Graduation weekend in Boston

It’s… OVER.

I can’t even believe I’m writing this, by my two-year adventure has come to an end. All those endless hours of research, that feeling that I would never finish some paper or survive some crazy exam… it’s done. AND I SURVIVED!

So I had a fabulous weekend with my parents, grandmother, and uncle touring around Boston before graduation on Sunday. We made it to Quincy Market and the Freedom Trail, ate at America’s oldest restaurant, and window-shopped on Newbury Street. Our feet sure hurt, but it was worth it!

Getting photobombed outside Quincy Market
Inside Quincy Market
Sam Adams, fine brewerThe family at Union Oyster House
Seafood at the Union Oyster House
Not Paul Revere
Rob and Chrissy at the Boston Common
Boston Marathon memorial in Copley

And then it was actually graduation.

I’ve been staring at those robes in my closet all week, and all I could think about was how stupid they looked and how crazy those sleeves were. (Come on, you know it’s true.) But putting them on actually felt pretty amazing. I’ve never worked as hard for anything in my life as I have for this degree. I gave up sleep, and money, and sometimes food, and made myself ill juggling papers and multiple jobs and internships. And in the end, it still feels unfinished, but I guess that’s the way it is.

Francie, Chrissy, and Rob before the diploma ceremony
Erin, Chrissy, and Sonja
Sandy, Chrissy, and ThomDiploma!
6/8 of a cohort

I could not have made it through without all of the wonderful people in these photos. Thanks for hanging out with me through library parties and fielding the sobbing phone calls when I had a little too much coffee to stay sane. We did it!

(Just don’t ask me what’s next.)

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What a weekend.

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(One Last?) Trip to Garmisch

These days we’re never sure how much longer Mom and Dad are going to be in Germany, so we decided to make the most of two weeks with the family at home and do a little traveling. The Garmisch-Partenkirchen area has been one of our favorite getaways for years–and the trip is well worth it just for the cordon bleu and pommes frites at the Frauendorfer alone!

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A weekend on Martha’s Vineyard

Last weekend I took a break from writing papers to spend a couple of days on Martha’s Vineyard with some new friends. (Escaping the city to the Vineyard for the weekend… now I feel like a true Bostonian!)

It was a little too cold to swim, but we at least got to dip our toes in the sand and eat plenty of yummy seafood. I felt like a little kid on the ferry, but it was so much fun to be on a boat again! I’m definitely going to have to find a way to spend more time on the water this summer.

As of Monday morning, it’s back to paper-writing for a few more days, but I’m nearly there! One more to go, and then the summer adventures begin…

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Essentials for a weekend of paper-writing

Boy, this blog has really fallen by the wayside this year. Grad school was a rough adjustment, but two semesters in (almost!) I feel like I’m finally starting to get a handle on balancing classes and having a life, so I’m slowly adding things back in… like Instagram! A concert! Interests outside of art! I’ve even heard tell that there will be a day when I will once again read things just for fun. I had forgotten about these things…

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What I learned during my first semester of grad school

Dear Self,

It’s been a rough couple of months, but you’re almost there! Just one more exam and you’ll be good to go, free to enjoy a whole month of family, friends, wholesome food, and just-for-fun reading.

I know you’re worried about your grades, but they’re probably going to be fine. Realistic worst-case scenario, maybe you’ll get a warning to do better next semester, and you’re already going to do that, right? (Less realistic worst-case scenario: You might get kicked out! Wouldn’t that be kind of AWESOME?! Then you could forget all about grad school and do something else like you’ve been fantasizing about all through finals!)

Whatever happens, you’ve learned some pretty important lessons this semester. These are things you won’t want to forget next time around. So here it is, advice from 2011-me to 2012-you, and here’s hoping it helps you become a slightly less anxious student and a much happier person.

1. Work during the day, chill out in the evening, sleep at night. Dad always said you had to treat grad school like having a job, and what do you know, he was right! (Like he usually is… damn it…) If you just get on a schedule and stick to it (no cheating and watching TV during the day!) you’ll find it a lot easier to stay on top of everything without all that last-minute panic and stress.

