Friday, August 31, 2007

Telling myself to shore up against the inevitable disappointments of college life helps a little, if not entirely.

I knew it was going to happen, everything told me it was going to happen, but knowing and anticipating only go so far in placating my slightly bruised sense of self. We got back our first two World Civ quizzes, along with a print-out of our current grades, and mine read an ignominous current C.

So we're only 20 points into something like 800-900 for the semester, and the quizzes were both short and unexpected, not to mention proctored with little instruction besides the topic. And it's happened to me before, this beginning poorly, though I can't exactly recall when (I'm sure I naturally block these sorts of things out as soon as they're rectified, though ninth-grade algebra does come to mind). I know I'll eventually achieve good standing. It's just that seeing that C, and having to own up to it, as I'm fairly certain I pretty much deserved it, got me down.

In other events, I got a few more hours at the library, bringing my total somewhere around 15 a week. It's a great thing, this being surrounded by endless shelves of intellectual process. But to walk the rows of books is to be confronted with the vast amount of information that cannot possibly ever be synthesized entirely. As I troll the aisles for unstacked books, titles flicker out from every direction: "Christianity & Literature"- they print such a magazine? The Works of Andre Gide- I know his name ("Geed," right?), but what did he write? Narrative Poems of C.S. Lewis- when will I ever have time to read that?

And so it goes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Now being Scottish, you'd think this wouldn't be a problem for me.

In my Principles of Human Communication class, we divided into groups of four to research a country and give a comprehensive presentation on it. But, alas, I am too far removed from my lineage (though I yet bear the name) to have any acquaintance with someone who has lived in Scotland for at least fifteen years. So, if anyone reading this within the next three weeks recalls such an individual within their sphere who would be willing to e-mail me, I'd dearly appreciate contact information. You can comment below, or write me at

Spontaneous me.

So I was dashing from chapel to World Civ this morning, calculating how I was going to choreograph lunch, my early afternoon shift, Spanish language lab homework, dinner, and my evening shift, when I realized I was surrounded by students milling pleasantly about Caf Lane, visiting folding tables strewn with beckoning candy and staffed with eager students. Ah, club day.

I was determined to sign up for at least one more (I attended the first meeting of the International Club last night) and I was also in the mood for a spiel. Catching an arousing title, "SIFE-Students in Free Enterprises," I skipped up and asked the boys behind the table, "So, what's your club about?"

They proceeded with an impassioned explication of their program, detailing how they bring in speakers to talk about economies in developing countries, and work with high school students to create a "micro-economy" in which they create businesses and compete for capital. I was interested, but not sure it was something I would necessarily be involved with. Looking for a polite exit (listening to the spiel inevitably implies obligation), I protested that I was "just a Lit major." But when they heard that, or really when they heard I want to edit, they brightened. "Would you want to help with e-mails and stuff? Be like a secretary?"

They explained that the girl in charge of those sorts of things could use help. I shrugged. Why not? So I guess I'm now assistant secretary, or something, for SIFE.

That was fun. So then I made my way through the rest of my day. I watched the sun set through the glass doors of the library, and now I'm still at the Circulation Desk, waiting for midnight.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I wish the dorm kitchen were accessible all the time.

Unfortunately, I can only get in it after 2 pm. They keep it locked, and while I fully understand the concept of the tragedy of the commons, I think that as adults paying to live here, we should have access to all aspects of the facility, all of the time.

Anyway. In an attempt to use what was available (ramen noodles) and perishable (eggs and butter- though the butter, according to the package, is good until January) for dinner, I visited my favorite cooking site,, and entered my criteria for a recipe. I love that site so much. I can't help gushing over it. It's ultra-navigable and includes foods from around the world. I almost always find a suitable way to use what I have on hand. This time was no exception.

With a little improvising I made out with a noodley sort-of-kind-of egg foo yung. I had retained some broccoli, carrots, and chives from lunch, and after sautéing those with the cooked noodles, I added the eggs- et voilà! A savory plateful that would have been at home on a table in the most authentic Chinese restaurant. I sat down with a cup of tea and my World Civ reading. But when I stuck my fork into the steaming bowl, I paused. There was no way I could eat it this way. I ran back to my dorm room and grabbed a pair of the chopsticks I'd bought for just such an occasion. Satisfied at last, I turned to my book and realized I was reading Pre-Modern East Asia: to 1800.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dinner was nice, but breakfast was better.

My dorm went out to eat as a sort of hang out/bonding time, as you can see below (I totally took this from someone's Facebook).

