Category: Living

Living at UIC: res halls (dorms), food, getting around campus.

Are you afraid of the dark?

When I was 15 years old, I bought a ticket to a PG-13 movie and snuck into a rated R one with my friends instead. Not that memorable or delinquent of an offense. In fact, I’m nearly positive most other kids act way worse. And considering that’s probably the biggest thing on my conscious from my freshman year of high school, I’m really not that disappointed in myself. If I could go back to that moment now, though, I wouldn’t even walk into the theater. I would’ve stayed and watched Get Smart or whatever the heck we bought tickets for, because thanks to my immature actions, I’ll regret that decision as long as I live.

It was The Strangers. Even seeing those words typed terrifies me. I may have even mentioned to you before that that are few things in life that scares me as much as the characters from this film. The plot is based on true events and the characters and their masks scarred me. The worst part is – I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, the storyline of a great book I read just last month, or my Facebook password. But for some reason, I can’t get a single part of this movie out of my head. 6 years later.

Not a day goes by that I’m not seeing them around a corner in my house or outside somewhere late at night. When I’m home alone, forget it…

But why does that scare me so much? I’ve only watched it one more time since, when my boyfriend begged me to watch it with him a year after the first time. Even though I spend 99% of the movie blocking my eyes, it doesn’t really make the situation any better. All this time has gone by, and I still expect to see one of the murderers standing in the shadows where I look up.

I really don’t know why this particular thing haunts me so much. I have seen quite a few scary movies and thrillers, and I never like them, but nothing has stuck with me like this one has. It has trumped every other one and remains in the back (and frequently, the front) of my mind to scare me every single day.

So why is it that I’m horrified and actually scarred by a scary movie but fail to be scared by things like the imminent future and other tangible, scary thoughts?

I’m not sure if it’s because I feel like I can handle whatever thing like that is thrown my way, but if one of the strangers appeared (or, God forbid, all three of them) in front of me, I’d just drop to the ground and cower, convulsing. I may not be the strongest, and I am certainly not the bravest, but I do feel comfortable facing many things. The movie characters just aren’t it.

I guess this whole ridiculous fear thing puts life into perspective and provides a life-lesson at the same time. Yes, things are scary, and it seems a little freaky that in less than a year from now, I will have to be a grown-up and will be done with college.

Yes, this story also attests to the fact that I, or any young teenager, for that matter, shouldn’t have been sneaking into a movie theater to see a movie that is too old for them, whether or not their parents approved. I can’t remember if my mom knew ahead of time or if I explained the entire plot of the movie to her the next day. Either way, I don’t think she knows how much it plagues me, and even if she did, she would tell me that I am the one who made the decision to watch. No one told me I had to, and no one held me down and forced me to watch.

So for now, I have to live with this (ridiculous) fear and face the facts that I’m the reason I have these fears. Maybe one day I’ll forget about it…doubtful, but certainly possible. Maybe when I become this long-anticipated “grown up” that everyone always mentions, life will move on and my goofy fears will be left behind. Until then, I’ll keep running back to my bed when I have to run to the bathroom late at night (sorry Mom & Dad), and you should take a look at the movie. Or don’t if that kind of thing would ruin you. If you want to be even more disturbed, check out the book, Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi. Much of The Strangers was based off murders conducted by the Manson clan. I’m gonna go turn off the light and very quickly hide my entire body under the covers until sunlight…………………………..

The acceptable uses of cheese

♪♫♪ And if you do, then you’re my friend, and if you don’t, then you’re my foe / And if you are a deity of any sort, then please don’t go~

And so, my one carefree month of summer has dwindled down, and now I must begin a much more scheduled lifestyle of classes and research work. How did the last four weeks happen so quickly and yet also slowly at the same time?! On the one hand, it feels like forever ago that I was wrapping up finals and closing up the residence halls with my fellow staff for the school year. On the other…where did all of my time go? It really does fly away when you’re not paying attention. But the truth is, I know where it all went…my four short weeks have been comprised of the following: learning guitar, baking dozens of desserts, two seasons of American Horror Story, lots of miscellaneous movies and books, season two of Orange is the New Black (binged in one weekend…oops), going to super fun Bodyjam dance classes at the YMCA, playing with the neighbor’s awesome dog, and last but sadly not least, getting quite out of shape by eating aforementioned baked goods.

So in truth, I can’t complain! I’ve lived up the last few weeks to the fullest by spending lots of time with loved ones, doing much that I hoped to do, and most importantly, taking a break from the constant rigidity of classes, meetings, and work. It was recharging to be able to wake up without my multiple phone alarms for once. Although, I do admit it was still hard for me to completely forget about school…I still ended up doing some preview work for my summer classes. I mean, it’s kind of hard not to feel guilty when I see my brother, busy grad student that he is, still hard at work and studying even after his classes have finished. And I’m sure many of my hardworking friends do the same. It’s hard to completely let go of responsibilities in the summer and just forget everything, but I don’t believe that’s not a bad thing. It’s good to look ahead and prepare yourself. At least for me, a lot of planning and micromanaging serves to ease my stress in the future, and I’m glad I spent some time studying too because now I feel even more ready for my summer courses, especially psychology. And I know I need all the preparation I can get…

But then the other day, it suddenly dawned upon me that with no meal plan, I would have to somehow cook and actually provide myself food this summer, and the sad truth is that the amount of recipes that I can “cook” would provide poor sustenance for any human being. I’m trying to scramble and learn some recipes…but it seems that most of my meals for the summer (other than eating out, which I want to limit to only weekends at the most) will consist of mostly oatmeal, salads, sandwiches, and soups, and maybe a little bit of rice or pasta. I want to eat as healthy as possible, which shouldn’t be too difficult since I’m limited in both finances and my abilities of food preparation. I mean, combined all together it’s hopefully enough for me to live on…right? Haha or perhaps I will scrape some time together to learn from my roommate Chevelle, who is quite adept at making her own meals. Now I really regret not spending more time in the kitchen with my mom when I was younger!

