Category: Grad School

Recap and Reboot!

What a crazy two years it’s been! I haven’t updated the blog in such a long time and that’s mainly it’s because I’ve been out living life. But I’m about to resume blogging. I’m rebooting the blog because I’ve been brainstorming a project that I want to document on here. I’ll explain it more about the project in a separate post.

Anyway, as always, I’m trying to figure out how to balance life as a grad student and celebrate the last years of my twenties. When I started the PhD program I vowed not to let myself become so wrapped up in school that I put all the other aspects of my life on hold for the duration of grad school. It hasn’t always been easy and I still don’t do the best job of balancing everything, but in general I’m proud that my life feels pretty well-rounded. I continue to be a work in progress. I’ve noticed that the pattern is usually one area becomes the priority as the others slip onto the back burner. It turns out that whatever is on the front burner is constantly changing based on what I need most in my life, whether it be friends, family, school, or mental and physical balance.

Since August 2012 I’ve finished my coursework and I’m in the process of working on my comprehensive exams. Beyond that, here’s an idea of how I’ve been spending the past two years.

There have been many hours spent at Black Dog reading and writing.

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There’s been two football seasons, including Florida State winning the National Championship.

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Several birthdays including Hilary’s 21st birthday spent in New Orleans on Thanksgiving with the family.

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Many trips home and to North Carolina to spend time with the family.

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And trips to North Carolina with friends new and old.

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Lots of parties and social events!

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and plenty of adventures on planes and sailboats! šŸ™‚

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Two major road trips to help a friend and my sister start new lives in other states.


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Tallahassee —> Wisconsin

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St. Pete —> Salt Lake City

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And finally one major loss and one major addition…

Nana died on October 8th 2012.

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And this past summer I adopted a rescue dog, Sirius.

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And now you’re all caught up. šŸ™‚

The PhD Balancing Act: One Year Down!

Papers, assignments, and coursework complete — Check!
Pass end of the year reviews — Check!
Grading and grades complete for teaching — Check!
Pass my own classes with a 4.0 — Check!

First year as a PhD student — CHECK!

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It’s hard to believe that I’m already a year into my PhD program and I’ve been back in Tallahassee again for nearly a full year.

This past school year flew by in a whirlwind of school work, social activities, and lots of shenanigans, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I feel more satisfied and comfortable with my life here, than during either of my two years in Washington.

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As the year wrapped up, some of the first year student were talking about whether or not our experiences this past year lived up to our initial exceptions and I can safely said my life here is exactly as I imagined and hoped. Sure, there were moments when I was stressed out and frazzled, or other moments when I was frustrated by various people or the system, but overall there have been no curve-balls, only serendipitous moments.

Looking back on the Letter to a Future PhD Student, that I wrote in August prior to school starting, I’d say that everything I wrote about and the emotions that I anticipated were spot-on. I certainly experienced many, many instances of feeling “stupid” or “not getting it,” and yet I persevered. I even had a moment recently where I felt frustrated because I couldn’t see the progress that I’d made this year. But then as I worked on a paper for one of my classes, I used a theoretical lens to support my own analysis and I realized I’ve actually come a long way since last August.

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Overall, this year has been quite the PhD balancing act. Sometimes I succeeded in balancing all the different facets of my life and other times I failed miserably, but just as grad school is about the process not the product, so is life.

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One of my major successes involved taking my own advice and creating a network of friends, both so I could reached out for help when I needed it and as a means of social interaction.

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Sometimes I get the feeling that making friends and having fun isn’t always viewed in a favorable light in academia, but after my MA and two years in Washington I knew that in order to keep myself in a balanced and happy place, I need to get away from school and enjoy life every so often.

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Then on the flip side, one of my failures for this past year was my lack of a regular exercise routine. Despite running two half marathons, I never quite established a schedule for my running and strength training goals and as a result they were sidelined.

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Therefore, this summer and next year, I am going to focus more on incorporating fitness into my life.

After my first semester, I made a list of goals for spring semester, which included avoiding procrastination, being more social, and finding a roommate. For the most part, I managed to accomplish all of the tasks that I set out for myself.

While I aimed to be more social, in reality I think what I really wanted was to make some real friendships. In hindsight, I was social during fall semester, spring semester I ended up making real friends.

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But you know the problem with making friends in grad school? They end up leaving eventually.

