June 2011


“I’m thinking about Shakespeare in the shower. I don’t think I ever did that before.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/us/01prison.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

In my infinite wisdom I have decided that  PhD needs to exist in my life.  Really??  When I was younger I never would have dreamed of going for a PhD.  PhDs were reserved for people who split atoms or who really like Beowolf.  In lamens terms: Really, really, really smart people (now known as the “not me crowd, or NMC).  The only type of doctor I thought I would ever be was a Doctor of Awesome.  The NMC seemed like this exclusive club and unless you received a personalized, hand-written invitation there was no point in even considering knock knock knocking on the front door or trying to break in through the back window.  And yet, even with all of the seperation I had put between myself and the NMC, here I am with a crumpled piece of paper with seven schools written on it.  My list…My potential schools list.  I have even made contact with some professors at these schools.  The list and the GRE Subject Test registration form make this whole, “Holy shit, I could maybe possibly one day be Dr. Goldfarb” thing so incredibly, insanely, scarily real.  Suck on that, NMC.

I haven’t even officially started the PhD application process but I can already tell that it will be, for lack of a better word, a bitch.  Yup…it’s gonna be a big, honking female dog.  Probably one of those chinese cresteds that always wins the Worlds Ugliest Dog award: Unpleasent to look at, warrants pity from all directions, and if not successful, then just plain pathetic (yup, pulled that one riiiight out of you know where. but it works-ish).  I have seen people apply to PhD programs of all varieties, get accepted, not get accepted, not get accepted encore, successfully complete, and worry if it was all a big mistake.  Even with the distinct possibility that 1) I may not get into any schools on the first application go around and 2) If I get into and actually complete a program I may not get any jobs when I finish, I plan to apply.

Why (you ask, hands clenched, hearts racing)?  Because I want to learn (STOP THROWING TOMATOES!!).  I swear!  It’s the gods honest truth.  While filing is fab and Excel is Excellent, the idea that I could be paid (albeit meagerly) to research and discuss the things I am really interested and passionate about is too good to pass up.  A life that ends at 5:00pm and does not require any overtime work sounds awesome on paper, and for the past couple of months since finishing my Masters, I have found that it actually is awesome.  However, if I stopped here…stayed here…accepted this…not only would I be bored by Kwanza, but I would also be that 80-year old who should have done that one thing but never did and oh no look she just pooped in her pants.  When the inevitable “WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP ME WHO DOES THIS ALL I WANT IS TO WATCH GILMORE GIRLS RERUNS AND TAKE A 6PM NAP!!!” blog post appears, don’t throw this next statement back in my face:

I want to have busy days filled with research, reading, writing, stress crying/eating/BMs, and teaching!!

While some people hide in graduate school, fearful of the “real world”, I am actually hoping that the world of the PhD and higher education becomes my real world.  In the meantime, while I give my brain a little rest before diving into 16-syllable words and 8,000 page articles, I will be reading…

...the most intellectual text written ever by anyone

Have you ever seen the show Little Britain?  Did you love it?  No on both accounts?  Well then GET OFF MY PLANE! (sorry…I am not Harrison Ford. I am not Harrison Ford.)  Well if you’ve never heard of Little Britain you need to watch it IMMEDITATELY, and after that you have to watch the new show from these guys, “Come Fly With Me”:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/comeflywithme/hub/

To be honest and transparent, I am only one episode into this series so far, but I have this gut feeling that the rest of it will be amazing.  It’s a spoof of the BBC show Airline, which follows a bunch of staffers and passengers for…I want to say British Airways, out of Hethrow Airport.  Pure comic gold.  In my eyes it totally gets the Brits off the hook for that damn little wizard (and the metric system).

Enjoy!

~Rachel

Every once and a while a thick piece of my frontal lobe inexplicably shifts to the left.  When that happens it means that it is time for big girl serious pants.  Don’t worry.  It’ll only last a minute.
 