Now, in regards to food and eating, there is something else that I want to bring up. Whenever I mention this to my friends, I am usually met with harsh reprimands and disapproving looks of disbelief, accompanied by what’s-wrong-with-you?! remarks…but I am prepared to stand by it firmly, even if it ends longtime friendships:

I do not like cheese. At all.

Maybe this is insignificant to some people, but I happen to be good friends with some hardcore cheese lovers; and when I divulge my aversion to…curdled milk, it’s as if I just said I hate newborn puppies, or I made a personal attack on their core values in life. But I can’t help it. I don’t like cheese — I don’t like the taste, I don’t like how it looks, and perhaps most of all, I don’t like the awful, awful smell. The scent of cheese is enough to make my stomach turn over and make me nauseated. Even a single slice of cheese will taint the most perfect sandwich for me because somehow the rancid flavor permeates pass every other delicious ingredient to reach every one of my taste buds. If I ever find an unexpected dollop of cheese in my food — especially if it’s the absolute worst of them allblue cheese – it will certainly ruin my entire meal and leave my palate feeling remotely violated, even if I try to cleanse my mouth with something I love and cherish, like chocolate.

I know, I know…I’m being overdramatic. I’m being spoiled. This is Ms. First World Problems checking in right here. But this is not a topic to make light of with me! I will say it again and again: I detest cheese. And also, if you stop and think about it, do you realize just how many foods come with cheese? I have to always be on guard when I order food anywhere and everywhere lest I ever forget the critical phrase: “No cheese, please.”

Then, as always, come the inevitable comments…“But you like pizza, and that has LOADS of cheese.” Oh, I know, my friends. I am well aware. But pizza also has sauce, grease, toppings, crust, and loads of other delectable ingredients that make it holistically oh so delicious, and in a rare case like pizza, cheese can complement the taste. Indeed, there are a few rare exceptions to my no-cheese lifestyle. My only thought is that these are inexplicable anomalies that my taste buds have found a strange, unlikely coexistence with. Which is why through the years I have culminated a list of acceptable uses of cheese that are — at the most — tolerable to my tastes. And these are the only morsels of cheese that I have voluntarily allowed to pass through my lips without gagging. In my book, the acceptable uses of cheese are:

  • Pizza — as aforementioned, cheese does not hinder its deliciousness. Pizza is awesome, and makes Chicago, land of the deep dish, so wonderful to live in. But still…I would NEVER order that “extra cheese” option.
  • Grilled Cheese — PROVIDED THAT it is accompanied with warm, yummy tomato soup. They must come in a pair for me, or else the grilled cheese is still not appealing to me. Also I would just like to insert the fact that the grilled cheese at the caf kind of terrifies me.
  • Fondue — you know those Nicholas-Sparks-like-stories that feature that one special boy or girl you meet in your life who seems so completely wrong for you logically, and everyone doubts why you two would even be compatible, but when you two are together, it’s like magic and everything just somehow works and the world is beautiful? That is fondue to me. Oh, melted cheese…you just seem so wrong for me, and should be revolting…and yet you are so, so delicious. The Melting Pot is one of my favorite restaurants and if I could go every weekend, I would.
  • Macaroni and Cheese — it’s kind of a hit or miss. Sometimes it is delicious, and by sometimes, I mean when my mom makes it for me☺. Mysterious mac and cheese I’ve never tried before? No thank you…
  • Nachos with cheese — but let’s be real though. That “cheese” is so processed anyway it’s delicious because it’s horrible for you as junk food. But hey, melted cheese just somehow has a hold on my heart.

And so, with this list of acceptable uses of cheese, I have been living a largely cheese-less lifestyle with absolutely no regrets. I’ll have the hamburger please, no, not the cheeseburger. Cheese on my salad? Just say when? WHEN! Stop that cheese grater, no cheese please! String cheese as a snack? Um, I’ll just wait until dinner.

With that off my chest…I hope you enjoyed my light venting in this post! Haha just trying to preserve some vestiges of humor in my life before all the seriousness must kick back in. And cheese lovers, if we can’t be friends anymore…I understand. We got to stand by our principles, right?

Ne me quitte pas, mon cher / Ne me quitte pas ♪♫♪

(Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas) - Regina Spektor)

Do you hear the people sing?

♪♫♪ Will you join in our crusade, who will be strong and stand with me? / Somewhere beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?

When I was around eight years old, I visited Taiwan with my mom and my older brother, who was around ten. I distantly remember this one time when we were perusing through an enormous mall bookstore that was filled with both Chinese and English books, movies, and CDs. I  eagerly pranced about finding my favorite Disney movies and the Harry Potter books in Chinese and entertained myself by trying to read their foreign titles aloud (always needing a little help with my mom of course). Then my mom picked up a DVD and I was puzzled, because I couldn’t seem to pronounce either the Chinese or the “English” name. To my embarrassment, my brother corrected my initial, pitiful guess.

“It’s not ‘less-miseraables,’ it’s pronounced lay miz-er-ahbit’s French,” he explained.

