August 25th, 2015. Five days in to age 31.
My first official day as a student of North Idaho College.
I'm just going to let that sink for a moment. I'm working full time (a dull but stressful job as a gas station deli worker) and taking four classes to equal twelve credits. That means I'm also a full time student.
After the initial week of school and shuffling classes around to meet schedule requirements, I finally have a work and school schedule that fits. I also have no days off.
Monday – Work 8am to 4pm
Tuesday – Classes from 10:30am to 6:15pm
Wednesday – Work 12noon to 4pm
Thursday – Classes from 10:30am to 6:15pm
Friday – Work 12noon to 8:30pm
Saturday – Work 12noon to 8:30pm
Sunday – Work 6am to 2pm
The classes I'm taking:
Introduction to Humanities
Introduction to Anthropology
My first and second week of school went by in a haze. I was learning my way around campus, and finally got to the point where three of four classes were in the same building. The North Idaho College Campus is beautiful and a 7-10 minute drive from my apartment. A parking pass for the year is only $32—but so far, I've been able to car pool every day to class with my room mate.
My initial thought was to search out a career in Computer Information Technology since I'm technically inclined—but, because I hadn't met the program prerequisites, I had to choose a different major.
I'm officially going to school for English.
Side note: I made an important realization while doing homework for the first time in ten years. I realized that watch my TV shows with subtitles on—so I can listen, and read. So reading text and books for school? It just wasn't sticking. My roommate asked if I had tried reading aloud.
Reading aloud? No. I hadn't considered that. I now read aloud as much as possible—to myself or to willing victims. And the information really sinks in.
Humanities, First Aid and Male Teachers
During Orientation for school, my temporary college advisor suggested I take Introduction to Humanities. It's a required course, and so I did. Originally my class was at 9:00am, and I had a male teacher. Four classes, and all of my teachers were male.
I didn't like those odds.
I was wait listed for a First Aid class so I attended the first day of class with my roommate, without actually being enrolled in it. It was the only Physical Education class we could take that didn't require running. But First Aid was dreadfully boring and I didn't care for the teacher.
So when my roommate decided to drop the class—I asked her to take Humanities with me. So we changed to the same class at 10:30am to 11:15am and I also got a female teacher.
The reason I loved Humanities was on the first day of school—I was told we would be required to attend a school play, and a mandatory field trip to Spokane to focus on Public Art and Architecture, with a focus on The Davenport Hotel.
A class that requires I see a play? And to go and appreciate art? I loved it already.
English 101 and Expectations
My English teacher is very charismatic. I have always been irritated by the standard that if you are a writer, you must also speak efficiently. I can write, and I can write well enough, but the moment you ask me to start speaking aloud about my stories or my writing, that's where I'm going to glare at you. And glare at you hard. I'm self-conscious about speaking in public, I am extremely nervous. I also have issues with my teeth, and those of you closest to me know that.
So that my English Teacher carried his voice around the class as if we were in Speech 101 and not English 101—I was a bit alarmed. Day one and we didn't do any actual writing. Day two, and still no writing. What the hell kind of English class was this?
To be perfectly honest—starting college, I had no expectations. I hadn't planned on it, it was a last minute idea, I had never stopped to think about what I expected.
The first day of English class, our teacher made us write down a question. A deep question, and then he made us ask people aloud as he took role call.
“Are you afraid of the dark?”
It's the only question I could think of that would tell me about a stranger. That stranger happened to be my English teacher because I was the last person called—but his answer was fun and disarming, and by the end of class, we had all learned just a little more about each other.
We've been doing readings about the value of college, what to expect, and what is expected of us. I've learned to look at myself a little closer, and to start to define what I personally consider “success” in life.
All from an English 101 class coupled with Humanities and my Anthropology class (which I'll talk more about later). It's more of a foundation for knowledge than about the basic mechanics of writing.
I also love that my English teacher makes a speech before every quiz. It's the same speech every time, just with small variations. Quizzes are based off material read; if you didn't read the material, he begins: “Honesty is the best policy...” then assigns a writing project, such as a haiku or a fairy tale. And the them? “Failure.”
He's very subtle.
Anthropology AKA That Amazing Fucking Class You Didn't Mean To Take
I took this class on accident. Really. Anthropology? What is that, bugs? I had no idea what I was getting in to when I signed up for this introductory class for Anthropology.
Let me assure you—as I learn it, I'll talk about it, because I love what I am learning.
Anthropology is the study of humans throughout time. It encompasses Four Fields or General Anthropology (Physical or Biological Anthropology) with sub-fields of Paleoanthropology, human ostrology, paleopathology, forensic anthropology and primatology—as well as Archeology, Linguistic Anthropology and Cultural Anthropology.
None of that has to do anything except make you wonder at this point. I couldn't tell you the first thing about human ostrology, but I could tell you already a little about primatology.
