So I Guess I’m Done Now?

Welp. I am finally submitting my capstone. Two weeks ago I honestly did not think it would get done in time and now I am finally submitting it! The journey to get to this moment has been pretty wild, and my submission feels weirdly anticlimactic….sorta like this entire graduation weekend to be honest. Part of me is extremely pleased with where I have landed and knows that I have truly done everything I possible can within the realms of the class, and another part of me feel like there is so much more that I could have done. That being said I do plan to continue working on my project this summer, so check back if you’re interested.

In the meantime, welcome to my capstone!!

https://madicox.wixsite.com/remission

Help! I’m Drowning! Also, In Need of Advice on Being Done!

So I have officially come to the conclusion that I bit off way more than I could chew.

Three weeks ago I had my full class workshop. That means that three weeks ago I came to the conclusion that I needed to trash all of the writing that I had completed thus far this semester and start over. More specifically, three weeks ago I set out to write six brand new, not-even-outlined-yet personal essays, each of length of around 1500 words, and each of which was themed around an incredibly personal and complicated and emotional and hard-to-write-about topic.

Yikes.

As might be expected in my situation, I have done literally nothing but my capstone for the past two weeks. My other two classes have been placed at the backburner, and I have never before been so close to missing deadlines on projects and homework. Just last week I walked in to my meteorology class and was surprised to find that we had a project due at the beginning of class that I had never even heard about! Luckily my professor was super understanding and extended my deadline, but STILL! As a person who prides herself for organization and time-management skills, this kind of mental slip was super uncharacteristic!

In addition, I have been in a pretty bad funk for most of the last two weeks (shout-out to my housemates for still loving me even when I stop talking to them for two days or when I project my stress and anxiety the moment I step into the room). Writing for hours on end every day about things like loneliness and anxiety and how they relate to your mom’s cancer remission is really emotionally exhausting!

But it’s fine.

My current status is worse than I was hoping, but acceptable. I have four of six essays mostly completed and only one is completely nonexistent. My original goal had been to finish the project by the last day of classes, but this weekend I came to terms with finishing by the showcase Thursday instead.

I am currently struggling to keep my perfectionist tendencies at bay. I think that this is partly because I care so much about getting my topic “right.” I just don’t want to hurt anyone or misstate something. But, I really need to wrap up my essays. The project’s landing page is a vital aspect of the final project on which I have not yet spent ample time. I am planning to complete my essays by Tuesday so that I can spend all of Wednesday on the site, but in order to do so, I need to start accepting that my finished product will be less than perfect. This currently feels impossible.

In the past when I have written about my family members or my boyfriend (all of whom are featured in my Capstone), I have been able to move past my perfectionist tendencies. Usually when I look back at the final product weeks later, it is better than I thought at the time. But now, I am struggling.

Any suggestions on how to “be done” and to have faith in the process would be much appreciated!

Gossip:

We have all contributed or at least passively listened to it at some point in our lives. For most of us it has probably been accompanied by an initial feeling of mean satisfaction. Later perhaps, a more guilty, icky feeling arrives. That is what happens to me at least.

I am writing about my family in my Capstone. More specifically, I am going to be using the personal essay as a medium to write about my journey (which is closely tied to my family’s journey) through my mom’s cancer remission. I am positing my work as a tell-all “things I wish I had known, because remission does not equate to a return to normality even though that is what I was led to believe.” I will be writing on several overarching effects of having a parent with cancer that I have worked such as depression, anxiety, and the responsibility and resulting pressure of becoming a parent figure to my younger sister.

While some of these topics include mere mentions of my family members, painting them as background characters to my own struggles and/or triumphs, others will require deep analysis of the dynamics between each of my family members. And since one of my primary goals for my Capstone is to keep everything brutally honest and devoid of sugarcoating, some of that analysis will probably seem harsh. I worry that my honesty in “writing about my family” will feel more like “gossiping about my family.” Because while I will not be telling lies, I worry that I will feel guilty afterwards. I worry that my honesty of the past few years of my family life will overshadow the beauty and love of my family life in the years leading to my mom’s cancer diagnosis. I worry that my family members, should they ever read what I plan to write, will be hurt. I am so worried that I have not even told my family what I am writing about.

