What’s in a name?

Me and dad

Today in Writing 220, Kelli shared her e-portfolio with that class. Immediately the title “Kelli not Kelly” jumped out at me. It was original and fun and said something about her as a person. When I commented on this, Kelli jumped right into talking about how people spell her name with a y, even after she specifically tells them that she spells it with an i. As soon as Kelli mentioned this, lots of other people in the class started to chime in. Apparently Kelli’s saga is one that many members of our class are familiar with. The whole conversation got me thinking about names. While the story behind my frustration with my name isn’t the same as Kelli’s, I can definitely relate to her struggle.

I was born two months premature. Seven months into her pregnancy, my mom got sick, and after a plethora of tests and a long period of deliberation, the doctor’s decided it was time for a c-section. However, babies aren’t meant to be delivered so early. The doctors had given my parents a long list of medical conditions that they should be prepared to face once I was born, and my parents were ready for the worst. But, incredibly, aside from some very underdeveloped lungs, which are expected of any preemie, I was relatively healthy. My parents are eternally grateful to the entire staff that helped deliver their baby.

The doctors and nurses who had been following my mom’s case for weeks had grown very attached to the baby inside her. So when I was born, they asked my parents what they were going to name me, and my mom said Matilda. That’s where the sappy, cute, baby story ends. The nurses told my mother that she couldn’t name a baby girl that. My mom, understanding both that these people had essentially saved her (and my) life, and that in the weeks ahead they would provide me with 24/7 care in the NICU, she asked them what they wanted to name the baby. And they said Emily. So that was the name my parents gave me: Emily Matilda David.

But once I reached four pounds, and had lungs capable of functioning on their own, I was allowed to leave the NICU. My mom took me home, and never called me Emily again.

While that might seem like a long story, it’s the one that I have to tell every time someone asks why I don’t go by Emily. People always want to know why I chose to go by Matilda, but the truth is, I never really had a choice. I’ve been Matilda for as long as I can remember. When people hear that my parents have always called me Matilda, they inevitably want to know why my parents named me Emily to begin with. It must be a family name, they guess. And that’s where the story comes in.

I used to resent my parents for this decision. I actually cannot remember one time when either of my parents have used the name Emily. In fact, they both dislike it when I use it. Maybe they don’t like to think all that time spent in the hospital. But then why name me Emily in the first place? It causes a headache when I go into the doctor’s office and they’re searching for my records, when I send emails from my umich account, or when I show up to the first day of class. I’ve thought about getting my name legally changed plenty of times.

However, over the years, I come to appreciate both of my names. Matilda is name that my parents gave me, and, despite the fact it’s a little old fashioned, I like that I have a name that you don’t hear every day. And even though I only use Emily when I’m filling out official paperwork, visiting the dentist, or ordering a drink at Starbucks (because it’s much easier to spell), the name reminds be to be grateful for the life that I have, and the people who have given so much to me.

What frustrates you most about your name? How did your parents come up with your name? What would you have been named if you were the opposite sex (If I were I boy I’d be named Woody)?

Bagel

When I eat a bagel I like to take things slowly. Sometimes I want cream cheese, other days, I don’t. Sometimes I want it toasted, other days I don’t. Sometimes I even want a sweet cinnamon swirl bagel, other days I (you guessed it!)…want a plain one. The main question here is: Are all bagels edible? Are they literal pieces of food consumed with coffe or yogurt, OR, can they be used in different contexts, still consumed just in a different aspect?

Considering this wednesday word, I could go the all natural route and tell you all about the ever-so popularly discreet Free Bagel Wednesday at the Alumni Center. But I digress. I’ll instead tell you about my faboulous Saturday evening at UMMA (U of M Musuem of Art).

Spriit of Detroit was performed by the students of RCHums 390 in which Kate Mendeloff was the director.  This play, similar to my consumtion of a bagel, took many routes. Instead of me stuffing my face with information, I chose to take this bagel slow, chew every piece, and swallow with a taste of hope in my mouth, awaiting another chunck. A handful of directors and designers took the responsibility of the play and with tremendous help from the students, the play consisted over a 2-day period (beginning Saturday, March 23-Sunday, March 24).

Taking place in the late 50’s to more recent 2007, Sprit of Detroit followed experiences by two childhood friends, Anthony and Lucy. Being seperated as children because of their race, fate placed them side by side during the 1967 riots in Detroit, Michigan. The play goes through life changes between both character’s childhood, future, and present times. They were both put through a lot of emotional and physical stress during this time in their lives, but managed to come together and make sure each other was safe and sound towards the end of the riots.

