Some revelations

A crazy week
This entire semester has been very different from all the others in the past, in many ways. I’ve got thoughts of graduate school hovering over me constantly. I’m not taking any “real” classes-no lectures, no midterms or finals-but I’ve been busier and more stressed than ever. I’ve more or less gotten over last semester’s crying loneliness of not having Erik around 24/7, but missing his companionship has now settled into my psyche in a wholly different way. I’ve spent less time talking to my family and certain friends, and more time talking to some other friends. All in all, I’ve been stressed out in a way that I’ve never experienced before, but this past week was especially insane. Actually, it was scary. I’ve never been depressed like that before. I’ve always been upbeat and optimistic and organized enough to not have serious problems with time management or anything. But this whole semester has felt like a game of catch-up since the beginning. My badly managed time has also led to my putting in less effort into everything, which I hate. Since my life philosophy is to do nothing without care and passion, I’ve been spending weeks doing exactly the opposite of what I believe in. And it just seemed too hard to snap myself out of it. I didn’t want to tell anyone because that would mean admitting that things were getting out of my control, but on Tuesday I finally realized that I was really unhappy and there was no one in the world who knew. That was a thought I didn’t like, so that evening, I completely flipped out to Erik on the phone. He is generally the first person I go to when I have a problem, because I can trust him to listen when I freak out and not try to offer advice or even comfort until I’m ready to accept it. As an independent-minded person I tend to get defensive when people try to tell me what to do. So Erik listened to me cry and rant and act like a psycho, and finally when I got off the phone I felt better and life felt more manageable. Very good, because the next afternoon I had to go to Chicago.

By the way, I’ve read too many whiny online journals to want to spend my entry detailing everything that was making me so depressed. If you really want to know, get in touch with me another way, or leave a comment and ask.

En route to Chicago
You might remember that a month ago I was notified of my acceptance into the University of Chicago’s one-year Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS). The program had three visiting days last week, but because of my dance class’s strict attendance policy, I could only miss one day of dance, so I chose to visit Chicago on Thursday. So after class on Wednesday, I rushed back to my apartment and finished packing and rushed back out to take BART to SFO. My mouth had been dry from nervousness while I was packing, so I’d had a large glass of water, and consequently had an urgent need to pee during the entire hour-plus-long BART ride. In addition, at some station around Balboa Park, a teenager got off the train and left a black-garbage-bag-wrapped box behind him. I was sure it was a bomb, but because I had to pee so badly, I didn’t get up and figured if God meant me to die that day it was just going to have to happen.

Obviously, I made it safely into Chicago Midway airport at slightly before midnight Wednesday night. I called the hotel trolley and chatted a little with the trolley driver while he drove the few blocks from Midway to the Hampton Inn. Then a very nice man checked me into the hotel, and I went to my room and called Mommy and Erik and told them I was safe. Then I washed my feet and lotioned them and then got into bed to try to sleep. It was ten pm California time, so that wasn’t easy, but I’ve been functioning on six hours of sleep almost the whole semester so I was okay the next morning. I’ve always been a morning person anyway.

Thursday morning I went to the hotel lobby and had breakfast and tried not to listen to Condoleezza Rice’s testimony on TV. Then I went to the front desk to ask about how to get to the Chicago campus. The two guys there, Camilo and someone else whose name I’ve forgotten, spent probably twenty minutes very kindly and misguidedly making phone calls and consulting websites to try and figure it out. As I’ve always held, research is no match for actual knowledge: after all Camilo and friend’s fruitless efforts, two of the hotel trolley drivers (not the one I’d talked to the night before; his shift went from 10-6) walked by and were able to tell me in a minute which bus to take and which areas to avoid. So I packed my bag and checked out and set out for the university.

After I’d been on the bus for a while, I started thinking, people in the Midwest really are as nice as you’ve heard. Even in Chicago. I was amazed. By appearance the bus driver could have been any of the drivers you see around Berkeley and Oakland, but she was friendly and nice! When she had to stop the bus to let on some latecomers, instead of brusquely remarking that she’s not supposed to make unscheduled stops, she joked with each one of them about their having to run to catch the bus. It was so weird. Kerwin (Prof Klein) says the Bay Area is one of the rudest areas anywhere. Maybe he’s right. At any rate, having grown up here, I’m in good shape for traveling! The bus itself was great, too. There was a stop on every block, and a visual and aural announcement of each stop.

On the plane the night before, I’d met a nice woman who lives in Chicago. When she heard I’d never been to the city before, she told me, “It’s flat.” I thought that was a weird way to introduce a huge, well-known city, but she’s right. It’s completely flat. I’d never realized before how accustomed I’ve grown to California’s mountains and hills, but without them, I got disoriented. I normally have a great sense of direction even in new places, but in Chicago, I got really crazily lost (fortunately, in a good area), and ended up walking a lot more than I had to. But that was all for the best. My preferred method of exploration is really on foot. I kept thinking how foreign everything was. So many of the apartment buildings were multiple-story and constructed of bricks, and my first thought was of how dangerous these were in case of earthquake. Then I realized there are no earthquakes in Illinois. Close to campus, I was taken aback by the almost complete dearth of pedestrian traffic. It’s true I was apparently on the side of campus least populated by students, but still, I couldn’t believe that on a school day there would be so few students milling about. I didn’t like the campus itself either, architecturally speaking. As Cyrus told me on Monday (he’d just visited Chicago over the weekend), it’s weird to be at a school where nearly all the buildings match. I don’t like Gothic architecture much, either. All those heavy stones-everything looks like a fortress. The campus, too, was much emptier than I expected. It just didn’t speak to me at all.

