When do I do my best?

I used to think I worked the best under pressure, like in the last two hours before a project was due (haha look at me right now), but realistically I was only preparing myself for an early heart attack from stress.

When I look back at the projects I am most proud of, from writing to art projects to even big gifts I prepared for someone I love, the common denominator is the anticipation of the end result. Funny, how my best work isn’t focused on the process, but rather how it could turn out.

Metaphorically, I place the end result of a project up on a pedestal, looking up at it dreamily while I work on its rough draft. Whenever I improve a piece of the rough draft that mimics what is up on the pedestal, I feel satisfied and encouraged to keep working. Pretty nerdy, right.

I can be threatened to produce good work with a “This is 30% of your final grade” hovering above my head, and I can be inspired as well. But under circumstances of my own anticipation and excitement, I think I feel the most relaxed producing the work, and thus create the best work.

The story, not the history, as relatable

“Is there a written art that is the furthest away from you and both the most meaningful to you?”

It took me a while to think of a written medium that fits into this category, of something relative to me yet so incredibly different than who I am right now. So I brainstormed what the different written forms I consume, from songs to books to texts. I thought of all the assigned reading I had to do for all of my classes this semester, and while I wasn’t a fan of reading history from judgmental white dudes (like Le Corbusier on architecture, ugh), I really enjoy reading about history.

To clarify, not just history, but the cultures, habits, struggles, and achievements of civilizations throughout the age of existence. Technically, nothing can be further away from me (chronologically) than learning about why cave art drawings were made during the Paleolithic era.

The fact that we enjoy learning about the people in history is a little sweet to me. We were doing relatable things back in 12,000 BCE. It gives me hope that humans will always find something in common, since, if we can relate to cultures from way back when, we can relate to the diverse cultures around the world today.  Whether its having the same favorite song or drawing the same cave painting of a bison, we all like to express ourselves. An endearing thought, isn’t it?

We all have access to history, but how do we know if it’s a proper retelling? If it’s good quality writing? Or is history even relatable?

In my opinion, learning about battle strategy from the War of 1812 isn’t relatable, but reading a personal account from a nurse at a military camp or from a soldier on the British side could be much more relatable. Its the difference between black -and-white factual writing and colorful writing.

Scary emotions, but look!

Why do we live in a society that encourages us to push down and ignore how we feel ? Darn it there’s nothing wrong with emotions! SURPRISE! We all have them! 

How are you feeling right now? Like RIGHT NOW. Probably a little overwhelmed by my all-caps screaming, huh? Maybe anxious that I am asking you to look inside and analyze what you are feeling. It’s a big and scary word, emotions.

Disclaimer: I first wrote this blog post when I was feeling very confrontational. I suggest not reading if you feel like I am yelling at you. However, this blog post does relate to my topic, so keep reading!

While researching for my second experiment, I had to talk to some friends of mine to get their opinion/test their knowledge on my topic. Talking to them revealed that I too was reluctant to interpret my emotions, especially in response to architecture. I realized I would openly recognize the spaces I love to be in, so in other words, I acknowledge my positive emotions. However, except for the MLB, which I openly despise, I hypocritically don’t stop and think about how a space is affecting me. If I can’t even do it, how can I expect others to do it as well?

Home

Being back to Turin (Italy), the city where I grew up and lived most of my life, is a nice feeling. It’s lovely seeing my parents, my siblings and my friends after many months. Sometimes I wished I lived a little bit closer, so I could go come back to Turin more often. I don’t really get homesick, but sometimes during the school year I cannot wait to be back here. But then when I start hearing the same old conversations and arguments, I want to be back to the States.

As I’m approaching graduation, my heart feels divided. When you live in two countries, sometimes you end up not knowing where home is anymore. Now that I’m here, I wonder is Turin is still my home. I love this country, I love Turin, but I don’t know if I want to come back here after graduation. I’ve been enjoying my life in the States so far, and I don’t feel like I’m ready to go back to Italy yet. While driving around Turin, I look around and I ask myself if this is the place I want to be. I think my heart is saying not now. Maybe in the future it will be again, because I do see myself coming back to Italy later in my life.