My mom, who recognized the name as 悲惨世界, was very excited to find the DVD, which was a recording of the 25th anniversary performance of the musical. Like nearly all of the other DVDs in the store, the English was Chinese subtitled. She was very familiar with the Hugo story and loved songs from the musical  as well, but none of us had seen the actual musical before. We bought the DVD (which I recall was a really good deal too!) and brought it all the way home to America, and we eventually watched the epic musical for the first time on our living room television.

Since I was in middle school, my mom and I have made our favorite bonding activity together into frequenting all kinds of musicals in Chicago. Throughout the years, we’ve collected several Playbills, including Wicked, West Side Story, Dirty Dancing, Mamma Mia, Cats, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Phantom of the Opera three times (I think…I kind of lost count on that one!). And this not to say either of us are theater buffs or anything like that at all. I couldn’t tell you what upcoming Broadway shows are being anticipated this year, or what shows won Tony awards last week, or who the biggest stars-to-follow are…no, we are just casual theater-goers who love seeing a show with great actors and phenomenal music we know and love. Mainly, I just follow the Broadway in Chicago website and whenever a new show is coming that I recognize and think we would enjoy comes up, my mom and I buy tickets and plan our outing. We are also typically pretty frugal about buying our seats, often sitting way in the nosebleed sections — but it never matters how high up or far away from the stage we are. We always both have a fantastic time watching a fantastic performance. And now, after all these years without seeing one of our favorites, we can finally add Les Misérables to our long list of musicals!

Last week, my mom and I watched the Drury Lane production of Les Misérables in Oakbrook. A few weeks ago, we managed to buy tickets for the very last day of performances. We had never been to Drury Lane before to see a show and didn’t really know what to expect. It took us a little bit of searching on the winding roads to locate the theater, but we made it just in time. The theater is expectedly quite a bit smaller than the theaters in Chicago, but it was certainly no less beautiful inside with lovely chandeliers lining the inside ceiling and an elaborate set. The backdrop had computer-generated backgrounds that actually enhanced the experience. I wished that I could pull out my phone and snap pictures, but I knew indoor photography was strictly forbidden! As we walked down to find out seat, I was struck by how cozy the theater seemed because everyone seemed packed together without being too crowded. There were no balcony seating, just a main floor, and it looked like every single seat was sold out. In only a few minutes, the lights dimmed, cell phones were silenced around us, and the thunderous music began.

Despite buying our tickets a little bit late, we managed to get two fantastic seats! We were in the 5th row up from the front! I even got up before the show started to peer down into the live orchestra pit. It was my first time being so close to the stage and seeing everything so close; I also think that the acoustics and build of the theater helped as well. We were also lucky to find out that Ivan Rutherford, a seasoned Broadway actor, was playing the lead role of Jean Valjean! According to the Playbill, Rutherford has won multiple awards for that role and has performed as Valjean over 2000 times on Broadway. It was truly a treat being able to see him so close. However, my mom was even more enamored by Quentin Earl Darrington, the actor who played the antagonistic policeman Javert, because he had such a timbre, bellowing voice! It really made numbers like Stars and Javert’s Suicide especially thrilling to listen to. The Confrontation actually turned out to be my mom’s favorite part because of how intense the chemistry between Valjean and Javert was…truly electrical!

However, my favorite part, which has been my favorite from both watching the concert musical, the 2012 movie, and now this live production, still remains the scene with the students planning their revolution against the French monarchy! My favorite character has always been Enjolras, the leader of the students who incites them all to rally for justice, and it was so exciting to be able to watch that happen live. The set did a marvelous job of building too, especially with the student’s barricade made from miscellaneous tables, chairs, and barrels stuck together. My favorite song from the whole show is probably Do You Hear The People Sing and any variant of the melody, when all of the men of the rebellion sing together of their resolve to fight for the future. It’s such a motivating melody and always gets my blood pumping…actually, sometimes I even listen to the Broadway recording of it while I’m running or working out. And of course, the tragic story of Eponine and her unrequited love is always captured so beautifully by On My Own, and Christina Nieves really did her character some heartbreaking justice. Another crowd favorite was the adorable little boy Gavroche, whose brave contributions to the rebellion and witty quips of melody were always met with applause!

Whenever the cast sang together, it was equally thunderous and marvelous. The Act I closer One Day More got everyone excited, and when the lights came up for intermission, I couldn’t wait for the second half. The finale of the musical was also phenomenal, first with the spine-tingling, beautiful message from the Fantine-Eponine-Valjean melody (“and remember the truth that once was spoken: to love another person is to see the face of God!”) which ever so slowly crescendos into the reprise of Do You Hear The People Sing as the fallen men of the rebellion once again gather to sing in solidarity. The entire audience was moved to their feet by the last note and the standing ovation continued as the cast bowed over and over again.

As we exited, there was a huge crowd gathered around Ivan Rutherford, who was signing some autographs and selling CDs in the lobby. Although my mom and I avoided the long line, we did pick up some more information about upcoming shows in the theater. All around us people buzzed about how spectacular the show was. And so, my mom and I can now finally cross Les Misérables off our musical bucket list to watch, and I am so happy we did so by coming to the Drury Lane production. Even though we had no idea what to expect, we definitely hope to return here again to watch some more shows to come. It’s a shame we didn’t check out this theater many years earlier!

