Feeling like an insider

What a crazy few days it’s been. I feel like some kind of liar saying that, because it seems like it’s been weeks since I last wrote. But nope, it’s been five days. I’ve packed a lot of crazy stuff into those days, though. I have:
-met three times with my Chinese group to practice our final skit
-taken my written Chinese final
-had excellent one-on-one meetings/talks with Prof Laqueur, my Chinese teacher, and Amanda
-gone to a great concert (got to hear Prof Nelson’s wife Judy sing!)
-found out I didn’t win the library research prize (not a surprise, but still disappointing–you know how that is)
-had a job interview (won’t know till next week)
finished writing my thesis!
-gave two separate presentations on my thesis at history events where I had to mingle
-come back home for Mother’s Day.

Whew. Even making that list was tiring (probably because I went and looked up all those links and our internet is relatively slow!). It really has been an exhausting half week or so. You want to know how tired I’ve been? The list I just gave you can’t tell you as well as this anecdote: Today, after my presentation at History Day, Erik wanted to take me to lunch to celebrate. I declined, because I didn’t want to eat and anyway lunch sounded too complicated. That is how discombobulated all this activity has made me. I don’t think I’ve ever fully realized how tiring it must be to be a singer, or a solo musician, anyone who has to dress up every day and go someplace to impress an audience and mingle with people. It just takes all the energy out of you: figuring out what to wear, worrying about makeup and hair, getting enough sleep so as not to be too fatigued to think straight and answer questions, walking around in heels… I am so glad I do not have and probably never will have the kind of job that requires this on a daily basis. I’d fall apart. I need more than one night’s sleep between these things. Thank goodness I have tomorrow to recuperate before my Chinese skit and piano recital on Monday!

Actually, if I had to have a job like this… as long as I could have a day or two of rest between engagements, I think I might enjoy it. I think I’m a real egotist, in that I totally get a kick out of doing something well and being praised for it. I like being in the spotlight–provided I’ve prepared enough to not make a complete fool of myself–and I like dressing up and looking pretty. It’s worth the nervousness and prior preparation. The history presentations went really well, according to Erik (who, wonderful supporter that he is, went to both) and the positive comments I got from audience members on both days. The first day, Friday, consisted of seventeen history 101 students (including me) giving eight-minute presentations on their theses and spending another three minutes afterward fielding questions. It was interesting to hear what other people had been working on, and how they presented. There was quite a variety on both counts. Erik and I discussed (you could say dissected) the presentations afterward, and concluded that there are five kinds of speakers (excluding the one-of-a-kind people like Prof Litwack who just aren’t even in the same orbit!). The first kind of speaker brings notes and totally just reads from them, which tends to be boring. The second type brings notes, but may deviate from them occasionally, and usually manages to be interesting. The third type has no notes, often because of lack of preparation, and can’t think of anything to say. Needless to say this third type is not usually very interesting; fortunately, there weren’t any of these at the symposium. The fourth type also has no notes, but is that kind of outspoken and slightly goofy person who has no problem with speaking in front of others, and therefore makes an attention-getting and usually funny presentation. Often this presentation is also somewhat disorganized and may not even tell the audience anything at all, but it’s so entertaining no one minds too much. The last kind of speaker also has no notes, but is just pretty confident and knows their topic. Apparently this was me. I felt like I was stumbling and kept repeating inane points over again, but Erik assures me I sounded witty and articulate, so I’m happy to take his word for it. 🙂 By the time the presentations were all done (we started at two on the dot and by the time I got home it was seven thirty), many people had left, but since Prof Berry had ordered huge platters of sushi I was more than happy to stay and eat obscene amounts of it. It was great, even more so because I never feel like eating before I present (too nervous) and was therefore quite hungry. Then I went home and just slept until this morning. That was a nice sleep.

Today’s presentation was pretty different. In some ways, it was more formal, because there were a lot more professors, the Chancellor was there (I met him and shook his hand, for what that’s worth), and it was in Alumni House. But somehow the atmosphere was very relaxed. I don’t really know how that works, but I felt really comfortable. Maybe it was just that I spoke yesterday and therefore wasn’t as nervous, I don’t know. Anyway, when Erik and I got there around 8.30 (what an hour!) there were no signs saying ‘History Day’ but there were tons of what looked like high school students, mostly Asian. We were so confused. I didn’t think I’d written down the wrong place. Who were all these kids? And they were all just sitting or standing around. No one was going in to the big room with all the chairs. But I saw the Chancellor in there so I knew I was in the right place, so I just went in and found the history professor who’d invited me to speak in the first place. She was so nice that I felt comfortable right away. She introduced me to the Chancellor, and also explained that all the high school kids running around were students at Lowell, whose history teacher recently graduated from Berkeley and offered extra credit (aha!) for coming to Cal History Day. That explained everything. I met the other two student speakers, and then the speeches began. The Chancellor gave a long but interesting speech on the history of Berkeley, both campus and city, and then it was my turn. Once again I had no notes, but apparently still managed to do a decent job of explaining my thesis (I only got three to five minutes this time). Then the other students spoke, and then two professors did. I hadn’t eaten anything before my speech, having not been sufficiently at ease to fight off Lowell students around the food tables, and partway into Prof Candida Smith’s presentation I got soooo hungry. After he was done I fled to the food, but there were no more pastries (sniff). So I had a cookie instead, which was actually pretty good. After it was all over I hung around and talked to some of the professors a little and then Erik and I went to our apartments and packed up to go home (that was when I turned down the potentially excellent lunch Erik offered).

I enjoyed giving the presentations, but I’m glad I now have a chance to relax. And I get to reflect on the fact that my thesis is done now. It’s a weird feeling. People keep telling me I must be so relieved, and I am, but it’s… well, it’s not the usual kind of relieved that I get when I finish a big assignment. It’s nice to not have it weighing me down with that feeling ‘I should be working on this,’ but since I still don’t feel it’s perfect, I feel like I ought to go back to it and keep working. But don’t worry–I’m not crazy enough to want to do that just yet. I still need to prepare for my Chinese final skit, not to mention practice piano like a madwoman, and I still have one more paper due in Prof Nylan’s class. But after that I will be finished for the semester! NO FINALS! Now that is one of the greatest feelings ever.

By the way if you’d like to read my thesis just let me know. 🙂

Here’s something to make you laugh.[link lost]

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]