I have not been able to start writing either. Every time that I lay my pencil point upon a blank page in my notebook, readying my wrist for the inevitable ache from the proliferation of my ideas and thoughts, I am overcome by a panicky fear that my work will be hurtful to those I love most.

Last Friday I met with my mentor Nick Harp who coached me through several personal essays when I took his English325 class. I brought my concern to his attention and he asked me if I had struggled with this guilt in my other personal essays. I realized that I had indeed struggled when I wrote about my experience with love as defined by my long distance relationship. I vividly remember wanting to talk about the passive fights and the conflicts that were driving our relationship apart at the time. In the drafts I made attempts to do just that. But in the final essay, out of concern that I would be “too harsh” and “too hurtful” I omitted the “ugly” details of our relationship. I did not realize it at the time, but when I look back at the essay, something about my omission rings false. Perhaps it is because I know something is missing. Or perhaps it is because I now sense that my writing leading up to the “ugly” parts of the story more than imparts my love to readers, and I therefore could have included the “ugly” parts without seeming hurtful. When I am writing, perhaps I have been confusing hurtful and truthful.

I do not want my Capstone to be a repeat of history in that I look back one day and regret not going into more “ugly” details. I am not sure how exactly to go about doing that, but I am going to try to stop feeling guilty about my honesty. If anyone has any suggestions on how to do so, let me know! In the meantime, I will be sure to share if I come to a cure to my writers’ guilt.

Mediating Between What I Think I Want and What Makes My Soul Sing

Capstone has completely and utterly taken over all of my brain space.

 

The past few weeks I have existed in a constant state of wracking my brain for topics that would maybe quench my brain’s writing needs for an entire semester. Several plausible topics have felt promising at their birth. Some have even been excitedly posed to my mom on our weekly phone call. And yet, none have survived.

 

“What about the four topics in your Pre-Proposal??” you are probably asking.

 

The short answer is that none of them feel right – none of them have sparked my writer’s insomnia, stubbornly keeping my eyes open past my 11pm bedtime, directing them towards the possible orderings of chunks of ideas or the streaks of words against the dark nothingness of my bedroom ceiling.

 

The long answer is that all of my ideas are too safe.

 

Before delving more thoroughly into my current struggle with veering on the safe side, full disclaimer: this is not a new problem for me. A year ago, I took English325 which, for those who have not had the chance to take it, involves learning the art of writing personal essays. A central theme of the class is using an experience or a central characteristic of yourself to bestow a greater truth upon your readers. Slight tidbit about me: I genuinely love the world that I live in. Walking between classes, I am often gazing up and smiling, responding to an upwelling of appreciation for the delicate and ever changing patches of sky uniquely traced by tree branches. My heart feels overjoyed when condensed water droplets vertically hit my face, or when rays of warm radiation sink deep into my pores. The other day I almost cried because I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the natural world and of my own journey within it.

 

Knowing this about myself, I had always assumed and wanted to write about my love for the world. And yet, each time I tried to do so, I found myself enticed by a different topic, one that was darker and more emotionally difficult because it just felt right. Even when I wrote about Love and initially framed it as a surreal and too good to be true experience, I twisted it by focusing on the heartache that accompanied my long distance relationship.

 

Now, I find myself again at a crossroads. I must decide to go dark and twisty, or be happy with one of my topics from the pre-proposal. While none of the four are easy and bright per say, they do lack the “pulling at my heartstrings, will cause emotional distress while writing about it, but will probably lead to some enlightening moment for me” vibe. In addition, they veer away from focusing on personal reflections and experiences, and are rooted instead in research of the topic. Although I do think that my best writing comes from using personal experiences to portray some greater truth, a large part of me is nervous to make my Capstone so…me-centric.

