First Semester of Grad School Done (I Lived…Barely)

Admittedly, this is not how I imagined my first semester of graduate school. Of course, I imagine that this semester for a lot of people did not go as planned. Tomorrow will be the virtual commencement for Spring and Fall graduates at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and I know I’m not the only who is salty about that. Even though I am working on my master’s, I still wanted to walk down that aisle, probably lose my cap like I did during high school graduation and shake the Chancellor’s hand as I received my diploma after working my butt off for three and half years on two bachelors. Receiving both in the mail didn’t really feel real. Well, not until I put them in some fancy frames that I have yet to hang up. The point is, that no one’s semester went as expected thanks to COVID.

The school is a ghost school. Most classes are are online. My two classes, The Personal Essay and Memoir were online, though for Memoir we met every Tuesday up until the week after Thanksgiving. There were no events this year. Student life was basically nonexistent, and it’s because of that that my graduate assistantship at the Office of Communications and Marketing was different. I couldn’t go out and make videos and take photographs because there was nothing happening. While I still enjoyed my graduate assistantship, it had to change because of COVID.

In fact, so many things have changed because of COVID. And even when COVID is handled, however long that takes, things will still be different.

COVID has affected school, not just college but also K-12. A few of my professors kids have been doing virtual school and staying at home, all their coursework online. My brothers in Oklahoma had online school but also went in for a few weeks. Some schools are doing half and half.

COVID has affected jobs. Some people lost their jobs, while others were forced to work remotely. As someone who worked remotely, can I just say it sucks. Working from home is definitely not something I can do. I don’t have enough discipline to do it. And while, I loved being at home with my doggos and getting all the cuddles, eventually I got tired of being home. All. The. Damn. Time.

COVID has affected movie theatres, restaurants, theme parks, zoos, fairs, malls, etc..

The movie industry has suffered a lot because of COVID. Several shows such as The Walking Dead, Supernatural and countless others were put on hold and episodes not released until late summer or early fall. Movies such as Black Widow, A Quiet Place Part II, Wonder Woman 1984, and countless others were pushed back. Black Widow won’t be released until next year while thankfully, Wonder Woman 1984 will premiere in theatres and HBO Max Christmas.

There’s nothing that COVID has affected or changed.

So yeah, 2020 has been a rough year. Not only like, globally, but also in my household we’ve had a rough year. (A tree fell and broke our fence, my mom lost her job, my cousin Pagan broke her foot and found out she’s pregnant in the same day, Paul had his appendix out, and boy, I could go on, not gonna to lie. Also those are in no particular order.) We need someone to do a video summary of 2020.

I’m trying to look at the brightside of things.

I painted my room a mint green with one wall that has purple triangles on it. I love it. It’s unintentionally Joker theme.

My BFF Caroline came down from New York in May and I showed her Arkansas. (She wasn’t impressed. Lol.) She and I started a podcast, Disturbed Nerds. If you haven’t, check it out. It’s great. (I’m probably biased though, tbh.)

I met a guy and he’s cute and I like him.

Oh, and my girl, Taylor Swift released two new albums. folklore in July, and then evermore in December.

My sister had a healthy baby boy named Salem December 4th.

Oh, and I finished my first semester of grad school with an A and B! Which considering, I put in about like. . .minimum effort in my classwork this semester, is really good.

I have a new job at P. Allen Smith, a place that I actually interned at 2 years ago. P. Allen Smith does a lot of home, garden, design type stuff. You’ve probably heard of him. I’m going to be helping with upping their YouTube presence, video editing, and social media. I’m really excited about it. I’m also back at working at the school in undergraduate academic advising.

I’m taking the next two semesters off from school. I zoomed through my undegrad and never took a break, then jumped right into grad school without a break in between. I’ll start up classes again fall 2021. Until then, I’ll be working at P. Allen Smith and UA Little Rock, both part-time. Since I will have free time, I want to get back to a few hobbies of mine.

Such as:

  1. Drawing/painting/art in general
  2. Writing
  3. Photography/videography

That’s what I’m going to focus on. I miss drawing and using my Prismacolors. And I know I’m out of practice and I need to hone up those skills. Writing is very broad. I want to really work on this blog and blog every week, then go from once a week to maybe three times a week. Get on a really set posting so I can build more of an audience. I’m going to work on my poetry collection and really start on one of my three fiction stories I have. Photography, I want to break out the camera more and take pictures of well, everything and find what I really enjoy photographing. Also, I would love to make a short movie by next fall. We will see.

So, to all my fellow students, and well everyone, we made it. Keep trucking along. 2020 is almost over.