 

Though this play is far from over due to the lingering emotions and knowledge learned through its viewing, it is still very beneficial to understand. Before Saturday, I’d give tours about a building on campus (Fleming Administration) that was riot-proof because of the politically active era of the 1960’s. I never knew or even thought that this reason was because of a specific riot here in Michigan. To my surprise, the 12th Street Riot and the Algiers Motel Incident seem to be two prominent riots and civil disrurbances back in 1967. The riot lasted for 5 days caused by a police raid in an after-hours, unlicensed bar. 43 deaths, over 400 injuries, and approximately 7,000 arrestes occured because of this outburst. One of the most interesting parts of this whole ordeal is that my great-grandmother has lived on 12th street and Virginia Park for more than 50 years. (I wonder if she was around during the riots because THAT would be something to write about).

This play took not only an inspirational note, but a historical, metaphorical, and spritual note as well. Sometimes that’s what a bagel will do to you, it’ll start with one purpose, and finish with another.

Business Casual

How many of you cringe when you hear those beautiful words “Business Casual“?  It’s like they’ve taken two completely opposite words and condensed them side by side to come up with some estranged way to say, “Lets confuse the minds out of these wanna-be professionals!” What in the world does that even mean, how did society come up with the idea, and, thanks professional moguls for confusing people like me who over think every word in: wear business casual. Should I be business, or casual? Should I be professional or personable? Should I describe myself OR the person I claim to be? Do I bring you a cup of coffee as a compliment or just a small bottle of water because of my clumsiness? Should I smile and show my colgate epression or is too much smiling a weird thing? What are the steps to doing amazing in an interview and how do I deal with myself if I do absolutely horrible and want to kill someone after walking out and….failing? These questions need answers! I’m sure you understand.

Spring/Summer is quickly approcahing and too is the time for programs, internships, research, job opps, and for some, sitting at home with the rent’s. All of these things require an interview at this particular “spring” time (even the one where you stay home for the summer: some parents treat you as if you’re working a 11-5 with dishes, laundry, and babysitting the dog-_-). Now is the time to blow dust off that old suit, purchase a new pair of comfy heels, and revise your resume. Now is the time to search for handy aspirations, talk to yourself in the mirror, and fall in love with your not-so-attractive voice. Now is the time to, how do they say it, get serious because this is the only way to redeem yourself of being an overall good student that wants something better for their summer than just sitting around and counting the roses. It’s the time to buckle down, find your confident zin-mode, and tell yourself, “You can do this!” “They’ll love you!”

If you’re like me and hate dressing up for interviews, you may understand my ranting. I had two interviews last week and one this week that I ended up declining. I still have another sometime next month and a phone interview that waits for the day that I’m of course, not prepared. How do you feel about interviews? Are they your long lost enemy, close fried-emy, for long lost love (some are enjoying this)? Do you have more OR less self efficacy when you walk out of the interviewees office. Do you conduct interviews yourself? Are you similar to those who interview you when you’re on the other side of the table? I’d love to know your thoughts! But hey, hang in there, those interviews don’t completely give them all of you like you’d hope for. You are so much more than a few questions surrounded by non-fiction scenarios. You’re way more than just wearing business casual.

*I even wrote a piece about this last week on my blog, scroll down to ‘Business Casual’ to check it out !

Things you didn’t know about March Madness

I found this video on the Wall Street Journal website (http://live.wsj.com/video/five-things-ncaa-basketball-wont-tell-you/8ADB0160-E713-4E2C-96DE-18E38F79FDDB.html#!8ADB0160-E713-4E2C-96DE-18E38F79FDDB) about less commonly known March Madness facts. Some of them really shocked me! Millions of dollars are made in revenue from the tournament, but very few schools every see that revenue. One hundred and thirty four million dollars in worker productivity was lost in the first two days of the tournament alone. Also, players are essentially keeping up with a full time job (39+ hours on the court!), despite NCAA regulations. Because of this, six teams last year only graduated half of their athletes, a large proportion of those being African American players.

I love following the tournament. Brackets provide  fun competition between coworkers and friends. There are always thrilling upsets and close games. But is the cost too much? NCAA basketball is looking more and more like the NBA. If the majority of players aren’t going to end up in the pros, what does this mean for them? What’s your opinion?