2. Write a little bit every day. Just like #1, writing those research papers is all about pacing yourself and sticking to a schedule. (Speaking of which, see corollary 2b: Add a rough draft step two weeks before your deadline; and 2c: Leave a full day at the end to fix citations.) Remember what you felt like after writing 70 pages in five days? It wasn’t pretty. There were panic attacks, and possibly borderline moments of actual insanity. Let’s not do that again, Self.

3. Exercise. You won’t even believe how much better you’ll feel next semester if you carve out one hour for the gym every night instead of watching TV or messing around on Facebook. There were a couple of weeks you were pretty good at that this semester, and it was by far the best you ever felt. (Anxiety? What anxiety? Trouble concentrating? What’s that? Seriously, get your ass to the gym — it’s the one-stop solution to all of your problems.)

4. Eat real food. Man cannot live on coffee and take-out alone. Neither can woman.

5. Go check out that church. Yeah, yeah, you never thought you were the church-going type, but this one looks really great, and let’s face it –– you could really use some personal guidance (not to mention a community!) right about now. With every passing year, you recognize more and more ways that pride and laziness have gotten in the way of good things in your life. So get over both of them and go.

6. Don’t let yourself think about the future after 8 p.m. Seriously, you will only freak yourself out. You know you’re not really going to drop the program, so why get yourself all worked up about it? You will graduate, you will get a job, you will pay off those loans, you will be fine, and what’s more, you know all of this whenever you think about it during the day! Stop thinking about it at night.

7. Go to things. Meet people. Talk to them. You’ll always be tired and you’ll always be busy. And if you keep making those excuses, you will also always be alone. Even Amazon Prime can’t deliver a social life to your front door in two days, you know.

8. Remember that you’re an optimist. Sometimes when things get really hard, you forget this for a few minutes. Stop doing that! You’ve made it through far worse situations than anything grad school can throw at you and still managed to hang on to your positive attitude and sense of humor. In fact, when you’re in your right mind, that’s one of your favorite things about yourself. Don’t let school change that.

9. Seek out inspiration. This field is so much bigger than that one thing you’re studying right now that you really hate. Don’t let school-related stress taint your love for the whole field. Go out and do something fun once in awhile and remember why you wanted to do this in the first place!

10. Give that $5 in your wallet to the homeless guy who asks. Because why not? (And let’s face it, if you don’t, you’ll spend the rest of the day wishing you had.)

Best wishes in 2012,

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In the house, on the town

It hasn’t been a very exciting week. I got a TB skin test for school, and yesterday my landlady came over, walked through the house, and criticized my placement of dish towels. (She’s nice, but I think sometimes she forgets she doesn’t live here.) Then I cut the grass, and accidentally put out the recycling on the wrong night. Nothing like being the dumb new neighbor who has to sneak out and roll the bins back after dark…

The highlight of the week was probably getting my library card. I’m sure that doesn’t sound like that big a deal, but it’s been a year since I’ve had access to a decent English-language library, so finding a whole building of FREE BOOKS nearby felt sort of like stumbling across pirate gold.

I stayed up all night finishing Game Change, the first book I checked out — needless to say, it was a great read. I really couldn’t put it down! I have mixed feelings about the authors’ decision not to attribute quotes and information to specific sources, though — on the one hand, it definitely made the book more readable, and I’m sure it encouraged their interviewees to speak more candidly. But it still makes my inner historian cringe a little bit. I have to question whether they’re really presenting an accurate picture of everything that happened, or just a compelling narrative we’d all like to believe. (Then again, most of the details just confirmed things I already knew, so I’m inclined to believe it’s fairly accurate.)

I hope The Age of Wonder will be anywhere nearly as exciting, but since it’s about 200-year-old scientific discoveries, I’m guessing it probably won’t be quite so much the page-turner.

After my stop at the library, I spent that afternoon sitting at Starbucks and writing. (Well, writing and eavesdropping. The woman next to me was an indie film producer dishing to a friend about casting meetings she’d been taking with a couple of actors whose names I recognized — kinda cool.) I’ve actually been able to get a lot of writing done this week — one thing that’s great about having nothing else to do! There’s a story that’s been sitting in my brain for a couple of weeks, and I finally got it all plotted out and started working on scenes again.

Frankly, I don’t even really care of what comes of it — it just feels so good to be creatively productive again!

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