The Epson

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After seeing my laborious, painstaking film scanning set up, my boyfriend surprised me with a fancy Epson film photo scanner today. I told him not to, said I was perfectly fine with my setup, bragged about it a few times to convince him (mostly me) that it wasn’t an incredibly tedious process . Then I came home to the package in my home, massive and grey and labeled Epson. Oh my god, Epson–that Epson. The Epson. Epson is known for its scanners.

So now I am scanning my film. I spend class time scrolling through film, contemplate film, shoot film, look up film accounts before bedtime. It’s still photography–I can’t escape my love for it–but another type, per se. It’s like an obsessive streak I run headfirst into year after year. I plan to shoot film just to document life, for the love of it, the embedded nostalgia, so this Epson will be put to good (and long, ideally) use. I already have my chemicals and camera and film. And now I have a scanner, thanks to my kind and thoughtful beau.

The past week has been….well, it’s been. Not bad, but fast? It’s hard to describe my perception of time. I mostly spent the past week semi obsessing over R. R is a statistical programming language. I spent my night class on Monday programming in R. My brain was throbbing, but then I woke up the next day and began the next assignment. I’ve been working on it and just finished it. I felt a wave of delight as I cleanly formatted my 9 histograms using a psych library on R. It’s just fun. I never would have thought that I’d have found this fun. But I do.

I think the weeks go by relatively quickly, but the days can sometime feel long. I’m not much of a cliquey person, but I’ve noticed how much more fun the days are when I stick to the people I’m comfortable with. Like, it’s just a lot more enjoyable to talk to a certain circle of people who I feel closer to and am more interested in talking to. I’d rather sit by them, text them, spend breaks with them, stop in the middle of breaks to talk to, etc. I am feeling a bit more introspective as I consider the types of people I’m drawn to, and the types of people I’m not drawn to. I’m sure it reflects who I am as well.

Granted, we’re not quite cliquey. The girls I was around in high school formed a clique–there was the element of meanness, of leaving others out, of belittling outsiders. In this graduate program, we talk to each other a bit more, since that’s natural, but we also talk to other people, and we’re happy to include others. So in that sense, we’re more a nebulous group of friends operating within the cohort. And I think it’s natural to not feel comfortable talking to absolutely everyone, and it’s natural to not love or like everyone.

I also feel a little more in tune with my surroundings. Don’t feel like elaborating, but I’ll just throw it out there.

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Crunchy

It feels good to have talked to my best friend

I know I’m really awful at texting and calling and checking in as much as I should

But it’s just really good to finally make that round and circle back to the ones I care about

It was nice to hear her voice

(And my laughs were hearty)

We spent five minutes on my description of crunchy old men

“I’m just so upset right now. Crunchy old men. Like. Their bones are crunchy? Or they would be crunchy?”

Some stressors were aired–

And I said my part (don’t want to do something? Don’t, haha!)

Just kind of ad libbing

(Personally I don’t like spending my time doing things I don’t want to do or being someone I’m not)

And let others reject you–don’t reject yourself first

(This is a big one in life, I think. I know I’m young, and the stakes weren’t all that high, though maybe they were. That is one nugget phrase that I would emphasize: don’t reject yourself first! Let others reject you.)

Anyways–

We gave an overview of the highlights, the lowlights

Of moodier days, moodier weeks

Of brighter people, heartwarming moments

Of cloudier times, knottier moments

I brought up how, right after we met each other, she left me eight missed phone calls and I avoided them all

We resolved to check in more regularly–once every three weeks

She joked that I would disappear and crumple under social obligation (“this isn’t supposed to be that”)

And yes, I have a tendency to hide, to burrow and burrow

“What’s the point of a best friend if they’re only there when you’re happy?”

That is true. And a recent study highlighted how we tend to go to close friends when we’re sad, and strangers when we’re happy.

We have always been comfortable and crazy, and I’m glad to have that person in my life–my best friend

Wheek

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Took my first test in graduate school yesterday. I finished an hour early and felt bad turning in the test early, because I didn’t want to be that person. A friend called afterwards to talk about the test. My professor graded it today. I got a 96. We all did fairly well, I think.

I was bored of reviewing, so the day before the test, I went biking around the neighborhood with le beau and visited the pet store. We’ve been seriously contemplating the existence of guinea pigs. I desperately want one, but I’m very serious about animals, and I would want my pet to be happy and fulfilled. Guinea pigs are apparently very vocal and social creatures, and they eat constantly and wheek (literally scream WHEEEEEK) when they’re anticipating food.

They can be let out to walk in gardens, put on leashes, and granted a lot more freedom than hamsters. They also live significantly longer, with life spans of anywhere from 4-8 years. These tip the scale in heavy favor of guinea pigs. On top of all this, they’re nappers and not sleepers, which means they’re up throughout the day and night. Hamsters are essentially nocturnal. Guinea pigs like to be around other guinea pigs. They’re also sometimes fond of cuddling. That’s a big one in my future animal consideration.