(But of course, I can’t talk about March Madness without a “go blue!” Like some of you, I’ll definitely be watching on Friday.)

 

Censorship

These days, I’ve been trying to be more grateful for the things that I have. I’m starting to keep a gratitude journal. Yes, yes, the emotion behind this post may be more appropriate around Thanksgiving time, but do we need a holiday to be thankful?

What am I grateful for today? : The freedom to read whatever I want. And I am sure that there is a still material that is censored but the amount of censorship in this country is negligible to that of others.

Just take a look at this banned book list.  What if you never got the opportunity to read some of these books. Could you imagine never being able to see Holden’s internal struggles in The Catcher in the Rye or going on adventures with Ron, Harry and Hermione?

 According to the article, we may have never met Katniss either. We can probably say that J Law’s career would have been quite different. 

I didn’t intend for this post to be any sort of “position paper”, “editorial piece” or instigate a debate over when and where censorship should be allowed. But, I did want to emphasize that we often our freedom to write and read for granted. As writers (and readers), we come to realize how it’s not even our own writing, but it’s the writing of others that motivates us, shapes us and encourages us to keep writing. I, myself, have been inspired by other authors and we all know that writers are notorious for “stealing” ideas and techniques from other writers.

So, on this Sunday afternoon, I encourage you to think about the source of your writing. Who are you inspired by? Would you still be able to be inspired by their work if there was rampant censorship? Would you work be allowed with censorship?

As writers, we need to accept and understand the world in order to write about it. But (especially in the case of censorship), sometimes the world needs to accept us as well. Be grateful for its acceptance!

Guys, I’m Growing Up

It’s been a weird week. On Tuesday night I flew out to New York to do an interview on Wednesday for a summer internship and then flew back Wednesday night. I was gone for less than 24 hours. The company called Friday morning and extended me an offer, so it looks like I’ll be living in New York this summer.

So why is this weird? A few reasons. First of all, my family does not travel often and U of M is a 45 minute drive from my home, so I’ve traveled places with friends, but I’ve never by myself. I flew into LaGuardia alone. Then I got a cab alone. I sat in the backseat looking out of the windows trying to figure out where the hell I was and praying that we did not get in an accident because I am convinced we must have been on the autobahn (I know all of the East Coast kids are laughing right now).

But to understand why this is so weird, I have to go back three years. It’s the summer before freshman year and I just found out that I cannot attend U of M’s summer orientation with my close group of high school friends. The date that they all picked does not work for me, so I’m going to have to go alone. I freak out. I can’t go to Ann Arbor without Kamille, Dan or Rocky. I’ve only been there a handful of times. Who am I going to talk to? Who am I going to hang out with when we have breaks?

My parents and I frequently joke about this moment. I’ve come a long way since then, obviously. But as I was racing back to LaGuardia to make my returning flight after my interview, I realized I could have never done this three years ago. Or two. Or one. I was afraid to go alone, but I made myself do it. Three years ago, I could barely get myself to go to Ann Arbor alone. This week I voluntarily traveled to New York and back in one day……..and I got a job.

Guys, I’m growing up.

How have you grown since you’ve gotten here? What are you doing that you could have never imagined doing a few years back?

But I want to! A Response to the Internet

The Internet doesn’t want me to go to law school. And with good reason. Debt, long hours, a lack of jobs, no social life, schools lying about LSAT scores… and on and on and on.  Apparently there is nothing redeeming about the experience, and I should just pack up my Political Science undergrad degree and figure out something else to do.

But… but… I want to go to law school!

I’ve been trying to figure out which school to go to for weeks now. Like many before me,  I decided to ask the Internet for blogs about the personal experiences of students who go to the institutions that I am interested in. I can’t find any, but I have found many many articles, blogs, and one horrible website that equates law schools to backed up toilets and provides pictures of said toilets above their descriptions that assure me that this is the biggest mistake of my life. It has been an extraordinarily disheartening two hours. I really want someone to tell me the truth about law school- if going to a more prestigious school will really mean that much in the job market, how they liked classes, if they made friends with fellow students, if professors are at all approachable. But instead, all I have found are endless lists of reasons not to go to law school, and pictures of toilets.