I would like to write about the impact writing can have on a very ignored minority population.  I don’t mean African Americans, I don’t mean homosexuals, and I don’t mean Jews.  I mean prisoners.  As part of an independent study for my Masters program I co-taught a memoir workshop to thirteen maximum security inmates at a womens correctional facility in New Jersey(http://inkarcerated.intrasun.tcnj.edu/about/origin.html).  The class was part womens group, part therapy, part writing circle, part reading circle, part salon.  The purpose of the class was to write and to heal through writing.
 
 
The first thing you have to do if you want to be a successful teacher in a prison is to just get over it.  Sounds too simple?  Well, it kind of is.  Truthfully it is very difficult to ignore the fact that I was wearing what I wanted and the women in my class all matched in white and tan.  It is just as difficult to push away the guilt that would come over me, like clock work, as my colleagues and I walked out through the gate (after gate, after gate), into our car, back to our safe campus.  The time that it was easiest to “get over” the differences between myself and my students was when they would read their original writing.
 
Every Tuesday for two months I, along with the other graduate student and our professor, would arrive at the check-in building, our arms filled with the materials for class.  We read e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, Erica Jong, Audre Lord, Regina Barreca, Langston Hughs, and Native American spiritual poetry.  We also read from “Couldn’t Keep It To Myself”, a collection of essays of female inmates at York Correctional Facility in Connecticut.  The book was put together by the teacher of the creative writing class at the prison, the author Wally Lamb.  There was always a chance to write and share and the women began to gain confidence in their writing.  We read the poem, “Self Portrait” by Erica Jong, in which almost every line begins with the word “She”.  I asked the women to write a biographical poem in the same style.  One woman, a middle aged mother of two gave me her poem.  I noticed right away that while she began all of her lines with “She is”, each one began with a lower case “s”.  When I asked her why this was she was just as baffled as I was.  It appeared that unintentionally she had classified herself as a lower case “she”.  After some quick capitalization we both saw that the entire feeling of the poem changed.  She saw it in the tone she used to read it.  I saw it in her voice.
  
The main purpose of the class was to have each woman write her own memoir.  At the end of the class we handed each student her own typed, bound memoir with the cover she had designed as well as the class cover that the other grad student and I had put together.  Throughout the class we had heard poems about love, anger, hope, and so many other emotions that are too complicated to sum up in one meager noun.  However, it was not until all of these poems, prayers, and prose were put together in a very intentional order that I understood just how big it all was.  The poem about the young girls mother wasn’t special because it was about her mother.  It was special because she actually had the opportunity to write it.  In prison there are very few opportunities to remember who you are.  Most inmates who are incarcerated for a long period of time begin to believe that they don’t matter because they’re in there and we’re out here.  They become physically and emotionally seperated from their loved ones and their pasts start to fade as they fade out of sight out of mind.  It’s amazing how big of a deal being given a pen and a notebook is to a woman who has been told time and time again that she doesn’t matter and any thoughts that pop into her head aren’t worthy of our ears.  I truly believe, because I saw it happen, that writing has to power to allow people to reclaim not just their voices, but their identities.

I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about my opinions without really talking about me.  A big part of my life is yoga and I try to maintain a regular practice.  Even when I can’t physically practice I do try to meditate, which is kind of the hardest thing anyone can do.  Seriously.  YOU try shutting your mind off and focusing only on your breath, not the 80 things you have/want to do later.  It’s challenging but the feeling afterwards, even after a crazed meditation or a challenging practice, can be amazing and completely change the direction you thought your day was going to head.

Here are a few links to yoga studios in my area that I love.  If you live in the area or are ever visiting, I STRONGLY recommend stopping by.  Even if you’re a first timer, there are often beginner classes.

Yoga Above (Nassau Street, Princeton): http://www.yogaabove.com/class_schedule.htm

My first yoga studio!  The owner’s name is Michael and he is a wonderful teacher.  My advice is to pay attention to their coding of experience…they mean it!  The Hot Yoga and Power Yoga classes are the more intense ones (admittedly–never been to hot yoga…high level of intimidation).  Vinyasa and regular Yoga are a bit calmer and have a nice flow.