 

But perhaps personal stories and reflections of dark experiences is the focus that I need for a writing piece to make my soul sing. Perhaps that is my “creative DNA.”

 

I do have a very unformed possible topic if I do cave and go along with my maybe creative DNA, but I am wondering, has anyone else felt the same inner conflict between what you think you want and what you know you want? Specifically, has anyone felt nervous about being too personal, or too dark?

Challenge Journal – Rituals and the Importance of Lead and Dread

I love to write. Or, maybe what I like is actually a side effect of writing, the feeling that I am molding a tangible representation of the otherwise indecipherable thoughts whirling my head at top speeds. The strange awareness of my brain churning through different combinations of words and strands of thoughts leaving nothing but words on a page that sounding like molasses dripping from the bottle on a hot summer day. Just as the blades of a wind turbine cut through the air, extracting energy to power the world as we know it, my brain extracts an end product capable of inspiring mental images and the entire array of human emotion. In short, this feeling is the feeling that I am creating something really really good.

The key takeaway from the above paragraph is that the sensation arrives when I am creating something good. Something really really good. So, how do I get “into the zone” so that I can accomplish something sufficiently good?

The location is not important to me.

Nor is a banquet of snacks, or a specific beverage or selection of music.

I can work in the deadly silence of the Law Library, or the bustling loud of Espresso Royale.

I and my atmospheric writing needs are versatile.

What is not flexible, however, is my first step. I need to handwrite some amount of my piece.

Perhaps I am intimidated by the vast whiteness of Word’s template document, or perhaps it is the expectant pulsing cursor which becomes more and more insistent with each passing second that I do not write. Regardless, I find that I cannot find inspiration until I have physically handwritten exploratory thoughts and ideas regarding a piece.

Although I know this about myself, I still struggle at the beginning of each major writing assignment to commence my ritual of smearing pencil lead upon a blank sheet of paper. I am not sure if it is simply the dread of starting, or the concern that my ritual will fail me and that I will not create anything of worth.

This semester, I hope to take steps to overcome this struggle of mine. I love to write. And I need to remember that before spending hours dreading the start of my ritual.

Does anyone else struggle with a similar initial dread? How do you medicate this shortfall? Or do you think it is merely part of the process?

Welcome to Me

My projects from this semester definitely encompass who I am and why. Which is why I am so excited to invite you all to the home to my projects and more: my eportfolio! Throughout its creation, I definitely had a love-hate relationship with it, but I can say now that I am truly happy with its turn-out. I feel like it displays my work from the Gateway well and that it gives some insight into who I am. I have included the link for your viewage. Enjoy 🙂

http://madicox.wix.com/eporfolio

Let Yourself Fall in Love

Being accepted into the Minor in Writing program was probably one of the highlights of my first semester this year. I was so excited because I had always loved to write, but since I am a math major, writing had become uncomfortably infrequent. And although I loved my major, it was taking away another one of my loves.

That being said, from the very first day, the gateway class truly defied my already very high pre-expectations. I can say very confidently that it has changed my identity as a writer and has been one of the best opportunities that I have received from UM thus far.

So don’t waste it.

The gateway class is one of those classes that you can easily get behind on assignments or projects (since you as a student decide upon a schedule for each of your projects). And when that happens, it would be very easy to absolutely hate the class. Because you will have to stay up all night right before a deadline, and you will not be able to actually enjoy the process that is creating a project without boundaries that is 100% you.

Don’t be afraid to explore and to stretch yourself.

No matter how much writing experience you have had prior to this class, and no matter how “good” of a writer you consider yourself to be, don’t let that make you stick to what has always worked for you in the past. Because this class is not about the final grade. It is about learning about yourself and your identity as a writer. And if you let it, it can teach you about yourself as a whole.

Stay true to yourself.

Especially for the “Why I Write” project, do not BS it. It will completely detract from your experience in the class, and (from personal experience) will make it difficult later on when you decide that you do in fact want to delve into yourself, and you will in fact need to completely scrap your current, less-than-honest essay.