For some reasons, not knowing where my home is anymore makes me feel like a tree that is losing some of its roots. I don’t feel fully at home in Turin anymore, and I don’t feel fully at home in the States yet. This is an uncomfortable feeling sometimes, but perhaps I must lose some roots to let new ones grow. But this time I feel like they’re not growing in a particular place, they’re growing inside of me. Perhaps home is not a place, it’s more a feeling I cultivate inside. Home is rooting in my own self and feel like I belong wherever I go. There’s no place I cannot call home as long as I have myself.

This is my last post of the semester. I hope everyone is feeling at home, no matter where they are.

Cheers from Italy.

P.S.: When you come to Italy, make sure that on top of seeing Rome, Florence and Venice, you’re making a quick trip to Turin. It’s worthwhile, I promise.

Looking ahead

If I could only mention one thing that this class has taught me it would be to give myself permission to write (thank you, Ray). It might sound banal, but this is something I needed to learn because I’ve always believed that if I wasn’t an expert in something I was not supposed to write anything. I’ve always thought I was writing for the last word, whereas now I know I’m writing to participate and add something valuable, even if I’m not an expert.

This is something I’m taking with me, in my writing as well as in my life. Sometimes I’ll stay silent not because I’ve nothing to say, but because I also believe I need to be an expert. I don’t give myself permission to have a voice. But this project has given me the confidence to talk about my passions, even if I might not know everything. So this will be my New Year’s resolution: give myself permission to have a voice.

I think one of the first steps I need to take is writing more and writing differently. Even though I write frequently on my journal, I want to do more. I need to take the journal with me and write more spontaneously. Usually I’ll wait until I have some free time to write, but sometimes that doesn’t happen for a few days. I want to change that. I want to write when I’m on the bus or when I’m waiting on someone. I also want to write using different modes. I always write in a letter format, Dear Oriana (name of my journal)…. I want to change that. I want to start writing poems again, stories or writing even only a thought that passed through my mind. I want to add images and drawings and give my journal more life.

Another step I need to take is reading more, because it will allow me to learn from other people how they give themselves permission to have a voice. I always do a reading challenge every year and this 2019 I had the goal of reading 20 books. I’m at 14 right now and I don’t think I’ll be able to finish the book I’m reading plus reading 5 books in the time remaining. I want to get to that 20 next year. I know, I can talk myself out of it very easily (I don’t have time) but then my phone report tells me every week that I spend on average 2h on my phone every day, so if I cut down on that damn iPhone a little bit I’ll be able to it. I also want to read different genres of books, because I usually read books about psychology/spirituality and not a lot of other stuff.

Baby Steps

This semester in Writing 220, we as a class have gone through a lot of similar journeys. We all created our three experiments and projects, searched for the right topic, genre, and figured out how to best approach and tackle each component. Each person’s decisions may have been slightly different, but the process was generally quite similar.

However, one journey I am reasonably confident was distinctly my own was the process of recovering from my knee surgery. For about the first month and a half, my knee was wrapped tight in my brace, and I had to use crutches to go anywhere. In fact, for the first week I was still fresh off surgery and couldn’t even live on campus. I stayed at home, and was only able to go to classes because I live pretty close to campus, and my dear mother was nice enough to drive me to and from my classes. After I was finally able to move in, some parts were better, but there were still plenty of challenges.

This was far from my first time on crutches; I sprained each ankle playing soccer in 9th and 10th grade (one at a time), and in 8th grade I broke my left one skiing. Recovery for each of these required at least some time non-weight-bearing, so I have spent plenty of time crutching around so far in my life. This injury, however, was substantially worse than any of my previous ones (I tore my meniscus and lcl), and I had to keep my leg locked straight in the brace early on, which added its own difficulties.