Call me a cockeyed optimist- or just sing the song from South Pacific because everything is better with musicals- but I want to go to law school anyway! I realize that it isn’t going to be like the brochures everyone keeps sending me (especially Michigan State, good lord you guys really know how to compile brochures!) but it can’t possibly be as horrible as the Internet says, right? Right? Please let me be right… What I want right now is not some angry person who hated their experience, or some bright eyed-bushy tailed admissions officer but an average law student who is going to finish out their JD to tell me what their life is like. Maybe I am super delusional and all those average law students are the ones screaming at me to jump ship now before it is too late. But I can’t imagine there isn’t some medium.

A part of me is super scared now that I am making a huge mistake. Unfortunately for the Internet, it isn’t a big enough part of me to give up on my ambitions of becoming a lawyer, because that is what I want to do, not because I want to make money, or because I can’t thing of other things to do with my degree but because it is something I am interested in and think I would be good at. The other part of me knows I’ve been talking about this for five years now, and I’m sure about it. So the Internet can just go bother someone else.

Do you feel a lot of pressure about your career choices because of the economy or whatever? How do you deal with that?

Writing and Basketball

http://gamedayr.com/gamedayr/twitter-fans-react-fgcu-beating-georgetown/

I don’t follow college basketball during the regular season. I’m not a huge basketball fan. I can’t name many players, or recite facts of the top of my head. My dad calls weekly and gives me an update about recent games he has seen. I don’t claim to be an expert. I will, however, tune in when our beloved Wolverines take the court, and maybe even when my hometown favorites—Temple, Nova, and La Salle suit up. But I hardly follow religiously.

However, when March roles around, I invest myself in the Big Dance. I wait eagerly for Selection Sunday. I start paying attention. I read up on teams. I spend time carefully crafting my bracket, think long and hard about which pools to enter, and form fierce loyalties with teams that I’ve never even seen play once.

I used to think that I loved the tournament  because I love the competition. I played sports through high school. I cared more than I should have about my private-school-league playoff games. I still get a little too invested in my Intramural teams at Michigan. I just figured this is why I loved March Madness.

But last night, as I watched Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown in round one, I realized that the reason I love March Madness is for the same reason that I love writing. It’s about the story.  For the seventh time since the tournament began, a number fifteen seed upset a number two seed. And it wasn’t just any number two seed, it was Georgetown, a school that has been branded a basketball powerhouse, and has relied much on that reputation (despite the fact they haven’t made it out of round one in three years).

For most March Madness followers (brackets aside), it was nice to see Georgetown lose. And then there is Florida Gulf Coast, a team you might not have even heard of until yesterday. They university was founded in 1997. They only built their basketball stadium seven years ago. This is there first trip to the tournament. With their win yesterday, they because a perfect Cinderella team. David beat Goliath. Basketball fans can’t help but root for the Eagles—even if it screws over their bracket. That’s what I love about the NCAA tournament. Every year, there is team like Florida Gulf Coast that reminds me of all the important elements of a good story—pathos, suspense, surprise, and excitement. Any other March Madness followers out there?

Hopwood Hysteria

Though it has been a month since I turned in my Hopwood submission, the fateful night still haunts me.

 

The fishbowl is normally crowded from the hours of 11pm and 1am. This is nothing new or out of the ordinary. If I were to make a sweeping generalization, I would say that most college students are at the peak of their productivity during these hours. So I dutifully worked in front of the obnoxiously large, yet entirely luxurious mac monitors. I printed my rough draft, all 25 pages. This is making a dent in my allotted printing pages for the semester. I sit down, and begin marking up the hard copy. Scribbling and crossing out entire paragraphs of what is supposed to be creative non-fiction. Midnight comes and goes and I stay strong. Done with the first edit. Now as I look through the pages, I realize that I must apply the changes. Interpreting my scratch marks and meticulously going through the word document. Looking down at the paper, then back up at the monitor and so on and so forth. I have since determined that while writing a shitty first draft is painful. Revising and applying the marks, is infinitely more painful. I constantly lose my place, delete the wrong sentence and move the paragraph into the wrong section. Each mistake more infuriating than the last. I prevail. First draft is revised and I am looking at the 27 inch screen with my revised work. I know that I am not done and I must go through this cycle once more. 2:28 am. When did that happen.