Check out my 2020 Wrap Up on Spotify. As usual, it is all over the place.

-K

I Should’ve Loved You (A Poem)

I should’ve loved you.

You looked at me like I was the moon, full and orange and bright against the inky sky as the stars winked. You’d smile at me as I named the constellations, talking about Neverland and how I wished that there really was a second star to the right that could take me where pirates roamed, mermaids swam, and children flew. Where faith, trust, and pixie dust was all you needed.

I should’ve loved you.

You held me tenderly, as if I was something precious, like the fragile vase that your great-grandmother brought over from Europe. She’d tell you stories about the vase and how it survived the voyage from the Mayflower just so it could set on a small plywood table, gathering dust as the fake tulips wilted. Your grandmother would’ve liked how I listened to tell her stories, writing them into a beat-up composition notebook that one day would turn into a book.

I should’ve loved you.

You touched me like I was a spider’s web, strong and sturdy as it stretched from corner to corner, dew drops sparkling in the sun, until harsh hands tore it down, the spider falling to the ground, and meeting it’s end under a steel-toed boot. You understood why I was guarded and you approached me cautiously, but not fearfully. You never pushed, instead, you waited until I was ready. Never afraid of my cobwebs and the skeletons that hid in my closet.

I should’ve loved you.

But I didn’t love you. I couldn’t love you.

There was no last kiss, there wasn’t even a first. Instead, I dropped your hand after you took it and begged me to stay. I turned and I walked away. My name on your lips. I couldn’t be who you wanted even though all you said you wanted was me.

-K

Books (A Poem)

I open the book, hiding under the covers with a flashlight in my hands. My greedy eyes take in the words eagerly, hungrily. I trace the words, pressing my palm against the cool paper, wishing that I could fall into the pages like one falls into a lover’s arms. (Have I ever fallen into a lover’s arms? No. I think not. Instead, I step into those arms. Timid. Unsure. Frightened. Wary. Those arms might squeeze me too tight.)

I talk to the books like they have all the answers. (Get your head out of the clouds, Keely, they used to say. They stole the books away, stowing them in boxes to gather dust. My brother got a book for me. Our own form of rebellion.)

I ask if they were scared when they faced the dragon, giving riddles to stave off the fear, and clutching a little gold ring in small fingers. (Did you wish you had stayed in your hole? Never opened your door. No. I think not. You enjoyed the adventure though we know you’d never admit it.)

I ask if they wished they had never got that owl and stayed under the cupboard where it was safe and sound. (Where it was dark and cold and spiders crawled all over you. Where you did all the chores and only got a scrap of crust for your efforts.)

I ask if they wished they ignored that strange wardrobe and prayed like all the other children did for father to come from the war. (No. You stepped into the wardrobe where animals talked and witches ran amuck, cursing sweets and shaving cats. Looking for something that no one could give. Only a father could. Only a mother could.)

I ask them if they regret the decisions they made and if they could, would they make a different choice?

Would they take a different path?

What was it like to face your death?

I talk but they don’t answer. So I create answers myself. I have conversations with the characters. They help me through heartbreak. They give me advice when I feel lost. They give me encouragement when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.

It’s no wonder my first friend was a book.

We lose ourselves in castles, surrounded by dragons, fairies, swords in stone and the knowledge that the hero would always win. Because life isn’t like that. The guy doesn’t always get the girl. The girl doesn’t always find her prince. The heroes don’t always win. The books give us hope, love, faith, courage.

You turn the next page, holding that crisp paper that smells like home, looking for something that you can’t find in the world. Books are more than an escape. They’re a solace. An adventure.

-K

My Writing Process (Memoir Journal 4)

Memoir Journal 4 (September 22nd, 2020)

What is your writing process?

My writing process is. . . .chaotic. Inconsistent. When I write, I usually do a lot of pre-writing in my head (seriously, I’ve written like entire novels and series in my head. . . .now if only I could translate that onto paper. . .) while watching some show. Usually Charmed, Buffy, or Criminal Minds. Sometimes Supernatural or Law and Order: SVU. Once I have a clear thought, a clear sentence—a first line—then if there’s no paper around, I use my phone and type up that one line that stuck with me. That way I don’t forget it. On my phone, I have probably over 100 notes of my writing.

Often I get struck with inspiration while I’m either walking around the neighborhood listening ot music or laying in bed trying (and failing) to fall asleep. After I have that first line, I tend to jump three or more so paragraphs ahead. I skip the the parts of the story I know.