This was the first time I was on crutches while living alone, and I was also more limited in the recovery than I had experienced before. Things that are so minor, like getting up to go to the bathroom at night, or taking a shower, were much more difficult. I had to carry a chair into the shower to sit on, because it was both dangerous and difficult to shower without it. When shaving, I had to stand on one leg, which would quickly become tired. As I’ve mentioned in class, I’m not much for cooking myself and have relied heavily on the dining hall—except when I was NWB on crutches, I needed both hands to move anywhere. This meant that I couldn’t carry my own plates, and thus always had to coordinate trips to the dining hall with a willing friend, so that I could have them carry my plates for me. I was late to a fair amount of classes, and until I started walking again my underarms were constantly irritated from the rubbing of the crutches.

I don’t mean to sound whiny about this journey—there were challenges, yes, but overall, it was a very humbling and gratifying experience. It’s amazing how much we take for granted on a daily basis. I constantly thought of how difficult it would be to be wheelchair-bound, and developed an immense appreciation for those that go through physical challenges on a daily basis. Plus, for me it was only for a specific period of time that always had a light at the end of the tunnel—I have infinite more respect and admiration for those who have permanent conditions and overcome these sorts of obstacles on a daily basis.

I also think this time allowed me to grow as a person, too. I was able to focus a bit more on school, and I needed every bit of my newfound “free” time and more, as I took 17 credits this semester—including an ULWR, three upper level PoliSci classes, and the last class in my other minor, Latin 409. I also had to embrace a slow but steady grind for the recovery, and have gone to physical therapy twice a week, for about two hours each, something is still going on presently and will continue until I leave for Amsterdam in late January.

I had to constantly try to make miniscule improvements in mobility and strength. It was very reassuring when I was able to see consistent progress in gaining muscle back in my noodly left leg and in  regaining full range of motion, especially early on. However, after I was able to walk for a few weeks and , I appeared generally normal outwardly. This part was much more difficult in the recovery because while I still went to PT and everything, signs of improvement became much less obvious. I still haven’t even started jogging yet, and probably won’t be able to resume sports for a few more months.

On the whole, I am actually grateful for the experience of the injury, if not the injury itself. I did not like many aspects of the recovery process, and I missed out on a lot of things. But I was also able to realize many of the things that are most important to me through this journey, and have a newfound appreciation for many of the smaller things that were challenging with one functional leg. One of my professors even said to me on the last day of class (paraphrasing), “I’ve never seen such growth from a student over the course of the semester before—you literally came into my class not being able to straighten your leg, let alone walk, and now I could not distinguish your walking abilities from any other student’s!” Here’s to a smooth rest of the recovery process, and although I was serious about being grateful for the experience, I do hope I will be able to resume full physical activity so that I can enjoy all the fun activities Europe has to offer next semester.

What does it take to be most efficient, productive, or effective?

There are a lot of factors that play into my productivity and level of performance on a given day. Of course, as I’ve grown older and experienced the pain of many all-nighters, I’ve come to better understand the importance of sleep. It was always something that my parents and the internet told me was vital to productivity, but I mostly brushed that off because I knew that when push comes to shove I could pull off marathon grinds to finish my work. But as my schoolwork requires more consistent diligence, I increasingly realize just how much better I feel and how much more productive I am when I am well-rested.

Having better nutrition habits is one of the bigger changes I’ve made this year, and after eating much more consciously this semester, I believe it has paid dividends. This is especially true when I have to write papers, which is frequently, and usually occurs in longer sittings where the heavy feeling I get after eating unhealthy food often makes me tired. Staying hydrated is crucial to preventing headaches, and the wonderful drug that is coffee helps keep energy levels up.