We all dressed up, or at least, I thought I did until I saw all the other girls in dresses and heels. Whatever. I was comfortable. We went to Miguel's, a nicer Mexican place known for it's "white salsa," a savory cheese dip. I had a shredded beef burrito. It was good, but no better than something I could have gotten for half the money, when it was all said and done (those large group gratuities can kill you!). The girls are pleasant, but I don't know if we're operating at the same speed. We'll see.

I went to bed at nine and slept until seven. It was amazing. I woke up super energized and ready to do something new and daring. And so I did. But first, I had breakfast. For whatever reason, the door to the dorm kitchen, normally locked and unaccessible except during the evening, was wide open. I gleefully collected my steel-cut oats and mango black tea and took my time crafting a delicious bowl of oatmeal. It stuck with me as I commenced on my project for the day.
Last week, during New Student Orientation, we met in small groups to discuss the "strengths" I mentioned before. Well, my group leader happened to be the pastor of Calvary Chapel Point Loma. He impressed me with his insight and candor, so I hopefully logged onto their website to see if the church was close enough to bike to. As it was just over three miles, I decided to try and see if I could manage it.
I left with plenty of leeway in case I got lost or sidetracked, which I did. The first turn I took was wrong, but my excellent sense of direction got me there anyway, with 10 minutes to spare. The church meets in a residential neighborhood, in a Seventh-Day Adventist building with a trippy stained-glass installment featuring the six days of creation. I enjoyed the service. I sat with some other freshman girls from PLNU, and chuckled to myself when the worship leader turned out to be exactly what you'd expect at a small, grassroots Calvary Chapel like this one: long haired, with superb electric guitar skills, singing old classics from the 70s movement, including Keith Green's "Oh Lord, You're Beautiful."
Dave Heitman, the aforementioned small group leader/pastor, gave a spot-on message about not finding a comfortable distance away from Jesus, somewhere in the murky afterglow, but coming so close to His light it hurts, so close that all one's flaws and dark places are illuminated.
Afterward, I mounted my bike with some trepidation. Most of the trip there had been downhill, so the way back could only be the opposite. At least I'd earn my lunch, I thought. It wasn't terribly bad, though it was mainly uphill. I discovered a route not only more efficient than the accidental detour I'd taken in the beginning, but also faster than the MapQuest directions I was following. Just give me a month and I'll have this place memorized.
I won't lie; I was tired and sweaty and pretty much done by the time I reached the last large hill leading to the campus. But coasting down to my dorm, I felt the exertion high. I had biked over six miles, I had found a decent church, and I had brunch in the caf to look forward to. It was good.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I passed the English placement exam!

I get to enroll in Writing 120 in the spring! I'm not a failure! (Joke, I swear.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

I got a job at the library!

It was a lucky thing, too, because the original job posting asked for hours during which I would be in class. I e-mailed the head librarian anyways, hoping for but not expecting a response. She did get back to me a couple of weeks later, though, and the interview went well... so here I am, Point Loma's newest library assistant.

The job itself is as easy as I could have hoped. After some basic training, I spent an hour floating. I wandered down the aisles, mesmerized by the rows of books, intoxicated by the smell of imperceptibly decaying pages. Could it be that I was getting paid for this? Well, not exactly for perusing the fathomless sea of information, but for being there, pushing in chairs and reshelving books as I've done automatically from childhood, and looking friendly while checking out items to patrons.

The library floored me. Organized entirely by the Dewey Decimal System (a favorite saying of mine growing up: "The Dewey Decimal System is my friend."), it's astoundingly navigable. The first level holds the circulation desk and reference center, and it feeds out into four or five computer labs. A back room houses the beginning of the collection. The middle level is entirely books, with some study rooms. The top encompasses all that's left through 999, along with the school's Wesleyan Center for 21st Century Studies, plus an unparalleled view of the campus and, farther out, the ocean.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hanging outside the Dean of Theology's office:

"Dr. Thompson was hit by a speedboat while out on his morning walk. He will be out of the office the rest of the semester."

It took me a second, but when I got it, it made my day.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This would be the view from my dorm room. The first thing the obliging upperclassman said to me as she helped me move in: "Good job getting an ocean view on your first try." A breeze blows gently and constantly straight off the ocean through my window. It is wonderful.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

So my first class was at 7:30 am, but somehow the jazz music the professor had playing as we walked in made it better.

I knew I was going to like my Old Testament professor when he contrasted a deep, thorough understanding of the Bible with, "Ah luv mah Bible. Ah haven't read it, but Ah luv it." Asserting that ignorance is not worship, he made a convincing case for a scholarly approach to spiritual life. My sentiments exactly.