That’s when I pull out my notebook to write some “blurbs” of the same story, and even though they aren’t in order, they’re all connected. They are all part of the same story. I know where I am going with the story, it’s simply fitting all those pieces together.

After a while between my bad writing (and my carpal tunnel and/or arthritis) which becomes even more unreadable because well, it always is and it gets worse when my hand can’t write fast enough for my brain. That’s when I switch to my laptop. I type up what I’ve written, including all the blurbs. It’s during this process where it all begins to click in my head. (I get really excited when that happens.)

Once everything that I wrote on my phone or in my notebook, that’s when I start writing more. I used to edit while I typed but then I realized that it prevented me from really writing. Instead, I type until I can’t anymore. Until there are no more words I can type. That’s when I go back and edit.

I like colors. Red means that it needs to completely go. Blue means that it’s almost there but needs to be reworded. Green means it’s been edited and can probably go back to black.

Sometimes after I’ve been editing a while, I don’t see the typos or punctuation or anything. When that happens, I change the font. It helps me to see the things I couldn’t before.

What is your writing process?

-K

Know Thyself (Memoir Journal 3)

Yesterday in Memoir, we were given these prompts. These are my responses. Enjoy. I didn’t have the writing bug yesterday so these are shorter responses.

Memoir Journal 3 (September 8th, 2020)

What path did you not take that might be worth exploring?

Towards the end of spring 2020, I was faced with two decisions: to teach or to work in the office of communication. It was a very tough decision. Extremely. I chose to be a GA at the Office of Communications at UA Little Rock. However, I wonder, what if I chose to be a teacher? Especially in this environment? How would this semester be different as a new teacher trying to navigate teaching students, while also navigating the new learning environment as a new graduate student myself? Would I have a different point of view because I’m a student as well? Would that bring a unique point of view? Would it help or adhere me? Would teaching help me get out of the funk I’ve been in since March?

Which is clearer, the facts or the emotions?

I can’t tell you what I was wearing on that day. But I can tell you how I feel. I can tell you how it was two days before Christmas and my mother wasn’t home. There were no presents and the younger three were due back any day. I can tell you about the panic, the fear that they would come home and there would be no Christmas for them.

How well do you trust your memory?

As I get older, I realize that I remember more than I thought. Memories that I thought were suppressed, or gone, are really more like a fog that’s slowly clearing out. No, I don’t remember what I was wearing, but the emotions, the words even, that is clear. How I felt was clear. And I’m remembering things that I didn’t even know I knew. Things that makes me think, oh. That’s why. Makes me realize little things about myself.

How do you feel about the concept of understanding yourself?

I feel like one of those cheesy gurus who is like you must find your inner peace. Bullshit. Understanding myself? How can I when it’s always changing? No. I can try to understand who I am, but like that’s near impossible. How can I begin to? Know thyself. Yes, okay. But also, discover yourself while trying to understand yourself.

-K

Forgive Her Too (Memoir Journal 2)

Yesterday in Memoir, we were given these prompts. These are my responses. Enjoy. A few of them hit me harder than others, so I wrote more. While others I struggled with. If you find one you like, respond to it. And if you want, share with me.

Memoir Journal 2 (September 1st, 2020)

What makes you who you are?

I feel like I could answer this question if I had more time ot process it. It’s a broad question I feel because who i am is constantly changing. I am like the weather. Some days I am a cloudy day, those when the depression and self-doubt take over. Somedays, I am a perfect sunny day when I feel like I can take on the whole world. And then some. What makes me who I am? I guess if I had to answer, it would be how determined I am.

What is it that changes you?

Life changes me. People change me. They come into my life and sometimes they leave a mark, a scar. That can be good or bad. Life changes me because it’s always changing. Nothing ever stays the same so how can I really stay the same? How can I not change with what I experience day by day. By day. I don’t believe I’m the same person I was 10 years ago, 10 hours ago, or even 10 minutes ago. I think that you sometimes have to change to be better than who you were before. How can you not change? How can you remain still and let everything, and everyone pass you by. What changes me, is well, me. It’s a choice I make.

How much of yourself is innate? How much is learned?

What have I learned by others or Google, about myself. I’ve learned, or rather heard from others that I’m too sensitive. Or is that innate? Was I already aware of that? How can we really determine what of ourselves is innate and how much is learned? How do you even begin to measure something that really isn’t quantifiable? What do those words innate and learned even mean? What is innate about yourself? It is my sensitivity? My empathy? The fact that I can’t walk a flat surface?

What role does self-delusion play in your identity?