Do you hear the people sing, say do you hear the distant drums? / It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes! ♪♫♪ 

(Finale from Les Misérables - Claude-Michel Schönberg)

The Un-Bucket List

Everyone I know is always making a list of things they want to do before something ends, whether it’s the summer, college, a study abroad program or even life. I have done the same thing, too, even though mine is usually just a giant mental note. But wouldn’t it be just as fun to make a list of things we don’t ever want to do? Like things we hope never happen to us, or things we plan on avoiding at all costs? I definitely thought so…

HOLLY’S UN-BUCKET LIST

  1. Come within 50 miles of a killer whale.
  2. Try calamari again.
  3. Break a bone or need to be hospitalized for an emergency.
  4. Have no pets.
  5. Be fired from a job.
  6. Live far away from my immediate family.
  7. Get in a car accident.
  8. Create roadkill.
  9. Eat dessert that isn’t chocolate.
  10. Have to have another surgery.
  11. Get more cavities.
  12. Watch the White Sox continue to play like the Cubs.
  13. Have no plan.
  14. Have no success finding another internship.
  15. Sleepwalk.
  16. Touch a cactus.
  17. Skydive or bungee jump.
  18. Ride any type of roller coaster.
  19. Get a ticket.
  20. Wake up late on the day of an important event.
  21. Have outfits that don’t have a pair of matching shoes.
  22. Perpetually lose sleep or feel constantly exhausted.
  23. Get another papercut.
  24. Live somewhere where it’s never summer.
  25. Be conflicted about what I want to do with my life.
  26. Get stung by a bee or wasp.
  27. Do my taxes or pay bills.
  28. Get yelled at for no reason.
  29. Develop a severe allergy.
  30. Lose all time for reading.

There’s my list; it’s definitely ever-growing. I’m sure that if you took some time to think about it, there’s probably a lot of things that you never want to do that you are just as passionate about not doing as there are things that you are passionate about doing. It’s kind of nice to think about them this way because it helps lead me on the right path. I can look at this list next time I’m in the desert and remember that I don’t want to touch a cactus….

….But all jokes aside, I don’t see why this isn’t as important to consider as are the things you want to make sure you do. Take some time to think about it. You might come to find you have some irrational fears just like me, or you may read between the lines and see exactly what you want to do!

Old friends on ink and print

Save me, I can’t be saved, I won’t / I’m a president’s son, I don’t need no love

One of the most unbearable, cringeworthy activities for me to do has always been to read my own writing — especially if it was written a long time ago. To my older eyes, my writing always seems immature, foolish, silly, and downright awful at times. I can’t read it like I would any other piece of writing because I’m constantly evaluating it and finding faults with it (and if you follow my blog…why yes, psych majors, I realize I might have a self-esteem issue to resolve haha). And I can usually read no more than a few pages before I put it all down. Usually I tend to avoid this situation at all by letting my old writing sit in a dark room somewhere just gathering dust so that it’s never exposed to the world…

But unfortunately it’s impossible for me not to come across all my old writings when I’m cleaning out years and years worth of junk from my house’s study room, a Herculean task that my mother has been asking me to do for, um, a few years….oops. With some extra time on my hands, I finally took it upon myself to do so, and I began by digging through the piles of old textbooks and notebooks. It wasn’t long before the entire table and floor were covered with a plethora of half-filled, sloppy journals and dozens of weathered, ancient school notebooks that have definitely seen better days. It’s very funny to look back and see my notebooks, homework, and projects from 11th grade AP Human Geography, or AP Calculus, or 9th grade world history, or even 6th grade English class. And it doesn’t take much rummaging to find almost every single essay, in-class or otherwise, I have written for my English classes grades 9-12. Truly, I could have my own Hoarders episode featuring all of the clutter I have accumulated in the past eight years.

It was pretty easy to decide which textbooks to donate/attempt to sell but unfortunately for my wallet, I found most of them were probably very out of date or used (review books for the SAT anyone?). Even though part of me unbelievably STILL wants to keep them as some sort of touchstone or token of memory of whatever class I used them in, I know my mom will not stand for my junk to be rearranged instead of cleaned out! I plan on donating some of the better ones to the local Naperville library because I notice they’re selling old books all the time, but I think some of the AP review books might be salvageable for reuse. Maybe I’ll try to see if some neighborhood kids (who really aren’t kids anymore like I remember) would like to have them. Essentially, getting rid of the textbooks was definitely less concerning than handling the notebooks.

As I picked through which notebooks to keep and which to recycle, I thumbed through the pages and skimmed the words of Sarah age 10-18. Only some of it was legible, much of it was nonsensical, and all of it was nostalgic…and awful to read! While it was interesting to recall certain events or people that I journaled about, even reading the words that I wrote in order to seem like a good writer to myself kind of made me want to crawl in a hole. But at the same time, I could not bring myself to throw even the worst of the journals away, despite knowing that it is extremely unlikely that I would ever open the covers and read it again. And I most certainly do not want anyone to ever come across it and read it either! But just flipping through the pages felt a little bit like stepping into a time machine and meeting younger versions of myself again, hearing my old voices in my head…I ended up spending the entire day perusing though my formative years in scribbled, incomplete journals and half-finished manga and puppy sketches. Looking back I wish I had kept the diligence to actually finish journals and notebooks that I started before starting a new one…but I have always been in love with beautiful journals and want to use a new one! Thinking back to the number of journals I used to buy at Barnes and Noble…it kind of left me with dozens of journals that are a little too used to be donated, but also still empty enough to feel like a waste…