Watch the video below as an example of Anthropology.
Some notes I jotted down from the video:
- Transgenic pigs
- DARPA bugbots
- Organic robots
- Organic manufacturing machines
If that isn't the stuff of science fiction, I don't know what is. I'm already thinking of human-hybrid babies gestating and spewing out cyborgs, killing their hosts.
Anthropology aims to “make the familiar strange, and the strange familiar.”
I'll touch on this topic on a later blog.
Math 015 and Math Anxiety
The first assignment I was given in Math 015, by a very kind older teacher, was to research Math Anxiety and define it. I recalled my father (an Electrician) and his constant disappointment that his daughter could not solve basic mathematics.
Then, later, my step-dad helping me with my math homework, and watching as I did the problem right—an erased my answer, having believed I did it incorrectly. It's a confidence issue, mostly.
My math teacher is working to fix that.
My first quiz—after I was allowed to correct my work—was a 100%. To get there, I spent more time than anyone else during the testing period (easily 45 minutes on 20 problems), used 2 ½ sheets of scratch paper. I had 4 mistakes; 1 was corrected from my notes. The teacher handed me back my quiz, and I took the remaining class time to correct them.
I was the last student left in the room when I handed back in my math quiz. But I handed it in and I fixed my work and I showed up for class, damn it.
Quotes and definitions I've collected from classes:
“Perceiving anything requires an understanding of what can be perceived.” (Humanities 101)
“When a person studies the humanities [the arts] the intended result is that he should be better able to understand, design, build or repair a life—for living is a vocation we have in common despite our differences.” Edwin J. Delattre (Humanities 101)
“There is nothing soft about the quest for a significant life.” - Leon Wieseltier, The New York Times article
Art: one person's interpretation of reality manifested in a particular medium and shared with others. (Humanities 101)
Art project ideas that I jotted down while in my Humanities 101 class:
- A heavy red paint disrupted with finger nail scratches in many layers, covered in a gloss coat (to give the appearance of blood)
- To spend a long time crafting the image of a woman; maybe even a character such as Malisyn, to work long and hard on the quality of the image—only to tape the mouth shut, and rip the tape off hard enough to destroy the image.
What this means for my writing
I've thought long and hard about this. I'm working—more importantly, I'm going to school. And I've already felt the hot breath of homework behind me. I'm going to need to focus more now than ever.
And as much as I love writing, I have to make a decision.
And that decision is to face the truth.
The Burning City has died somewhere in the Endless Sands. The story has halted at 65,000 words and I can write no more.
And the reason is because I don't have an outline, and I don't have an outline because I jumped straight from The Trials of Blood in to a follow-up story without having a fully conceived plan.
So my best option is the one I've been avoiding: stop writing a story that I can't finish—and return to revising, re-writing and editing The Trials of Blood until I can re-connect it with The Burning City.
Take a long, objective look at my first draft of The Trials of Blood.
It's a first draft. It's awful.
Not all of it, but overall, I wrote it as I was learning to write. I don't have an ego about this, I am well aware it is not my best work.
But with effort and revision and guidance—it can become my best.
And I owe it to myself and to everyone to give you my best.
The Trials of Blood and The Burning City were not wasted; they were immeasurable practice for me and my craft, and I will salvage as much as I can.
Artwork is meant to be shared, and I've always believed in the process of artwork. Since day number one of The Trials of Blood, I have been open and shared every poorly constructed sentence, every ridiculous idea (anyone remember hand written pages?), and most (but not every) fear and problem I have encountered along the way. You've seen me slowly learn how to correct my elipses (.. to …) and its versus it's (still struggling with that!) and any number of irritating grammatical hellscapes. You've watched me use the word small, and blood and black about a million times.
I do not regret sharing my writing, in every stage of my life. I do not regret the 65,000 words I've written for The Burning City that may never see publication. I do not regret the multiple National Novel Writing Months and CampNaNoWriMo's I've failed recently while I was busy learning other life lessons.
You learn to write by writing. And that's what I've been doing: learning.
Art is meant to be shared, even if the art that is bad. No painting ever starts with all the colors. The writing I have been doing was the first draft, the first light outline on canvas. And now you'll follow me through the rest of the way.
All I have ever hoped is that some day, some writer will see me and understand: we all start somewhere. I started somewhere, and I will end with stories I am proud of.
But do not forget that everything has a beginning and an end.
I'm sharing the beginning with you in the hopes that you'll be around for the end.
So this isn't an end. It is a beginning.
The short version
Any new writing will be rewriting for The Trials of Blood or other side projects.
I'll keep everyone updated on my academic progress and adventures. There will be pictures. Lots of them.
I won't be participating actively in National Novel Writing Month this November for the 50,000 words but I may try something smaller just to keep myself grounded.
It looks like my sister and I will be doing our own NaNoWriMo in January 2016.
I hope you'll stay for the show.