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For the past few weeks, it’s been an endless stream of farewell dinners, goodbye lunches, end-of-the-semester trivia nights, and “we survived our first year” parties.

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Although I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made this year (or those who only left for the summer), I am really looking forward to next year. Instead of starting over, I already have an established group of awesome friends. And while I know that school won’t necessarily be “easier,” I at least have a pretty good idea of how to handle the chaos that is the PhD balancing act.

Recent Posts:
It’s Just a Jump to the Left and a Step to the Right — My road trip with friends to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at American Stage in the Park.
Weekend Forecast: Torrential Downpour and a Wicked Good Time — The story of Meatfest 2012.

It’s Just a Jump to the Left and a Step to the Right

Continuing the idea of how much I love traditions, growing up one of my favorite activities was attending Shakespeare in the Park by American Stage.

Every year they put on a Shakespeare play in Demen’s Landing park. Patrons were encouraged to come two hours before the show and bring a picnic dinner. My family would go with a group of my mom’s friends and we’d make it a big potluck. I have fond memories of attending as a little kid and then when I got older, I carried on the tradition with my high school friends.

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In 2009, I was lucky enough to get a chance to work on the Park show. By this point, the company had switched from doing Shakespeare plays to musicals, but the fun atmosphere was still alive and well.   

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Working the Park show remains to be one of my favorite experiences from the theatre. The friendships I made during those 10ish weeks showed me a whole new side of St. Pete and I loved working on an event that I’d grown up attending.

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When I left for Washington, I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to see the park show. But now that I’m back in Florida, I made it a point to get a group together to go see Rocky Horror Picture Show in the Park.

By some miracle everyone’s schedules aligned during finals week and five of us were able to road trip down to St. Pete. Our plan was to arrive around lunch time and then spend the afternoon exploring downtown before the show.

First stop: Moon Under Water for lunch.

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Then we walked down Bayshore and went to the Pier.

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E saw a pelican and tried to take a picture. We pointed and stared as she did it.

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The Pier was pretty rundown and filled with all sorts of weird machines, stories, and knick-knacks.

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Faux-photobooth!

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After the Pier, we met up with S and kept wandering downtown.

This next series of pictures are recreations of other pictures and I find them particularly amusing.

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Also, can someone explain this statue to me? We passed it several times and were collectively confused by it each time we passed.

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After our explorations, we stopped by a Publix and created a hodge-podge picnic for ourselves and made our way to the park.

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We had a lovely picnic and then played card games while we waited for the show to begin.

I also got a chance to say hello to some of my old coworkers and friends. I think this was the first time I’ve actually missed working in the theatre. I wish I would have another chance to work a park show, but I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon.

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Anyway, the show was a lot of fun. I’m not super crazy about the Rocky Horror Picture Show in general, but the park setting made the campy nature of the show feel appropriate and fun.

I really enjoyed showing the girls my hometown and one of my favorite activities. I’m hoping there will be more opportunities for road trips to St. Pete in the next few years.

Weekend Forecast: Torrential Downpour and a Wicked Good Time

If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for tradition. I tend to resist change and embrace tradition. One of the reasons why I was so drawn to this school and program is because I knew the past grad students were a tight-knit group with various yearly and weekly social activities, like the weekly safety meetings.

So when I found out about the yearly spring Meatfest, which has been happening for more than a decade, I was stoked to experience my first meatfest.

When I told my family and friends that I was going to an event called Meatfest, they laughed.
“Uhh, Meatfest? But you’re a vegetarian. I don’t understand.”

Then I explained that Meatfest wasn’t just a weekend of consuming the most ridiculous themed meat-on-meat creations, but it was also a weekend of camping out in the middle of nowhere. The laugher continued.
“HAHAHAHAHAHA. You? Camping? Meat? HAHAHAHAHA.”

It’s okay though, because I had a BLAST at Meatfest.

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A few weeks ago, on a Friday afternoon, a group of wild and crazy grad students headed out to the middle of nowhere and set up their own camp ground to celebrate the yearly event that is Meatfest.

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The first order of business involved pitching tents and setting up the hang out area. Remember how my family and friends laughed at the idea of me camping? Well I’ve only really been camping three times. Twice as a kid in North Carolina and once about six years ago with friends. Each of those instances involved someone else pitching the tent for me (and a camp site with running water, toilets, and electricity near by).

Thankfully S and K were kind enough to give E and I a crash course in how to pitch a tent. We set up our behemoth tent that I dubbed the Harry Potter tent. It’s the red one in the picture above. It had two separate rooms!