Princeton Center for Yoga & Health (Route 518, Montgomery): http://www.princetonyoga.com/

A wonderful mix of classes for all levels and an emphasis in many classes on breath and meditation.  They also have loads of events and workshops that they list on the website.  Restorative yoga=better than a glass of grey goose.

In-Balance Center for Living (South Branch Road, Hillsborough): http://www.inbalancecenter.com/class-yoga.html

Yoga. Pilates. Massage.  They have it all!  Wednesday Intermediate Vinyasa and Saturday Community Yoga with Elise are such great classes.  Usually when I leave these classes I’m anywhere from mildly to intensly sweaty, but in a good way.

I hope you guys find this stuff helpful/interesting.  Teachers at all of these studios have helped me to stop worrying about the future and lamenting over the past.  Physically, I also feel awesome.  *This* close to doing a split without needing the assistance of burly men to help me up!

Namaste,

Rachel

It is Summer in Princeton, so please, parents, find something for your children to do!  I believe that what many of the Princeton area parents do not realize is that the fountain located outside of Robertson Hall on the PU campus is NOT a pool.  Nor is it a lake, swimming hole, or day camp.  It is, however, located right next to many, many offices where Princeton University employees work Monday through Friday.  During the Summer some of the things these employees get to experience are screaming children, the sight of naked children, all the pomp, circumstance, and aggravation that come with birthday parties held by the fountain, the pounding of skateboards, etc. (and by etc., I mean sunbathers, floatation devices, beach chairs, animals doing who knows what in the fountain, and did I mention screaming children?).  These sounds can be heard all the way on the fourth floor of Robertson and beyond.

There are signs at each end of the plaza area that state that skateboarding and swimming are not allowed.  I can confidently say that when I was in my pre and early teens my parents did not let me spend my Summer days hanging out unsupervised with friends outside of office buildings.  Why aren’t these kids in camp?  My parents were just as busy as I am sure you all believe you are, and yet year after year I was sent to camp to run, swim, and scream in an environment that welcomed and encouraged such activities.  This letter is not a call to ban children from being loud (unless that’s a real thing).  Rather, it is a plea to Princeton parents BE CREATIVE.  Come up with fun activities for your kids.  Send them to a camp that specializes in their interests.  Also, keep them away from my work space because making the pissed off face too many times in one day can cause bone cancer.  And that’s a fact.

Post Subtitle: Why I Could Never Be A Journalist.

In my sophomore year newswriting class we had to go out on campus and investigate a story…any story.  Get quotes, dig up information, find the lead…and we only had two hours to do it.  I took a different approach.  I made stuff up.  Before you judge (oh, too late?), let me set the record straight by saying that this excersize was not for a grade.  Furthermore, I did wind up using the last 15 minutes to grab all the available girls in my dorm, asked them how they felt living on a same-sex floor, and typed up the biggest piece of gobbly gook I’ve ever written in my life.  This excersize did not teach me how to be an investigative journalist.  Rather, it showed me that my desire to be creative, make up characters, and pull quotes out of the sky was WAY stronger than any desire to ask a hungover senior his opinion on the upcoming Spring Weekend festivities.  Oh, you think the university should ease up and that we should be allowed to bring kegs to the parties?  I’M AMAZED!

I started thinking about all of this while thinking about this new online endevor I’ve gotten myself into.  I don’t intend to lie or make things up in these posts, but I can’t guarantee that the thought won’t cross my mind because guess what?  Sometimes…(i’m not that interesting.)  Sometimes the only thing to write about is how long the day feels or how uncomfortable this sunburn is and to me that is just too much like the “wah writing” that I refuse to commit to “paper”.  While I’m tempted to turn this thing into a place where I can stretch my fiction muscles, I promise you, you throngs (12 people) of captivated parisioners (bored office workers) that I will be truthful with this blog.  It will actually be an interesting challenge for me.

Note to self: Be truthful.  Be truthful. Be truthful.

I’ve never seen The Goonies.

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