Enjoy yourself.

This class and this experience can form an incredible community for you at UM. Participate endlessly in class discussions, volunteer for a workshop day, and get to know your classmates on a level deeper than “ah! so much homework! school sucks!” What makes this experience so special is that everyone in your gateway class wants to be sitting in your classroom just as much as you do. That alone can foster an incredible learning experience that would be difficult to beat in any other UM class.

Good luck! I hope you enjoy this class as much as I have this past semester!

Progress? It’s real?

Usually at this point in a project for this class, I am having an extremely difficult time because I either hate the current state of my project, or I feel like I need to seriously reconsider my idea at its core.

However, I am happy to say that this time around, I do not hate my project, and I do not feel the need to change it. I have also actually made a decent amount of progress. For the content of project III, I stuck with my original plan of using the unused research and interviews from my project II (as well as some new ones that I have since conducted). I have created a website and have decided on the basic layout, and I am currently working to complete incorporating my information. I still have a good amount of work to do (like incorporating some intro/framing writing as well as working to include my own answers to the interview questions), but I am not panicking.

And that feels good. And concerningly unfamiliar.

Overall, I am sad that the class as a whole is finishing because I will miss it, but I am very excited to see how my project turns out and – of course – to start my summer break.

Quiet Please

I stared at my computer screen, willing an answer to come to me. What is my pet peeve? What is it that really tics me?? I knew that that special something had to exist, but for some reason, I was coming up with absolutely nothing.

Then, the beeping started. The loud, obnoxious, impossible-to-ignore, repeating noise. The one that I have lived with from 6am to sometimes 10pm every day since the day I moved into East Quad for the fall 2015 semester. The one that I can hear especially well due to my location directly across the street from it. The one that is identified and begrudged by most East Quad residents. The sound effects from the construction of the new addition to the Ross School of Business.

For the past few months, I would have to say that Ross has become my pet peeve. From the times that I have found myself focused and excitedly approaching a breakthrough to a difficult math proof or an essay, or even those when I have found myself able to go to bed at a decent time, I have been greeted with construction noises – whistles, beeps, machinery, banging, clanging. All with no pause, no relief, no quiet.

Reflecting upon my dislike of the construction noise, I suppose it is not surprising that it is a noise that has become my greatest pet peeve this year. I have always been one to appreciate quiet. When I was a kid, intently reading Nancy Drew or Harry Potter, I would always rudely shush any member of my family who happened to walk into the room; much less dare to actually say something. In fact, it has become a bit of a joke in my family that I cannot stand the sound of unwanted noise. I cannot pinpoint the origin of this pet peeve of mine, but it is part of me. And because of that, I suppose I should embrace it by working with it rather than fighting it.

So please excuse me while I shut my window in hopes of blocking out some of the obnoxious construction noise.

To Spirit Animal or Not To Spirit Animal

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As I trudged up the dorm stairs, I heard the voices of my friends. I excitedly picked up my pace, wanting to join in on the conversation. As I approached them, I heard one of my friends – probably one of the most outgoing – declare confidently the spirit animal of one of my other friends. I do not remember the specific assignment, but I remember being excited because if it had been so easy for her to assign the spirit animal of my other friend, then she should be able to assign mine as well. I joined into the conversation and asked my outgoing friend what she thought my spirit animal would be. She and my other friends who were gathered in a circle exchanged thoughtful glances. Which quickly turned into confused expressions. After a few seconds Addi turned to me and proclaimed that she did not know what I was. She said “maybe” a gazelle, but even that was “not quite right.”

At the time I was disappointed at the turn-out because I wanted a designation, an assignment. However, in retrospect, I think that the inability to assign me was perhaps for the best. It speaks to my personality and to the diversity of my being. I cannot be pinned down. I cannot be assigned. If anything, I should be grateful because it that I have the freedom to exude whichever side of me I please.