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After the tents were set up, we created a camp fire area and a cooking/food area.

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Meatfest is quite the event and everything was planned out with meticulous detail.

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By sundown, we had a fire blazing and food on the grill. The first night was really chill. We ate food, hung out, made s’mores, and relaxed by the campfire.

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The next day involved more of the same. For next year, I need to remember to bring a book. I was so panicked about what to bring that I forgot to bring any sort of entertainment for myself and most of Saturday morning/afternoon involved being lazy around the campfire.

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Then in the afternoon, we got word that a big band of rainstorms were approaching. We set up a whole system of tarps to cover the campfire area, the walk way between the food and fire and a cover for our latrine.

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Then the rain hit. It was your typical Florida rain, which meant it was hard and heavy.

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Thankfully, the elaborate Occupy-esque trap trails kept the hang out area dry and we were able to enjoy the afternoon, despite the rain.

Although, I probably should have realized our tents were in trouble when we had to keep “dumping” the accumulating rain from our tarp system.

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Once the rain cleared, some of the other people went out to inspect our tents. A bit later, S called out to me and broke the news that my tent had collapsed during the storm. Not only did the tent collapse, but we ended up with about six inches of water inside the tent and most of our stuff soaked.

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But not even a flooded tent could put a damper on our weekend and the fun continued for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

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When it came time to go to sleep, I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up sleeping. E and I had debated a few different options during the afternoon, but never settled on a plan.

Then the super-awesome K came and told us that she and a few other people had pitched new a tent for us to sleep in. She was able to pitch a new tent in complete darkness and even more amazingly, the tent withstood the second torrential downpour that came in the middle of the night on Saturday.

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I did discover two downsides to the weekend: My legs are covered in angry, itchy mosquito bites and I’m craving faux-meat.

All in all, Meatfest was an awesome weekend. So despite the flooded tent, the lack of showers, running water, electricity, and being surrounded by meat all weekend, I can’t wait for next year.

A Reminder To Be Grateful, Because Life Is Fragile

When life gets crazy, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day crises and lose track of the bigger picture. We forget to acknowledge everything that we have, instead of lamenting what we don’t. We forget to tell the people in our lives that we appreciate and love them on a regular basis. We forget that life can change in the blink of an eye and we should cherish every moment.

This weekend my friends and I experienced a scary moment that reminded me how precious life is and how grateful I am for my friends, family, and the opportunities I’m afforded.

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A while back a group of my friends expressed an interest in going to a home baseball game. We’ve all been really busy and because we’re in different programs our schedules don’t always align. We finally decided to go a game after spring break and this Sunday’s game seemed like the perfect choice.

The day was gorgeous! It seemed like perfect baseball weather. Everyone met for lunch the game and after we finished, we made plans to caravan to the baseball stadium. Also, being the silly people that we are, we even put our hands into a circle and called “BREAK” before departing.

Literally minutes later, as I was driving to the stadium I passed this horrible accident. One car was on the sidewalk and another was scratched up and completely flipped onto it’s roof. The traffic slowed down as people rubbernecked at the upside down car. During my own rubbernecking moment, I realized that the car’s plate and car looked familiar. After a quick phone call to my friend who was following behind me, we both confirmed each others fears that it was most likely our friend, even though neither of us were 100% sure. Since the stadium was just a minute away, we continued driving to the stadium, where we could gather the other members of our group and figure out what to do.

After we’d parked, I received a call from one of the other girls who confirmed that indeed the car belonged to our friend. We were told that she only had a few cuts and scrapes, but was otherwise completely fine. We were told there was nothing that we could do to help, so we should just go on to the game.

In the end, everyone made it to the game as planned.

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So, despite the super-scary turn of events, we all still had a good afternoon together, just with the extra reminder to appreciate every moment.

Prior to the game, the rest of my weekend revolved around grading papers.

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Normally I’d complain, but going along with a similar vein of this post, I’ll say that I’m thankful I was able to sit outside on my porch (and at random coffee shops) while I did most of my grading.

Also, you’ll notice that my weekend of grading means that I did not participate in any St. Patrick’s day shenanigans.