I had time for a scumptious natural peanut butter and organic fruit spead on sprouted barley bread sandwich (courtesy my parents, who bought me better groceries than I will probably be able to afford for the rest of my college career) before dashing off to Psych 101. An actual practicing therapist, my professor there spoke evenly and encouragingly as he laid out the coursework for the semester.

Next came Principles of Human Communication, which will basically be a public speaking class. I don't know how I feel about that. It's definitely going to stretch me. The professor is a high-achieving Point Loma grad who, while earning a graduate degree in Spain, found her husband there, too. She spent some years in the corporate world training workers to speak well, and now works full-time here. As a closing activity, she had us answer questions about the person next to us without talking to them, questions like "Where is he or she from?" and "What song is on his or her MySpace page?" My partner correctly guessed not only that I don't have a MySpace, but that I have a Facebook, with no music to be found. It makes me happy to think I don't look like a MySpace-y person.

After this, I spent my third straight hour of class in the performance hall with half the freshman class for the second part of Psych 101. Then, I got a sandwich at the Point Break Cafe and started my homework.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The first day of classes.

So I got more or less a full night's sleep and awoke to clear white morning light. My first class didn't start until 8:30, so I poured my cereal leisurely and listened to NPR as I ate it. One of the joys of a big city is radio sans static- everything comes in, no matter what you turn the dial to. Moreover, there are two separate public broadcasting stations whose programming often differs, giving me a choice! Imagine that.

My first class was Spanish. My professor showed an impressive depth of understanding of the finer points of linguistics, demonstrating the essential differences between key pronunciations in English and Spanish. She alternated effortlessly between a straightforward Anglo "buenos dias" and an authentic "BWAY-nos DEE-ahs," and made clear which one she expects us to speak in class.

Afterward I headed to chapel, which we are required to attend three days a week. After that, I made my way to World Civilizations I, a class I can already tell I am going to love. We're learning straight out of the ancient texts themselves- no historian's commentary on what was written, but the figures of history talking to us directly. All sorts of things I always felt I should have read to be educated I'll now actually get to, and what's more, I'll have an expert's guided discussions to enhance the process.

The highlight of my day was the meeting for the school's newspaper, The Point Weekly. I talked to the faculty advisor and he accepted my offer of another pair of copy editing eyes enthusiastically. Most everyone there was enrolled in the course to get credit, but as I've done the reporter thing and hated it more than you'd think someone who loves language would, I don't want to be a staff writer. Generating ideas- sure, I can do that; putting an article together- slightly stifling creatively but I am willing to if it's needed; photography- given the right equipment I can make something passable. But when it comes to tracking down sources and interviewing, I balk. Talking to strangers revolts me like nothing else. And when you realize that I've done little else but that the past few days, you can imagine my state of mind and congratulate me for still functioning.

In that vein, I approached the advisor with trepidation, but after I sold myself briefly with my high school newspaper experience and Press-Enterprise stint, he welcomed me to ask the copy editor if she'd like help. I did so, and hope to hear from her soon. It would be an entirely voluntary position, but, let's face it, I'd be sitting in the dining hall with a red pen every week either way. It's certainly what I did at Hemet High: whenever a new issue of The Bulldog appeared, I'd rapidly, rabidly, cross and circle and underline and revise, obviously acting on my repressed frustration at being stuck in a building with an aliterate journalism department.

Satisfied with getting my foot in the door, I went to dinner with a happy heart, and even lingered at a table of new acquaintances to participate in their pleasant, trifling chatter.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It does get better, though.

I was fairly low for the rest of the day. Had the unthinkable actually happened? Was I drowning in my inadequacy? Was I destined to be what I had heretofore abhorred- an average student? These thoughts plagued me as I roamed the endless rows of dinner tables blanketing the campus. I searched for my parents, whom I had left to ignominously commence my college career, but glanced no lavender blouse or familiarly bald head. Listless, I surrendered to the aroma of lasagna and began my meal alone, at an empty table. My parents did eventually show up, and I was buoyed slightly by the closing covenant service. I went to bed too tired to stew in my disappointment.

Sleeping in helped somewhat, and breakfast did, too. Even more encouraging was the breakout session in which we discussed the strengths test we took and how the results will affect our college experience. Of course, my strengths - strategic, input, intellection, learner, acheiver - are all cognitive; I'm apparently a giant brain with no feeling appendages. This discouraged me a bit, but I love my primary one, strategic, so much that it didn't bother me too much. In a lengthy explanation on the personality test's website, I found that strategic people are often looked upon as critical, but this is just because they quickly discard inefficient or ineffective ideas. What I see as efficiency, others see as rudeness.