I read somewhere that you never truly see yourself. That the person you see in the mirror, while yes is you, it’s an image that your mind creates. That you see yourself as maybe better or worse than others see you. Alternatively, when others look at you, they see what they want to see. So really, no one truly sees you, not even you. In a way that’s a delusion. A self-delusion. Of course, if you think about it, we all have delusions. Or self-delusions. I know when I write, I say the things I want to say but was too afraid to say at that point. I’m braver in my writing than in real life. That’s who I want to be. But that’s not who I am. So isn’t that a self-delusion?

Which of your past selves still confounds you?

If I could go back in time and without screwing up the timeline, I’d go back to my 15 year old self. She confounds me in the way, that she doesn’t confound me. Not because I don’t get her, or rather I don’t want to get her. She was selfish, or rather, she seemed so fake. Like she had many masks. So many masks. Which part of her was real? Was she the good older sister? The one who helped with homework? Or was she the girl who caused drama intentionally for something to do? A distraction? The one who everyone called two-faced, and other names. Who was she? Or rather, why was she? Where did she come to be? How as she born? Created? A part of me wants to know that I’m no longer that 15 year old girl. That I have changed. But I also want to understand her, see what she was going through. Tell her it’ll be okay. And maybe, in a way, forgive her too.

Name your beginnings.

I began as a sister. That’s the only role I knew. That role was often interchangeable with mother. Since I didn’t have one. Not one that cared. Being a good older sister, was all I knew. Besides being the perfect daughter. The one who never questioned. Never complained. And I began again as a prisoner. Cinderella. But there were no mice to make me a pretty dress. Only rats to step on and squeak as they died a slow painful death. No birds to sing. Only a younger sister to yell at me. A brother who came and went putting who knows what in his body. While I was left to care for the two little brothers, shield them from the cold hard truth. I had to be their sister, their mother. There was no time for a prince charming. Only a house with no water, no power, no food. No mother. Only me. I began again after moving to Iowa, and I thought I had found a home. But it was simply another prison.

-K

Writing is a Solace (Memoir Journal 1)

I’m taking this class called Memoir this semester. This semester being my first semester as a graduate student in the Professional and Technical Writing Program. I am so very excited this class. Thus, I’ve decided to share the writing we do in class. This piece of writing is from the first day of class last Tuesday, August 25th. We had to answer what our anxieties or insecurities are when it comes to writing memoir. Here are my thoughts.

Memoir Journal 1 (August 25th, 2020)

I know that everyone has traumas in their life, and as someone who has only started to write about mine, my fear or anxiety, what have you, is being vulnerable. I have good and bad stories of my life. But it is the bad I want to write. Almost like by putting those stories, those words on paper, I am purging myself of those memories. While I know that no one will judge, in fact, I know that I might find comfort in not only writing these stories, but also from everyone. It is difficult for me to be vulnerable. Yet I know this is something I want to write. No. This is something I need to write. It’s like bursting out of me. Writing for me has always been an escape. That’s why I write fiction. I get to create a story. Make a better ending. And while I will still continue to do that, I also want the truth. I want to show my truth and reveal who I am, and how I got here. Why I am who I am. I don’t want writing to be an escape. I want it to be an adventure. A solace. A way to put down the things I’ve only really thought. I’ve never been good at talking about feelings. But I can put those feelings on paper. Yes that makes them real. But that reality is necessary. Writing is more than an escape. It’s an adventure, an exploration. Writing is a solace. A way to express thoughts. Yes, writing about my childhood gives me anxiety because I barely talk about it. But I want to write. To be vulnerable. Perhaps by writing about it, I can find a new way to perceive it. I can recognize things that as a jaded, angry teenager, I never realized. I’ not the same person I was 10 years ago. I have grown and changed. And maybe by writing about my childhood, I can finally move on. Let out that 5 year old girl. Be free. And maybe, just maybe, find a little solace of my own.

-K

Loud (A Poem)

You tell us silence but there is none. We only scream louder, louder, louder.

You slap a hand over our mouths but we bite, drawing blood and keep screaming our truths. The penny taste might taste foul but it reminds us what we are fighting for.

We’ll eat crow for the truth. The truth you don’t want to get out. The truth that you don’t want to acknowledge.

You turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. You think that if you ignore us we’ll give up. But no, we only get louder. We follow you through the streets, holding up our signs and waving them at you.

You call for silence. We call for justice.

You call us traitors. I say we are rebels. I say that we are honoring what it means to be an American by sticking up for what it right, what it is true, what is just. By not believeing the lies you spout out.

We will drown out those lies with our voices. We will prove you wrong.

You can not silence us.

We will only get louder.

-K