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This town’s a bit crazy when it comes to the holiday. All the bars opened at 6am, and obviously if the bars open at 6am, that’s a good enough reason for the undergrads to get out of bed on a Saturday morning. One of my weekend grading locations gave me a prime vantage point to observe lots of drunk behavior. I also heard several ridiculous stories from other grad students who were out and about this weekend, including a greek tragedy-esque scene that play out in front of the theatre building and involved a lack of shoes, mascara running down the face, and lots of screaming between a boyfriend and girlfriend.

I feel like after witnessing the insanity that was St. Patrick’s day and then the freak car accident today, my life lesson for this weekend is not to “sweat the small stuff.” As my next two weeks get intense, I’m going to focus on not getting too stressed out and instead focus on the big picture.

So, I challenge you this week: go out and tell someone who is important to you that you love them or appreciate them, take pleasure in the day-to-day parts of life, be thankful for what you have, not what you don’t have, and always wear your seatbelt!

Leaping Through February

It’s already halfway through March and I only have five weeks left of school. Where the heck did this semester go? Where the heck did February go?

As I expected, February was non-stop! School kept me super busy. My social life kept me super busy. Life kept me super busy.

Here’s a glimpse of what I did:

I spent lots of time at coffee shops.

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Two of my weekends involved helping out with incoming freshman auditions.

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Lots of time in the FAB. Thankfully the silly art students have a sense of humor and provide me with a laugh.

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I made a road trip home:

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Hilary and I did the inaugural St. Pete Rock n Roll Half Marathon:

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We were woefully undertrained but we managed to run nearly the entire thing!

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I also carried that banana in my pocket for the entire 13.1 miles. Ring, ring, ring …

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BANANAPHONE!

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After the race I had to drive back to Tallahassee, which was really not cool. Sitting in the car for five hours made the lactic acid build up and the next day I was in pain!

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Ashley came to Tallahassee to visit me and see The Full Monty! Since she came on opening weekend she was able to go to a Classy Safety meeting.

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The next night I hosted the first official party at my place — game night!

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Celebrity was a wild success!

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As was Cards Against Humanity…

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And Ashley’s Dance Party Music Video DVDs.

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Other February shenanigans included pretending to be a soccer mom for the theatre IM soccer team.

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The team praying to Thespis! They actually made it to the playoffs. Take that theatre stereotypes!

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And finally, guess what my new favorite activity is? Trivia night!

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Our team is actually pretty good. We’ve placed nearly every time we’ve gone and even won first place overall a few times!

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And that my friends, was February in a nutshell!

So far, despite a week of spring break, March has been rather uneventful. I’m going to try and get back on a regular blogging schedule.

Check back soon! šŸ™‚

Workin’ For The Weekend

My Monday through Thursday consisted of the usual. School is definitely picking up pace and this week I have my first major assignment due, followed by another big assignment the next week, and my first round of papers (to grade) were turned in on Thursday. Whew!

Most of my classes take place in one of two rooms and the rooms in the building are weirdly shaped and contain remnants of decades of past theatre students. I find the following picture particularly amusing. Someone felt the need to write “Brick” on the brick walls. Thanks, Captain Obvious.

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On Friday I took care of several adult errands that I’d been putting off for a while. First up was filing for my homestead exemption — done! If I’m lucky it’ll lower my taxes and my monthly payments. I’m not counting on it, but it’d be a nice surprise!

Next up, I went to the bank and closed my accounts. One of the tellers who I originally worked with was still there! It made me a bit sad because she was desperate to retire when I was there, which was over four years ago, and that clearly hasn’t happened yet.

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Being at the bank was also a good reminder to always keep perspective when life gets tough. I am so happy to be where I am and nothing is a better reminder to appreciate life then to look at where you used to be and know that you can never be as miserable now as you were then.

Friday also meant that it was time to tackle my reading stack for the next week. I [almost] finished my Monday reading assignments on Friday.

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As I was leaving Starbucks, I saw this bizarre sight. That’s not something that you see everyday.

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On Saturday I took a trip to the Tallahassee Museum, which is actually quite the misnomer. There are no paintings or traditional exhibits. Instead, the “museum” is really a combination wildlife preserve, farm, and a collection of historical buildings.

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They also had this neat “yard” art display through out the property. The dinosaurs were made out of old car parts. It was very cool.

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Check out the wild bobcat! It looked just like the Cheeto! It was also interesting that the behavior and mannerisms of the wild cats were nearly identical to Charlie’s usual behaviors.

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This morning I went to the brand new independent coffee shop that just opened up next to the theatre building. I’m definitely a fan. They have a full menu of food and coffee and lots of seating! I spy a new favorite hang out spot!

