words. Nothing seems adequate. Blankly, I walk up to my professor's office door, knock, and enter. "Hi!" He greets me with a smile, like nothing is wrong. I don't return his sentiment. "Hi," I reply shamefully. I sit down. "I have never been so professionally humiliated in my life," I offer. "Okay," he replies. Dispassionately, I string together the chain of events that led me to this moment, and he simply listens. I don't offer excuses or try and shift the blame to anyone but myself. I make it clear that I am absolutely embarrassed and incredibly sorry. We talk about my schedule and my life, and he tells me I'm crazy, that when I spread myself that thin, "everybody loses." I've been warned about this ever since I entered college, nineteen credits on my first freshman schedule and a backpack approximately the size and weight of a typical boulder. But for the first time in my life, this piece of advice clicks. Everybody loses. He's right. I have stretched myself so thin that my threads have finally snapped. I might have the willpower to live the life I've designed, but in all honesty, my body cannot take it. If I could, I'd stay up all night every night. Sleep is an annoyance; it gets in the way of my to-do lists. But it is necessary. Relationships, too, are necessary. Friends and ward activities and TV shows and creative writing and pleasure reading and aimless free time are necessary.

I am a person
and not a machine.

Today, this was made painfully apparent.
And maybe this time I'll learn.

On my way out, my understanding professor reassured me once again and offered me a fresh peach from his desk.
I took it.
It was delicious.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


So I wrote a lengthy tome about concision
Simply to display the fact I can
My professor, she's concerned about precision--
Ironically, she's now my biggest fan.

Guess what?

Do you concern yourself with your professor's hypothetical questions?
Do you take everything said in class as doctrine from the Enlightened?
Do you bother to be part of the collective reply when your professor asks something obvious?
Do you take (and subsequently memorize) overly specific notes?
Do you ask unnecessary, overly specific questions that do not concern the group?

I used to be one of you.
There is help.

It's incredibly easy to drown yourself in academic minutiae and lose all sight of the real world. Next time you find yourself losing sleep over the spacing on your perfectly formatted reference list, take a step back. Are you really wasting your time counting commas and spaces for a professor so wrapped up in his hyper-hyperspecialized research that his field of vision extends from one end of a beta-glucuronidase-stained Arabidopsis slide to the other?

You can do perfectly well in school without knotting your psychological well-being to your studies. I can't decide whether I wish I'd had this realization earlier or whether it will come back to bite me when it turns out my Molecular Biology notes are actually pathetic doodles of pathogenic hemoflagellates.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Peas, please!

Just now, sitting on my cheap, drab apartment couch, I realized the extent of my love for peas.

1) Peas are like vegetable Gushers. Each one is its own little explosive surprise in your mouth.

2) Peas are comfortingly warm. Next time you hold a bowl of peas, try this: While the peas are still hot, stir in butter, salt, and pepper and pour them into a nice bowl, preferably of thick material. Place the bowl at the base of your manubrium (see diagram) and enjoy the soothing warmth.

3) Peas are bright green. Nothing screams "Retinol!" quite like a 530 nm absorption wavelength.

4) Peas are healthy.
5) You can make peas in any quantity you want.
6) Peas aren't expensive.
7) Peas are a staple freezer food.
8) Peas are quick to make.
9) Peas are emotionally fulfilling.
10) Peas are DELICIOUS and wildly underrepresented on the vegetable scene.

Appreciate them!
This message brought to you by Google ImageSearch, some not-so-subtle copy-and-paste maneuvers, and half an hour I planned to devote to physics homework.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


I'm not sure how old I am.

In my research lab, I'm 25. I control numerous things and people and speak with a confidence and maturity I don't always possess. In this atmosphere, I am regarded with intellectual respect. I can analyze and interpret results on the spot, answering questions and pointing out problems to my professor's delight. I walk in and am greeted by name, and people are paid for accommodating my requests.

In Arabic, I'm 5. I pronounce the letters of the alphabet with great care, memorizing what they look like and tracing their exotic shapes. Asking questions correctly and interpreting answers based on context is my game, and like a small child, I smile and nod when correctly understood.

As a program director and TA, I'm 23. Seniors are my students and volunteers, and as their non-PhD reference, I must know everything they know and how to integrate it with the course material I teach. In this context, I must understand and thoroughly answer unclear and misphrased questions, and the things I say are written down to be memorized before an exam.

My birth certificate tells me that last month I turned 19, though I don't feel like the number describes me. Nineteen seems both too old and too young, especially when my age varies so much by situation. I lose credibility when someone I talk to asks about my age before my resume, but gain nearly as much as I lose when someone asks about my accomplishments without realizing my age.

It's an arbitrary concept, really. Age isn't determined by a date on a birth certificate. Age is an emergent illusion that derives from the combination of the way I look, the way I speak, and the way I present myself to a new and judgmental audience.

For two years, my solution has been thus: I present myself as the Generic College-Age Pre-Professional Student, and nobody has to wonder whether the girl at the front of the classroom teaching techniques in immunohistochemical staining is still technically a teenager.