But within all of the half-finished notebooks, I have countless half-started stories that were born from dream journals as well as more organized, fleshed-out stories whose characters sadly never saw an ending. It felt like visiting old friends and becoming reacquainted — it just so happened that I made these friends up in my head. But their dialogue and the “clever” characterization (spoiler alert: hardly any of them are clever) of them were so familiar to me, and I recalled all of the times I had spent class time daydreaming their stories and backgrounds. I pondered briefly over giving them a resolution now by picking up where my writing before left off, but there are far too many stories, and at the same time it also feels impossible because I am not the same writer I was those years ago when their stories began. Elementary school Sarah mostly wrote about anthropomorphic hamsters (probably inspired by Hamtaro — anyone remember those adorable hamsters with eyes that were way too big for their head on Toonami?) and video game/reality crossovers. In middle school, it seems I even had a fanfiction-type phase where I wrote stories that starred characters from my favorite fiction novels, including Animorphs, the Alex Rider novels by Anthony Horowitz, and a slew of Kenneth Oppel novels. While some of these older stories might be endearing, I think my creative writing in high school was nearly unbearable…I’m sorely tempted to dispose of it all! A good bulk of it comes from a Creative Writing course I took my sophomore year of high school, and I must say, a lot of it seems to embody the worst of moody, angsty teenage writing that is cringeworthy indeed. Not that the class was bad! It was actually probably one of my favorite classes I ever took in high school, and I miss the journal times where we would all receive a random prompt to write about without stopping for 10 minutes straight. A lot of gibberish may have come from that, but also a lot of memories and vented ideas as well. In the end, I decided not to throw the creative writing away (what if one day I really do want to reread it?) but I did box it away carefully to keep it hidden from the world.

Reading all of these writings made me feel as if I was reintroducing myself to old friends that I made up in my head and long forgotten and then remembered again, and I can’t stop thinking about all the ongoing stories and plotlines I had circulating in my mind throughout middle school and high school. Why didn’t I write more of them down? Why wasn’t I more careful in preserving them? What about the details that I can’t remember, even now, after trying to refresh my memory?

So today I picked up yet another new journal — but this one I’m determined to finish from cover to cover. Even though I’ve taken to typing of most of my thoughts on my laptop because it seems faster, I want to bring back my old habit of freewriting for the sake of writing and just feeling my pen on the paper moving nonstop, even if I’m only producing more drivel that I will undoubtedly cringe to read in the future. Even if none of it’s “good writing”, it’ll be fun to see how my style has evolved in the past few years and just let my imagination run absolutely wild again.

And who knows, maybe 25-year-old Sarah might find it interesting to read when cleaning time comes around again.

What a lovely day, yeah we won the war, may have lost a million men but we got a million more / All the people, they say

(People Say - Portugal the Man)

Let me serenade you in a lab…(Am I endearing yet?)

♪♫♪ If you were here we’d laugh about their vacant stares, but right now my time is theirs…

Ever since summer started, I’ve felt a little direction-less because there seems a disconnection between what I know what I have to get done and what I actually want to do. I’ve been spending a lot of time lounging about doing semi-productive things that schooltime-Sarah probably could have accomplished much quicker…but even so, I must say that I have gotten a lot of things done that have been on my “bucket list” for quite some time.

In terms of “business” — that is, school, work next year, other important things — one big thing I’m happy about is that I got a research position! That’s kind of a big deal for me because it’ll be my first real research done here at UIC (I participated in summer research at Northwestern a couple years ago but I haven’t done any projects since then.) Although the lab work I did in the past, which revolved around protein expression in prostate cancer, was very interesting, I didn’t always find myself enthused to go to work every day. My time there was also very short, so perhaps I also didn’t feel as involved. As a result, I wouldn’t say that I’ve spent two years avoiding research per say, but I didn’t actually seek it out actively…perhaps because internally I was never really sure working in a lab is something I would want to pursue. I’ve consulted with my wonderful Honors College Faculty Fellow, former professor, and confidante Dr. Cohen (from the GPPA Medicine program) about my dilemma before, and she has always been reassuring to me that research is certainly not something I must do if it doesn’t interest me. But there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to forego research at one of the best research institutions in the country when there are literally opportunities at my fingertips all the time. I spent the last few weeks of school applying and applying for a summer position (often not getting a response at all…which is expected but still disheartening at times), and it was relieving to finally get the emails for some interviews. About a week ago, I got the news that I got a position with UICentre! I headed back into the city last week and already met the graduate student that I will work with this summer and she was very friendly and answered all of my questions and concerns. However, I can’t help but still be quite nervous because during the interview, it was made very clear that if I didn’t do a good job during the first month (which serves as a trial period or sorts) I would be terminated from the position.

“Nothing personal or anything,” explained the professor. “But lab work is just not for everyone.”

However, I’m going to bet on myself this summer and hope that I will be able to be a careful enough person in the lab…I know lab work may not be for me, though. I guess I will find out if it’s something I am competent in as well as something I would like to do this. As for what exactly I’ll be doing in the lab…I confess I’m not quite certain yet! Not very much was explained to me, but I was assured training would come. Here’s hoping that the first month goes well!

Now business aside…all the fun I’ve been having! It might be silly because I spend almost every day at home – I share a car with others in my family so don’t have access much – and often alone because my parents are work and my brother is at the library studying for his own exams. And yet I have been enjoying myself immensely by throwing myself into guitar. I’m afraid I kind of neglected my guitar throughout the school year even though it sat in my room all year long. I would always tinker on my keyboard instead because the piano is much more familiar to me. When I did pick up the guitar, I could barely struggle through a Youtube tutorial. A year ago, last summer, I unearthed my father’s old guitar which had been in the basement for 20+ years and I immediately tried to learn it. Sadly, even after taking a group guitar course all summer, I lacked the drive and time to get really good at the open chords. I could strum and pluck some music in front of me, but that was it.