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Today concluded with a rockin’ 8 mile run! While I know I am woefully ill-prepared to run the half marathon in a few weeks, the fact that I was able to complete the 8 miles and felt AWESOME during the run is a promising thought. I mixed in lots of walk breaks and I think with a flat terrain and more walking, I’ll be able to [slowly] complete the 13.1 miles on February 12th!

And now we’ve come full circle. It’s nearly Monday once again! Back to the grind.

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Weekends: Brought To You By Instagram

Soccer games, auditions, and studying, oh my!

With school picking up the pace, I’m trying to negotiate how to be social and stay ahead with my work. This weekend was particularly difficult because my assistantship responsibilities spilled over into my Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and that cut into my usual work time. I’m pretty sure next weekend I’m going to need to go into hermit mode. I have a few big assignments coming up and I need to work ahead on them.

Anyway, Thursday night started with a trip to the fancy new intramural fields to check on the theatre soccer team! I don’t think I’ll ever play on a group sports team, but I always enjoy being outside and cheering on the team.

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A few of the other theatre grad students and I decided to be soccer moms for the team. I brought gatorade and someone else brought orange slices and freeze pops.

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Then my Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent assisting with auditions for incoming students.

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Campus was DEAD on Sunday morning. It was very eerie.

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Watching the audition process was an interesting moment for me. I’ve never once auditioned for any sort of part or performance, so I had no idea what the whole process was really like. IMG_1939

These kids are putting their heart and soul on the line and it’s heartbreaking because there are so many of them and only a few number of open spots. It’s also crazy that I may have witnessed the next Broadway sensation. šŸ˜‰ Highly unlikely, but possible. In reality, it was more like watching an American Idol audition.

The music building also had some amusing fliers posted that provided entertainment while I milled around the hallways looking for lost parents/students.

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The rest of the weekend revolved around reading and library visits.

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Oh, and can you tell that I’ve recently discovered Instagram? It rocks!

Friday the 13th!

I think Wordless Wednesday accurately sums up my typical Monday-Thursday, or you know, my life as a grad student. So many words, books, and pages!

Anyway, with the MLK holiday today and no Friday classes, I had an extra long weekend. As a reward for all my reading (and because the semester is getting off to a slow start) I decided to be super social all weekend long. Hooray! I have a life outside of my books. šŸ™‚

So what all did I do? Well, I had tea with friends, had a tarot reading (or is it had my tarot cards read?), went to Safety meeting, went to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, saw Contagion and promptly wanted to sanitize my life, did my reading with friends at a coffee shop, and then tonight I helped kick butt at trivia!

Rocky Horror was probably the biggest event of the weekend and our group went on Friday the 13th, although I’m not one for superstition and nothing out of the ordinary happened.

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A big group of us went to the midnight showing, not really sure what to expect. With the exception of myself and another girl, no one had been to a live showing before, so right when we walked in the door they group marked everyone with V’s for Virgin.

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They weren’t sure what to think. The other patrons were also dressed in some very, umm, interesting costumes. For instance, several girls had duct tape on their breasts, but were otherwise topless. Weird.

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At this point, we were all still shivering with anti—- say it! — pation!

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It turns out, that the hosting group and their MC were very meh. They were very amateur-esque and took weird liberties when it came to the evening and their acting out of the movie.

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It also turns out that I am just too old for Rocky Horror. The movie didn’t start till after 1am and by that time I seriously contemplated just walking out. I wanted to go to bed!

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All in all, it was an okay evening, but being up so late really screwed up my Saturday. I was ultra lazy all day as a result.

Cut to today:
As an end to my weekend, a group of 11 of us went to the Tomahawk to play trivia. We had done something similar at the beginning of fall semester, but once school really got going, we were unable to go back. So one of the girls twisted our arms and told us we had to come out, since it was our last free Monday night for a while.

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I’m so glad I went. It was a lot of fun and we nearly took home the first place overall position again, sadly we missed out by two measly points!

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I do think we had a bit of an unfair advantage over the other teams though… Eleven grad students to groups of between two and four is quiet a difference in knowledge pools.

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And on that note, I must go to bed. I have another busy, but shortened week ahead of me.

From here on out I think my weekends have been planned out for me with school and work obligations, so hopefully I’ll still find some time to have fun between now and spring break!

Hope everyone has a lovely week!