During our class meeting, I was googling how to introduce two guinea pigs. They establish a pecking order, with one more dominant than the other. It can get feisty–guinea pigs leap and bite and snarl–so choose the piggies wisely.

On another note, I’m pretty happy to be in this graduate program. The people around me are a little too over-the-top motivated, though, so it was hella refreshing talking to some of the second years. They have mellowed out considerably and had many gossipy tales at hand. My other friend–are we friends yet?–left to attend a project meeting for an assignment due…in a month. I sat and chatted with them until they left. I have yet to get my office key, which my cohort members rushed out to grab weeks before. I did finally get my ID a few days ago, though.

So…ah…what else? Nothing much, really. Oh! My friend wrote me a letter and gave me a card, all for helping her out with one math question. I teared up reading the letter. An old student’s parent asked about working with me this Fall, and I got the okay from my boss, so there’s that. I’m on a relative high right now, despite sounding tired.

I want a guinea pig.

Cognitive Dissonance

I grew up thinking I was bad at math, and that girls were bad at math, and because I was a girl, I’d be bad at math. I was surprised to see, upon finding old SAT records, that I’d once scored a 750 on Math and 700 (?) on Writing. What? At some point, I’d done better on Math? And when I look at academic records, I’d still had A’s in Math, as well as my other classes. Yeah, I had to huff three times as much in chemistry and math than history, but I huffed, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

When I teach or explain math, my approach is colored by those predominant experiences in math. Math was hard. Math was difficult to understand. And math wasn’t for girls, so I gave up quickly and easily. Now that I’m a bit older and understand these foundational concepts, I almost feel a bit cheated by the jargon and poorly fleshed-out textbook concepts. Why do academics make it their job to make easy things sound so hard? Even though not everything can be easily digestible, I try to condense and simplify concepts to their most basic form with analogies and metaphors. And I do that until it clicks. Sometimes students are frustrated, and I identify all too well. But we huff through it. And I huff through it remembering how frustrating it’d once been, knowing that it isn’t nearly as bad as it seems. I know that it can make sense. So I’ll make it make sense.

I’m not the worst at math. I’m not the best at math. I only love it when I understand it, and I only understand it when I truly think about it, and I only truly think about it when I care about it. When data is meaningful, I care about it. And sorting through it then is just a corollary aspect of it. I do like patterns, quantitative measures, things I can touch and see and feel, things I can count and set with rules. That’s the tentative appeal of code, which sorts data, follows solid rules, and has its own logic. But I couldn’t do math just to do math, and I couldn’t learn a language just to learn it. I could write to write, read to read, but I’d need a reason to quantify other things.

And the reality is that everything is relative. It depends on the size of the pond. It depends on the other fish. But it also depends on, ultimately, what I find interesting and meaningful. This past year of explaining math concepts has quickly, well, put it in a positive light. This has diverged from everything I’ve ever thought about my relationship to math. That is, math isn’t so bad after all. And I’m not as terrible as I’ve been led to believe. I’d pooh pooh all the implicit social cues I picked up in childhood that said math and science weren’t for girls. Adults and teachers don’t always realize just how impressionable children are. The things we say they’re good at matters. I’m thinking of a psychology study that highlights the higher job inequality between genders in more “equal” societies. But that’s another discussion for another day.

I’m just here to sort my temporary cognitive dissonance–I had hated math for so long, and ended up teaching concepts to others. I have unwittingly become the stats person in my program for answering an incredibly basic question. But I am not the stats person. Not that I really think of. But I’m likely–given the feedback–not as bad at this mathematical business as I’ve been led to believe. We’ll see. The truth is, I have slowly grown to like math and teaching math. My childhood self gasps.

Teaching

Normally I’m not very vocal in the group chat, but a friend whom I’ve been spending breaks with asked a statistics question, so I responded to her and screenshot our messages to our cohort.

But I could tell that she didn’t entirely, fully, totally understand, so I went more in depth about it. I used an easy example, easy numbers, switched it up a bit, asked her to find differences. Doing, essentially, what I do with students, but via text. And then I almost teared up because it makes me ridiculously happy when people understand concepts.

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Despite growing up having hated math, I really oddly enjoy teaching it now. And even though I love English, I’d prefer to teach English rules as opposed to, say, reading comprehension.

But I have always loved teaching and breaking things down into comprehensible nuggets of knowledge. I remember swinging my rubber band around during gym class, explaining centripetal force to a classmate. She would call me, in a British accent, teacher Lu.

In the 9th grade, I’d teach my friends biology using mutual friends as strange examples. And in the years in between, I was chair of a tutoring/teaching center, recruiting friends to volunteer, and later found my first job tutoring 3 year olds. It was honestly just a lot of fun.

I find a lot of happiness and meaning in the act of teaching others, but the profession of teaching is generally overworked and underpaid.

So in the meantime, I will just occasionally field a statistics question, and continue to work with a few students while I am in graduate school.

Social Monitoring

Spent last night on a psychometrics website, taking personality assessments and psychology tests. For entertainment and educational purposes only, they noted. I’d wormholed there from the social monitoring test, which lightly assesses whether you’re a high social monitor or low social monitor.