Well, no more nonsense! I have started seriously practicing at last, and after strumming day after day until my fingers went from callused to numb, I can finally manage a few songs! I feel much more confident about playing several important chords now (namely C, G, D, Dm, E, Em, F, A, Am, and Bm), and luckily, the wonderful thing about guitar is that for many songs you only need to know 4 or 5 chords! Of course, the much more difficult chords are still, literally, beyond my reach (can my fingers even bend that way?!? Ugh, barre chords…) so I have a lot to learn. But just these two weeks have been a huge improvement! However, I am still working on getting my strumming patterns smooth by switching chords faster.

If anyone is looking to start guitar, I suggest finding some easy songs you know by heart and could sing in your sleep and just strum to the melody in your head. I found that to be the easiest way for me to be motivated to practice and get the chord progressions to happen more smoothly. For me…and this might be embarrassing…that song happened to be Ours by Taylor Swift, haha, much to my brother’s disdain for having to listen to me all day. But the song, like many T Swift tunes, only uses 4 chords so it was perfect to start with! After managing that, I started searching online for more and more songs and tutorials that I was familiar with. Now, I cannot stress enough that I really do not have a good singing voice…at all…but I can’t help but love it! So it’s been such fun for me to finally provide my own “backup” and sing to it! (I’ve never been coordinated enough to sing and play piano at the same time, ha.) Lately, my mom keeps coming into my room late at night as I’m still strumming and singing away, asking if I’m about to hold a concert or something haha. And I reply, nope – just having a grand time on my own.

Maybe one day if I’m feeling REALLY REALLY  brave I’ll post something on Youtube or something…but I never imagined I would be able to do something like that. I’ve always been very private when it comes to singing because I’m so self-conscious. But who knows? If I do though, I’ll be sure to keep you all posted and link it here too :)

Until I go back to school on June 15th for summer classes, I’ve got to enjoy the time I have…because then it’ll be back to a rush of classes, studying, and research every day. In the meantime, I’ll probably still keep strumming some old Swiftie favorites ♥

People throw rocks at things that shine / And life makes love look hard / The stakes are high, the water’s rough, but this love is ours ♪♫♪

(Ours by Taylor Swift)

Arch you surprised I’m not freaking out?!

Is it just me, or did fortune cookies become absolutely terrible? I mean the fortune, not the cookie; that much seems to still be on par, although I don’t really like the cookie part anyways…just a personal dislike. At any rate, for the last few years, my fortunes haven’t seemed so much of fortunes but more statements telling me what kind of person or some life lesson. Every time I open one, I get excited to see what it’s going to say, but then I’m immediately disappointed because it’s either a repeat fortune I’ve gotten before or something that doesn’t at all seem to suggest anything about my future. Is it that fortune cookie texts have changed, or have I become obsessed with knowing what’s coming in my near future?

I’ve always liked to plan out what’s going on in my life for both the immediate future as well as the not-so-near future. I feel like it calms me, keeps me on track and gives me something to strive for. While I always have very distinct and specific plans and expectations, the means to which I’ve gone about determining that they are the correct choice haven’t always been traditional; my share of fortune cookie, Magic 8 ball and “signs” have helped me along the way. I’ve looked to these measures to decide whether or not I should do something or what to focus on.

Sometimes, especially during the school year, I tediously begin writing down what I will be doing for the week, hour-by-hour. This is absolutely outrageous, and I’m fully aware of that. I also realize that more than 99% of the time, I don’t wind up following the schedule by any means. Something will come up or I will realize the impossibility of completing all of the tasks I have left myself to complete in a given amount of time and I wind up straying away from the schedule. I’ll also make general lists of things I’d like to accomplish in a day or week, or both. It can get scary how many different lists I may need to feel less anxious about something. The moment I feel ideas running through my mind, I have to start writing them down for fear I will lose even just one of them.

In the grand scheme of things, I know I need to stop looking to my fortune to help me decide what to do, especially when one of my sister’s last fortune cookies told her that “a tub and a rub will make our day.” I don’t know that I need to slow down on planning my future because that has really only brought about positive things to my life. But I do think there is a step I can take in the right direction; I need to learn how to be more spontaneous.

I do not like not being prepared for something, like feeling like I don’t have the right outfit on to be somewhere. That’s just an example, but I honestly don’t enjoy going somewhere that I haven’t had enough time to sufficiently mentally prepare for, or something to that nature. I’m certainly not introverted, and this has nothing to do with social interactions. Instead, I just like to get pumped up for doing something, even if it’s just going to the grocery store. I want to know at least some hours before that I am going. If I wind up going somewhere without having a little bit of time to think about it, I feel slightly off. I don’t mean to sound crazy, but maybe I am. Maybe the lack of spontaneity and the incessant need to plan, organize and prioritize has gone to my head. I’m working on it, I swear.

My first step in the strides to spontaneity is more like a leap or lunge for me, really. I have officially agreed to travel to St. Louis with my boyfriend for our 7 year anniversary this weekend. We’ve never gone on a vacation alone, and the fact that we were planning it two days in advance is so incredibly stressful to me. We managed to reserve a hotel room and have picked out what we will be doing each day, but I’m not going to be like those people in the movies (or on Duck Dynasty) who make an itinerary and everyone on the trip wants to destroy them and their schedule. I’m just going to make sure we’re prepared with directions and whatever else we may need. The rest is up in the air. The trip itself sprung up on me, and I’m trying to step out of my comfort zone and have fun. The less stress, the better. It is supposed to be a vacation, after all. And a celebratory one at that.