I’m starting to realize this entry is getting very long. I’d better start summarizing more. So because I got so lost, I missed all the morning activities I intended to go to, and arrived so late to the history meeting that I caught only the last few minutes of it. But that was enough to turn me off. Again, it just felt wrong. I’d expected a small meeting, but instead the room was packed full of about forty to sixty prospective MAPSS students. There was one black girl, one Southeast Asian guy, maybe one other guy “of color”, and me, and then everyone else was white. I’d noticed the racial balances as soon as I got into Chicago, but perhaps what struck me most was that even though there were hardly any other Asians in the city, no one looked at me oddly the way they had in North Carolina. I’m not sure I liked that; I think I might prefer to either blend in or be special. Anyway, I got to meet with the history department chair anyway, and the graduate affairs administrator, whom I got along with well. Then, on my way out, I noticed a girl with a delightful purple coat. I hesitated, thinking I might tell her how much I liked her coat, and she noticed the hesitation and held out the green MAPSS visiting days schedule and asked me if I knew where the history meeting was. I said, “Oh, you’re here for that too?” and told her she’d just missed it. She laughed, and I laughed, and we went off and got some food together before going to the library to check our email. Her name is Marianthi, she’s twenty-five, native Chicagoan but now living in Terre Haute, Indiana. She’s Greek, very outgoing and confident, and has spent the past three years working as a TV reporter. She looks like a reporter; she’s vivacious and cute and has nice hair and makeup and clothes. It was fun to watch her interact with other people. I don’t know if it’s her Greek heritage (as Elissa thought it might be), her television experience, or just her personality, but she has a way of speaking to others-particularly people who are doing something for her, like waiters or cashiers-as if they are doing her a great favor, or as if she would like nothing more than to be their friend. She’ll touch the server’s hand and ask for a glass of water in the most companionable way. There’s something to be learned from that, surely. I’ve never met anyone who was so potentially annoying and yet manages not to be that. Instead she’s just very attractive and she radiates charm and personality. It was wonderful to have a friend and ally while alone in a strange place. I hope we can keep in touch, but even if we don’t, it was great to have met her and I know I’ll be seeing her on TV some day.

None of the other people I met while in Chicago were as fascinating as Marianthi, and very few of them were even interesting, I am sorry to say. I don’t know if I’m just some kind of elitist and don’t like very many people, or what. But I did meet a few other girls who seemed cool, and some guys that I unfortunately didn’t get to talk to as long as I would have liked. The program director really turned me off. Marianthi liked him because he spoke his mind, which he certainly did, but I didn’t appreciate his arrogant and overbearing way of pushing the program onto me-just because he’s confident it’s the best program for me certainly doesn’t mean I think so, even if he does have more experience!-and I resented his calling my interest in food “cute”. Even so, he made me consider the program more seriously, and at dinner Marianthi and a current MAPSS student named Amanda (one of the few interesting people) really almost talked me into it. But it’s odd what location does to us. While I was in Chicago, I almost was ready to go there, even though I didn’t especially like it. But as soon as I got on the plane, I realized, “What the hell am I thinking?! I’d be miserable!” and suddenly it just seemed like it would be the worst choice ever, personally, even if it was a good choice academically. Still, I mistrusted my halfway epiphany, so I spent the flight home hashing over my options.

It was a good trip, it was. It made me think about a lot of things, not just where I want to go academically but also what I value in life, in people, and in my surroundings. I thought I loved Berkeley before, but now, with something to compare it to, I love it even more, and I also appreciate more the people in my life and what an amazing life I have. When I arrived in San Francisco, met Erik (who was wonderful enough to come pick me up on a work night), and got into his car, I started crying just because I was so happy to be back where I belong. After thinking about it some more, and talking to Erik, Kerwin, and Sabrina (a grad student in German who is in my printing class), it seems like there really wouldn’t be any point to going to Chicago, but I’m not making my final decision until I talk to a few more people. Still, at this point it would take something pretty drastic to prevent me from deciding on UCLA for good. I really want to hurry up and make my decision!

I was going to write more about having cake on Friday night, going to Maya for dinner on Saturday, and having Easter breakfast with three girls and one boy today, but this entry has taken me so long I’m going to have to push that stuff to another entry. I’ll post pictures from Chicago later, too. Thank you for reading this. One more note for now:

I tried on a dress today that was clearly designed for someone with no breasts at all. I was disappointed, because it was not expensive and I liked it a lot. Moreover, It was rose-colored satin with a such an effective built-in corset that I can’t imagine that this dress would actually look good on someone with a flat chest, with this pretty hourglass waist curving up to nothing, so I don’t understand it at all.

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