 

I print the manuscript a second time. 28 pages. This is getting rough. The students around me have thinned. Those that remain have slides of DNA helices displayed on their computer screens, but their heads are resting on their arms that are resting on the keyboards. They should just pack it in. No one will ever retain DNA sequencing after 1 am. I continue with the revising. I have burned through one green inked pen. I pull out my pink pen. Perhaps the color will give me hope, I am optimistic. Perhaps I am delusional. I continue with the revising. My work is decidedly slower. Sleep continues to close my eyelids and rock my head backwards. I must continue on with the editing. 6:47 am. I am done with the 2nd revision. Spellcheck time. It’s now 7:18.  There were many errors.  The Hopwood awards require that you print three copies of your manuscript. I check my margins and spacing and spelling 4 more times. 7:55. I print three copies of my thirty-three page manuscript. Ninety-nine pages. I receive an e-mail alerting me that I have used over half of my allotted printing pages. I send it to the trash. Walking over to the printers I see an older woman with heaps of papers and one of those coffee mugs that you can put pictures inside. There are images of babies in cribs and small children on tricycles. The mug is empty, she too has been here all night. I ask her what she is doing here. “Hopwoods,” she says. Her hands pushing at the sides of the stack of paper. “I thought that I would be able to submit some poetry, but I probably should have started before 1am.” I look at her stacks of paper. Three separate stacks of paper equivalent to mine. “You started tonight?” I ask her. “I had been brooding over this, but more or less. Yeah.” She responds. I stood there for a moment and then she sent a three whole punch through the stack of papers with a resounding thud. I gather my papers and muster a “good luck” to her in passing. She doesn’t look up as she responds “You too.” I hear the thud of the three hole punch as I sit back down in front of the computer.

 

I make my way to the Hopwood Room in Angell Hall. I turn in the manuscript, walk outside, stumble into my apartment, and sleep a deep sleep. I dream of paper cuts and rowdy commas.

Michigan is the Tease of the 50 States

Imagine the U.S. is one of those dysfunctional “families” on ‘The Real World.’ Not that I watch the show, but certain staples of pop culture are so pervasive that it’s impossible not to know exactly what’s going on. It’s like the harder I try not to hum Lady Gaga tunes (and all of the other commercial crap for that matter) the more I do. No matter how fervently I boycott the radio, the latest and greatest saccharine song is playing in clothing stores, restaurants, TV commercials, and cars that pass me by… But thank God it’s not THIS bad.

So, t’was my good fortunate that I never had to waste an hour of my life to learn the dynamic behind this old-timer of the reality TV family – a dynamic that thrives upon convention. In every series, there’s the Bad Boy, the Jock, the Nerd, the Loner….. and the Tease (among many other less notable, overpaid archetypes), and it’s no different with the 50 states… especially when it comes to weather.

A visual always helps. Here’s what I mean….

So why is Michigan “the Tease” of the 50 states? It’s March 22nd and it’s 30 degrees. It’s SPRING and there’s SNOW EVERYWHERE. And this time last year? Basically summertime. Yes, my friends, and you will agree, when it comes to climate control, Michigan has none… it just can’t say no to messing around with our emotions. We want blue skies? Nope – it puts out some kind of rain-sleet combination. So the next day, we cleverly don our jackets, and it ends up all clear by noon. See what I mean? Michigan is a total tease.

But what about the other states? I’ve always been a fan of “The Bad Boy,” and in this case, it’s no different. Hands down, Texas is “The Bad Boy” of the Climate Club. Temperatures reach as high as 110 and beyond during the summer months, but THAT I can handle. What I can’t handle? Pushing April in my knee-high Sorels. Ideally, I’d hop the next flight (or even truck bed full of pigs) to California, “The Jock” of the bunch, where the weather every day wakes up and screams, “GET OUTSIDE AND ENJOY THE SUN!” Year round locals can rollerblade. I don’t even rollerblade, but if I could do it year round, maybe I’d start.

At least I’m not stuck with the twisted “Loner” that is Alaska. Who wants to live in a place that spends half the year in the dark and never breaks 65 degrees? It may be a fun spot to cruise through but as far as long-term, I won’t be picking it for my kick ball team. And “The Nerd?” The lame loser? The weather weirdo? OHIO – who’d you think? Yes, I realize that Ohio and Michigan share similar climates…. but it’s Ohio – it’s always the loser, no matter the subject. Why do you think I made the label the ickiest or icky brown colors?

Now I kinda want to go watch “The Breakfast Club,” and from the looks of the weather forecast, I might as well – it’s not like I’m going to be spending any more time outside than I have to.