Hopefully from now on I can be ever so slightly more spontaneous and less judgmental of fortune cookies. Who am I kidding, I’ll probably go ask a cootie catcher if we picked the right hotel…

Finally, a break…sort of

Everything may not have a place and I certainly haven’t finished finding a home for all of my clothes, but I am moved home for the summer! I’m so excited for the next few months. It seriously began to feel as if this year was never going to end, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever make it home in one piece. Somehow, the year came to a close, and an absolute miracle occurred-everything fit into the house!

I’ve already started reading and walking my dog. In just a few days, I will be back at my internship at the hospital that I was at last summer. I’m excited to start back up, but I have enjoyed the week back to myself. I had a chance to do a lot of cooking and relaxing.

I can’t say that things are more exciting than they were at school, but I think I like it that way. I needed a break from the hecticness that is school and many jobs and executive board positions and internships. I’m definitely going to make the most of my time home!

So far, things have been pretty exciting..Here’s why:

Grades are in, and I got all A’s and B’s. I did want straight A’s to boost my GPA, but I’ll take that for sure. Next semester, I am really going to try to get those A’s.

Vacation plans for 2014 are being made! Kevin & I are planning a weekend trip away to celebrate our 7 year anniversary, my sister wants to take a trip to Nashville, and for Mother’s Day, we let my mom know that we’ll be going to Disney World in November! I can’t wait for each trip!

I bought a bike, and I’m so excited to ride it! Of course, the week I buy it, temperatures are in the 40′s and 50′s, but I’m banking on some warm weather soon so I can ride everywhere. I’m really excited to bring it back with me to UIC and ride everywhere…except maybe not to class, since I live so close (it would probably take more time to lock the bike up than to walk to class.)

The Blackhawks advancing in the playoffs has been crazy exciting and brings back so many memories from previous years. Can’t wait to see what happens…hopefully the journey continues!

What’s next on the agenda:

I’ve been invited to 4 graduation parties in the next 3 weeks. I also plan on visiting friends in the upcoming weeks…it already feels like so long since I’ve seen everyone!

It’s time to start baking some things! I really need to take advantage of the cold(er) weather to turn on the oven and bake…I really won’t want that on in the heat of the summer.

I need to get organized for my internship and ready to go to make the most out of my time back there.

Talk to you soon! Keep enjoying time off!

Summer Loving

If I could find a way to see this straight, I’d run away to some fortune that I, I should have found by now…

After a looong week of hardcore studying, cleaning up and moving out, and saying goodbyes, I am quite mentally and emotionally drained as well as disoriented. Everything is just about wrapped up now…so what do I do with myself?!? I don’t have another exam to start studying for, or another program to plan, or somewhere I have to be…it’s the strange yet familiar feeling I get whenever a summer or winter break comes around. And I have a whole month of it before I move back to school for the summer 8 week session! I know I should feel content and relaxed for once and enjoy it – which I do – but I think my workaholic side remains a little too high-strung. It’s hard for me to just shake off the feeling that I have some deadline to prepare for. So I decided to make a short list of things that I could do to occupy myself – mostly things that I have pushed back because of school or other “priorities” that got in the way. If you’re also feeling restless, here are some suggestions for you as well.

  • Read a book. Seriously! I’ve been trying to spend more time reading books I just wanted to read for fun. The top of my list right now is the A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka what Game of Thrones is based on!) which I started last summer. But since each of the books are a thousand pages at least, I never got through the entire series. (I got lost somewhere in A Feast for Crows) I got A Dance with Dragons on my Kindle and can’t wait to get started…I have to stay ahead of the HBO show!
  • Watch a movie every day. I’ve had a looong list of movies to watch that only keeps growing. Thank goodness for Netflix – even if they don’t update their selection that often, there’s still plenty to keep me occupied. On my list at the moment are: American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, V/H/S 2, and rewatch all Miyazaki movies (it’s been a while)
  • Learn a new instrument! I’ve been messing around with ukulele for a while now, and it’s one of the EASIEST instruments to learn! A cheap ukulele only costs about 40 to 50 dollars, and the quality is still decent enough to learn on. I suggest checking your local music stores to see if they’re in stock, or perhaps even looking online. I personally use a Makala uke, which is plastic and was on sale when I bought it, but it’s still decent to produce some mellow chords. After learning just a few chords, it’s super easy to just Youtube some simple songs or Google chord progressions.
  • Start a new show to watch! Again, Netflix makes it infinitely (and sometimes too) easy to marathon a series. At least now I don’t have to worry about homework or studying when I binge watch something…other than the remote shame I receive from spending hours in my bed nest when  Netflix prompts me with “Are you still watching ___? Click continue to keep watching.”
  • Go for a swim! It’s crazy to think that the weather was 50-100 degrees lower just a little while ago. (Although I may have to take that back if the weather keeps being unpredictable…) Enjoy the heat by hopping into the local pool or a beach. I haven’t been to a beach in Chicago for years, so that’s definitely on my list to do sometime this summer.
  • Cook/bake a new recipe. Throw something together and try something new! I’ve never been a cook, so I’m hoping to have a few meals down pat before I move into an apartment one day. Now that I’m home, my dad wants me to bake some of his old favorites again – namely muffins and bread.
Have a great start to your summer!