My StrengthsQuest Results

People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
People strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
People strong in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
People strong in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

After lunch, we reconvened to discuss the book we were supposed to read over the summer, The Color of Water by James McBride. Feeling in my element, I volunteered to report back to the group my team's answers to the discussion questions. I felt my presentation was acceptable, but maybe a little dull. Certainly adequate, though. It seemed that was what I was shaping up to be. The group dismissed and I stood in the hall trying to get cell phone service, an almost impossible feat on this campus, to check my voicemail.

"Excuse me." I looked up to see the professor who had led the discussion. He asked me my name and major. When I told him literature, he looked satisfied."I was really impressed with your answers. You presented very well."

He asked me then if I was taking Freshman Comp, and I babbled about the placement exam and my trepidation. I managed a lame "But I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot of me" and left elated. Just like that, my entire outlook had changed. Who cared if I failed the test? A literature professor singled me out after a mundane reading discussion and complimented me on my articulation and insight! What more did I need than the approbation of an expert in my field?

Apparently, not much. That little comment sustained and animated me through the soccer game we were required to attend (we won 3-0! Loma Loma Loma!) and the silly activities I forced myself to participate in. By the time we headed to chapel, I was tired but willing to sit through anything they threw at us.

What I caught there was radically unlike anything I had expected. The chapel speaker, a senior here, talked deliberately in an unremitting dead-pan, lampooning much of what we had already experienced and much of what is to come. He mocked the covenant ceremony and the living standards; he ridiculed the rabidly conversion-hungry collector of Christian curios he was when he started at the school. But he did it all to make a point straight out of Acts: a Christian community is a wonderful thing, but it can also be awful. Ananias and Sapphira illustrate this vividly. It's so easy to fall into the whirlwind of ministry, to always strive to be the "better" Christian, and to ultimately act like a completely different person. We as freshmen have four years in which to grow, and only by taking the process sincerely, without falsehood or pretention, in God's timing, will we continue upwardly throughout our time here. Above all, he assured us that we are all "okay." That none of us are here accidentally, that we can all make it and make it well.

When the speaker gave an altar call encouraging us to come forward, and my roommate led the flood of respondents, I knew she was probably the greatest roommate I could have. I'd certainly had signs of this beforehand. Easy-going, affable, neat as a pin, bright and sunny even, perhaps especially, in the early hours of the morning, willing to try anything, unafraid of new people or places, an excellent student- I haven't found fault with her yet. She's a Psych major from here in Point Loma. She shares with me the qualities that matter, and differs with me on the perfect complements to my quirks. I hope she likes me as much as I like her. I'm trying to muster all the congeniality my giant unfeeling brain can access.

Orientation is almost over.

How I feel about starting college. This is what I've been trying to figure out for the past few days. I'll think that I understand how I'm going to approach this, but then my feelings alter radically and I'm confused again. I suppose this is why I try not to operate by my emotions. More on that below.

I went along on auto-pilot for most of Thursday and Friday, taking in all the information and stimuli passively, waiting to process it later. Like now, maybe. I think my first strong reaction came Friday afternoon. Trying to do as much as possible as quickly as possible, I scheduled a job interview an hour after a placement exam. I visited the proctor a half-hour before to see if I could take the test early, but she declined. Still, I was confident I could finish a test involving my major in no time. As I scanned the questions though, I realized it would take longer than an hour. At least, for the conscientious, responsible students.

As for me, I rushed through the multiple choice, silently bemoaning the poorly written excerpts. Speed-reading awkward prose hurt my head. But the essay derailed me. Prompted to write a 500+ word essay on an experience in which I "discovered I knew less about an idea or issue than I thought I knew" or some such thing, I froze. When did I ever find that I knew less about something after becoming acquainted with it? I scribbled out five paragraphs on a relationship that turned drastically, and it almost could have worked. Until, of course, I wrote a synopsis instead of a thesis. Had I written, "People are not always what they seem. A person can actually be something completely different from what they project," I could have saved it. But I blanked on the definition of "thesis" and wrote a terrible summary of my essay instead.

I was so distracted by the impending interview, though, I didn't kick myself until afterward. Rushing out of the exam room, I dashed across campus, striding long-legged on wedged heels, feeling slightly pretentious in the head scarf and jewelry my mom insisted I wear. The interview was super low-key, and the job, a campus media internship, sounded so perfect. But they haven't responded back to me yet.

Deflated after the frantic zig-zagging, I left the media office, slipping off the shoes that had quickly blistered my feet, tender from an entire summer ensconced in tennis shoes and socks. The pain of my newly raw skin increased as the realization dawned on me: I had truly screwed up my English placement exam.