Also, I find that when I take care of even smaller things that might seem trivial, like making my bed, remembering to shave, and making time to get at least some sort of exercise in, especially in the middle of a hellacious grind, these little acts make me feel much better than I used to think. And as Deion Sanders so eloquently said, “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.”

Furthermore, the more I am interested in the work I am doing, the more likely I am to become fully invested in it, and the less I will lose focus on the task at hand. In truth, though, nothing quite gets me going like a deadline. My fear of failure is substantial, and it accelerates the work process. However, I would add a caveat to this, as sometimes having the freedom to fail allows me to be more creative and attempt new things, which makes me much more likely to produce my best work.

In short, a healthy combination of all of the above create conditions in which I have found allow me to be most productive, efficient, and effective.

Censoring The Government

In recent news, and as I’m sure everyone is aware of, the House passed two articles of impeachment last night, one for abusing the power president and the other for obstruction of the congressional investigation of his actions. This is only the third time a president has ever been formally impeached, and the first time it has been done in any president’s first term. No one really expects Trump to get convicted by the Republican-led Senate, which would require a ⅔ majority to convict, but this is nonetheless quite captivating.

However, as interesting as this all is, I will admit that I got a bit caught up in following the vote last night, which resulted in me being off task for a few hours. After all, I am a poli sci major. Nevertheless, I still have several papers left to turn in before school’s out, and this time is already dearly missed. It’s hard to block out something so historically significant to keep working on papers that are decidedly less so, but censoring the happenings of our crazy government is the task I am faced with until the end of the day Friday. Also, I had to delete twitter because there is a lot of quality content on there which is also very distracting 🙁

Jen Proctor is cooler than you (and me)

Jennifer Proctor is not your typical filmmaker. For starters, she greatly enjoys horror films and thrillers because of how they commonly end with a female hero, usually as the last one alive. I’ve never come within five feet of a horror film, but after hearing her point out that horror films are oddly feminist (?), I may have to watch one. 

What makes Jennifer Proctor a unique filmmaker is how she doesn’t film any of the footage herself. So how can she call herself a filmmaker? While listening to Jennifer talk about Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can’t Fix, an interesting movie where she studies how the film industry represents women in bathtubs on film, I realized Jennifer is an investigative filmmaker. She seems almost like a detective, compiling various footage from multiple films to make her own movie. Jennifer called this process “confound footage” during her Writer to Writer talk at Literati Bookstore. 

In other words, Jennifer produces movies about movies. It’s quite an interesting process, to be honest. Her process reminds me of meta-cognition — thinking about thinking — but we’ll instead call her process meta-producing, or making films about films. And there we go again, getting philosophical and all. 

But that is exactly what Jennifer does. She is basically doing a thematic literary analysis on the entire film industry in her movies, uncovering hidden meanings in the angle of a certain shot, the clothes of a certain character, or the actions of an actor. She divulged during the interview that producing her movies is also an emotionally taxing process, since she is uncovering biases and patronizing acts. 

One thing Jennifer mentioned during the Writer to Writer event, was how she sometimes doesn’t even know what the movie will be about when she begins researching. She begins by watching a lot of movies, and I mean a lot, which sounds like a great job to me. However, while watching these movies, Jennifer never really knows what she is necessarily looking for. She related this process to trying to put together a puzzle without a picture.

That statement of hers, the one about the puzzle without a picture, reminded me of the process of our three experiments in the gateway course. When we all first started the course, I, if not all of us, was tiptoeing around my chosen topic, wondering if it would go anywhere. When starting my research, I knew I had some guidelines on what I was looking for, but was A) still not that confident in my ability to reach an audience, and B) was dabbling in a genre and medium of art that I had no prior experience in, and was in a bit over my head. However, after that first experiment, I had gotten my mojo, and now, looking at the podcasts I produced, I can see why Jennifer takes the plunge into researching the unknown.

I don’t know why this image is sideways, but its a photo I took at the Writer to Writer event as I stood awkwardly in the back.