 

One more spoon of cough syrup now, whoa…

(Cough Syrup - Young the Giant)

Summer Suggestions

Whether you’re taking summer classes, working at an internship or part-time job, or have the entire summer off with minimal obligations, the 3 months is going to go by incredibly fast. Before you know it, we’ll be back in classes and buying books. Between now and then, there’s a good amount of time of which to make the most. Here are some ideas on what you can do to improve your summer and enjoy the time off:

1. Go places for the day. This is my favorite part of the summer. If you don’t have a vacation planned, this is an especially good idea because it always feels like a mini-vacation. Look up places to visit and plan a day out of it. I’ll share my favorite places to go in the coming weeks. This gives you something to look forward to and makes the summer a whole lot more fun. For years, my boyfriend and I have been going somewhere every Friday but now that he has a full-time internship, that has to end. I don’t think we’ll stop going places this summer, but we definitely have to change days. This is especially great if you look up places at the beginning of the summer and make a list of them. Each time you want to go somewhere, you can choose the one that works best for that day based on the weather and whatever other conditions.

2. Stay on a normal sleep schedule. Just like all of the other breaks, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of staying up into the latest hours of the night (or potentially the early hours of the morning) and then sleeping in until 12, 3, 5, or even later. Don’t become nocturnal this summer! There’s a lot that you’ll miss out on. I’m not saying not to have some late nights enjoying yourself, but don’t make it a constant habit. Try to get to bed within the same time frame each night. You’ll wake up around the same time, too, and as a fall back, you can set an alarm. Sleeping is great, and this is absolutely a time to catch up on all of those lost Z’s from the year, but do so wisely and in a way that you won’t regret later.

3. If you don’t already know, learn how to do laundry. Learn to cook and/or bake! Learning important life skills is important, especially depending on your living situation. While a lot of people are proficient in the kitchen and laundry room, there is still a fair amount of individuals who don’t know how to do one of these things. There is no excuse- everyone can do laundry or cook if they take the time to understand the process and learn. At this point, you have 3 months to figure things out, and there is most likely someone who can help you learn. Take time out to discover the art of making something other than ramen, and learn how to separate laundry so that you get the longest wear possible out of your clothes. Eventually, you’re going to have to take this step that is part of growing up, but it’s easy to push off. Don’t do that! Learn now so you can put those skills to work during the year.

4. Put your phone/computer/etc. down. Everyone has been talking about and sharing the Youtube video about the importance of looking up from your phone. Our cell phones have, sadly, become our best friends and our biggest support system. Believe it or not, there was a time we were able to function without them. Try walking away from your phone. I’m not saying to go out of the house or run to the store and leave it behind; that is why we got cell phones, after all…to be able to contact someone in case of emergency or if we needed to talk to them quickly. But why do you need to be checking Twitter at the beach? Or Snapchatting at the movies? Keep your phone in your pocket or purse and try living life through your own eyes with the people present in the moment. At home, put your phone in your room and don’t check it all day. You’ll feel incredibly liberated, and there’s a good chance you may see something you’ve never seen before because you were too busy on your phone.

5. Find somewhere to volunteer your time. It can be really difficult to find time to give during the school year, with the combination of school, work, friends, etc. Summer seems to always give us a fair amount of free time, whether or not you are working or in school. Think about what you’re interested and passionate about, and make a point to set up a volunteering schedule. Even if it is once a week or month, this will make you feel a lot better and will give you something to look forward to. There are a million options for volunteering. It’s just a matter of finding what is the best fit for you. If you don’t want to go it alone, get friends or family involved. That way you’ll all be held accountable to go volunteer, and it can be really fun doing this with them. This will no doubt be the most rewarding part of your summer!

6. Spend time with your friends. Living at school makes it hard for me to see my friends from home as often as I’d like to. It’s easy to start living a double life and separating the two. Reconnect with your friends and start making plans. There is a million things to do in the summer, and no reason not to spend time with them. Make sure you maintain your friendships- you don’t want to lose them simply because you’d rather lay around or be alone.

7. Meet up with your UIC friends. People at school are from so many different towns and states. If you’re able to, set up times or weekends where you can visit each other. This is one of the things I’m looking forward to the most. Three months is a long time to go without seeing the people you spend so much time with during the school year. If there is absolutely no way for you to visit one another, talk on the phone or video chat; don’t spend the whole summer just texting each other.

8. Start an exercise routine. What better time to get in shape? Take advantage of the weather and set up a routine, and actually follow it. So many workout plans fail just because people give up on them because they don’t see immediate results or for any other reason. Don’t be one of those people;it’s a lot harder to start something up again a million times than it is to continue it. While you’re at it, change your eating habits if they aren’t the best. I’m not saying don’t check out all the ice cream places. What I am saying is to grab the fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. Summer is a great time to get healthy. What excuse do you really have not to?

9. Try out restaurants and bakeries you’ve never been to. I love finding different places to try out over the summer, especially when places open up their outdoor seating for the season. See what your neighborhood or the surrounding ones have to offer. Head out with friends or family and check out new places, or those places you’ve always seen but never gone to. You might find a hidden gem or a new favorite place.

10. Take time to think. I always recommend this, but for a good reason. Life moves too fast, especially when you’re distracted by tests, quizzes, and online assignments. Summer is the time to revisit your thoughts and determine if you are on track with school and happy with your life. If you are, this will make you feel organized and prepared. If not, summer is a perfect opportunity to set up advising appointments or change up your schedule. Don’t just ignore the real world during summer-make a point to be prepared. It’s important to know whether or not you are happy.

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