To scale back on the jargon–high social monitors are people who assess social situations and adjust their behavior accordingly. They’re akin to social chameleons, adapting to different situations, behaving differently in different spaces. Low social monitors are people who value staying true to themselves, and often display similar behaviors across different situations. In other words, they’re themselves, regardless of outside norms. If you want to take the test to see which one you are, You can check it out here.

Whenever I take this test–and I have, multiple times, the way I’ve taken multiple Myers Briggs assessments to ensure reliability–my report’s similar: you are neither high nor low. I’m either 48 or 62. Some in between.

It’s just a mix of two extremes. The real me, I suppose, is a low social monitor. She’s happy to be wild and free in public, loud and ridiculous, with little regard to the outside world. She’d rather be entirely herself with a few people she genuinely jibes with, and disregard the people she’s not very comfortable around. But the outside me, who crawls out of some chimney in professional and academic contexts, is a high social monitor. She tones things down, says things that won’t rattle others, stays neutral, is a bit stilted, but otherwise polite.

The first part (low) thinks the second part (high) is fake. The second part (high) thinks the first part (low) is inappropriate. The first part thinks that she is genuine. The second part thinks that she is flexible. The first part knows she could never be an actor. The second part knows that she could never be, outside personal bounds, as real as she’d like.

So it ends up being a strange situation where I’m pointing in two opposite directions, going towards one, being criticized by the other, then veering towards the other. I’d like to be myself around co-workers; I probably couldn’t. So I try to be, as the first part (low) would describe it, faker and happier, but then it’s exhausting, and the first part (low) takes over, and expresses exhaustion. The second part (high) is disappointed. It’s like trying to smile and frown at the same time; it comes out as a thin line.

Even the existence of this blog is an expression of the second (high) part–I keep the public and private separate. I juggle seven emails to ensure that each email reflects a different goal. I’ve made countless Instagrams and Facebook accounts and Tumblr blogs in an effort to compartmentalize the different expressions and audiences. This blog just so happens to be public, but even that’s limited–this isn’t nearly as public as, say, Jennifer Beth’s Cooking Blog where she regularly posts images of her husband and two children.

All of this is to say that I’ve yet to properly manage the conflicting social monitoring viewpoints that, in their own way, are beneficial. It’d probably have been easier if I were just one or the other–I could subscribe to one mentality–but I’m not. In personal contexts, I’d rather just be myself; in professional contexts, I know I probably shouldn’t be. I’m equally uncomfortable with high social monitors and low social monitors, because I regard high social monitors as excessively fake, and low social monitors as rude and context-blind.

And then there’s the individual juggling act of not being either and also being both. I mean, I try to make it work, but I’m not entirely sure it does, to be honest. I try to follow social norms because that’s the ploy of likability, of acceptable conformity, but then I become, quite frankly, angry. But I couldn’t be as ‘real’ as I’d like with people I don’t know as well. So maybe I strive to be lower on social monitoring, for the sake of personal happiness, but at the expense of social acceptability. But it doesn’t always work.

It’s all very irritating. I put up a poll on Instagram and 77% regarded themselves as high social monitors. What about you? (I love breaking the fourth blogging wall to address the audience) If you clicked the link and took the test, which were you?

Lost and Eager

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I’m exhausted. And planning to bike in twenty minutes. Because sitting down for class makes me feel sluggish and slow. And not exercising makes me feel worse than not doing anything. So I’ll make the best of it and enjoy the blistering heat of nature while the rest of the country basks in cool weather.

The people in my cohort, after 4 days of class, want to meet on campus tomorrow–on Friday, on one of our three days off–to study.

And on labor day, there were students going to school. The hot topic is how to access the school building after hours, like once school has closed, it’s nighttime, or it’s Saturday.

And there is just so much brimming enthusiasm on the GroupMe. Eager beaverness abounds. 

I’m not much of an eager beaver for this type of stuff. I’m more of a task-oriented person, who lists out things to do and just gets them done. I’ll set goals, work towards them, check them off the list.

But it’s more focus than eagerness that propels me. I’m sure that it’s indicative of something, like values or personality or whatever. Many in my cohort seem very…forward. I think it’s healthy, but I am, quite frankly, exhausted.

They also seem somewhat lost. Lost on assignments, lost on readings, lost on content.

Lost and eager. I feel like the opposite: I know what’s going on and what to do, but I’m definitely not going to school on a weekend to do any of it.

Am I a gremlin in disguise? Or a poorly disguised gremlin?

Recently, I’ve been managing my workload by getting things done ahead of time. My barometer is a week. I spend one day doing everything for the next week.

I really enjoy statistics and basic programming, which I’ve been learning in my free time. Everyone moans and groans about statistics, but privately, I think it’s fun. It makes sense. All those hours spent teaching probability and cumulative frequency to my students somewhat paid off, because those graphs made sense upon first glance.

Looking ahead, I wonder how I can best incorporate my attitudes/approach (more task-oriented, emphasis on productivity and patterns) and interests (statistics?) towards a meaningful path.

We’ll see. Meaning means a lot to me.