Final-ly (blog for 407T)

Well, I’m done! For the summer, for the semester. Until August, I’m done with school!

Not really, but the thought’s a nice one.

I don’t have to go to school for grades, now, though. And that’s where I get giddy. I can be self-motivated and study and learn because now I have the materials and the tools. I can learn things because I want to learn them and because they make me happy.

I guess I won’t comment in depth about how much I’ve changed. I’m really glad I made a new blog, a new chapter, for this part of my life, because you can see from the very, very beginning of my summer (last summer) how different things have gotten. I feel like my mind’s been stretched and warped in so many new and interesting ways– not all of them good, but then again, whose mind is all good? I figure those parts will iron themselves out as things continue to shift and change.

I did a lot of thinking last night as I laid in my bed in 407T for the very last time. It’s strange to think that I’ll never spend another night in this room. I remember thinking that about my room at home last summer (but of course I’m headed back there and have been there since last August). Still, the nostalgia is kind of the same. And it makes me a little melancholy to dwell on how many hours I’ve spent in here, thinking and ranting to Lucy, doing work, tapping out aural skillz rhythm patterns… good times. And bad times: the vicious homesickness, angsting over problems with people I thought were my friends, learning who was really going to be there for me– like the invaluable support system Professor Cowdrick spoke of– and who I’d be there for.

So much that has contributed to my personal growth and change has happened here. While I was sitting in this uncomfortable, ugly chair at this cluttered little desk.

I know it’s just a room, and I won’t linger sentimentally over it once I’m out of it. But for this moment, I’m going to sit here thinking about the year I’ve spent here, in 407T.

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Perfection (a reflection)

To be honest, I never usually have so many ideas I can articulate in one day. Occasionally they’ll hit me, quickly and suddenly, and I’ll have to get them down somewhere, somehow immediately or lose them forever. Others drift as remnants, half-formed and vague, until later. Or until never.

But today is just a good day for thinking and writing, I guess. It’s also strange that I’m blogging now because generally by 11:06 pm on any given evening (weekends excepted) I am either sleeping or wishing to God I was sleeping, so hey. This is cool.*

But back to my stream of consciousness at the moment, why don’t we?

I think a lot about perfection.

We all try to be perfect. We all want the 100 on our theory homework or the A in ed psych. Obviously we all want to perfect our skills, especially at Eastman (like, DUH, hello). And there are other ways in which people strive to perfect themselves: religiously/spiritually, physically, emotionally. Still others strive to behave perfectly or respond perfectly in social situations, perfecting their image.

I have tried to perfect myself in all of these ways. Possibly more, I guess. But over the course of the past few years, and especially here, I have put myself at a level with other, more “normal” human beings– and by that, I mean the kids who don’t try as hard, or the kids who aren’t at an advantage socioeconomically, or even the adult working class. I think working at Tim Horton’s all summer and this winter break reinforced my relationship and tie to the everyday average person. And while I refuse to lower my sights or adjust my previously-set goals, it’s humbling and enlightening at the same time to have a glimpse into the real world. It was also a learning experience– an incredibly motivating and meaningful one.

I guess it gave me a glimpse into a life not filled so much with lofty aspirations of a perfect fellowship with Christ and the church, or a toned and physically disciplined body, or straight As.

I mean I’m not going to alter my own goals– I have a shady outline of what I’m here to do, and I plan on filling it in. But there are manners that some adopt that make having goals seem like something pretentious and disgusting. Like, “I’ve got these plans and nothing is going to get in my way.”

It sounds okay, but in my opinion there need to be some priorities. Right? Like, family? Friends? Relationships with people, meaningful interactions with others, your teachers, your peers? What about living life? I don’t mean getting drunk (although hey, sometimes it’s a perk) but enjoying yourself and taking time to reflect on the happiness in your life. Little things, like having a ridiculous discussion with my roommate about Barbie and Ken, or talking to my grandmother about Criminal Minds, or savoring Starbucks because I don’t have it at home– or even staring into the sun and feeling it touch your face because it’s the middle of winter– those things are valuable to me. They are, in a way, much much MUCH more important than behaviors I’ve noticed, such as…

Biblical facebook statuses: I mean I guess people quote meaningful song lyrics and that’s similar, but please, do you really need to shove your faith in everyone’s face? I mean, I can say I love Jesus because, well, I do. But in my opinion and experience, it’s better to show your love for him through your actions. It’s really not how often you talk about your prayers or your youth group or “how you can spread the Woooord.” How about, you just go show it? Loving people without judgment is going to have more of an effect than a club at college where all you do is chat about how to add more people to your club. It feels exclusive. And it feels like bragging, and an exaggerated attempt to make oneself into someone others should seek out or respect.

Physical perfection: I understand that gyms are awesome. I have a membership. But those that get carried away, and do a freakout if they miss half a warmup or a stretch or something stupid? That’s ridiculous. The world is not going to end if you miss Pilates, dude.

Academics are overrated. Isn’t it enough that we kill ourselves to achieve proficiency at our art? The added pressure of grades just screams “give me migraines.” Some overwork themselves to the point where learning the material is secondary and the letter grade is most important. Isn’t the acquisition of knowledge the goal? Not the skill with which one takes tests.

Or, maybe I’m just overthinking this, and it’s the attitude with which one seeks perfection that is the really irksome thing. Maybe I just place too much value on not being an obsessive lunatic. Maybe I have a thing against acting like an overeager or scarily-driven know it all. Hopefully, though, I’m capable of pursuing my own goals with a passion for life and an enthusiasm that’s contagious and considerate, not obnoxious.

But that’s all I know for tonight.

Also, Lucy and I were just having a discussion while I wrote this… for her benefit I’m supposed to mention that Zulu thatchers were hired to thatch the roofs of all the gift shops in Disney World so that they would look legit.

 

* I mean, undoubtably this also has something to do with the fact that, YES I’M GOING HOME TOMORROW.

Musings on the probability of success

Today has been long and exhausting so far.

I had my choral ensemble placement audition today. I sound like crap, by the way. The humidifier I bought at Target was only on for about a half hour before I had to leave. My throat hurts. My head hurts. I’m not “sick,” yet, per se, but I sound terrible.

Being in that room made me want to cry. I know sol fege. But I sang do-re-mi-fa-sol-fa: and the ending note ascended. It should have been la. I wouldn’t be surprised, honestly, if the grad students and professors in the room (there were five) simply noted down that I should go back home. It was so not my best, but it was all I could do at the time. Competing with stupidly paralyzing nerves and my own lack of knowledge just exhausts me. That’s why I’m glad this isn’t a cutthroat place. If people were outright mean in addition to outstandingly talented, I would be screwed.

Apparently they told Rachael (who auditioned after me) that she sounds like a voice who will really succeed at Eastman. I (obviously) was told no such thing.

That’s really cool they told her that, and as I was talking to John and Tong I heard her and got distracted because it was so pretty. And it was only vocalizing.

But now I’m wondering what it would be like to fail. The parasitic leeching doubt’s just there, and, well… two years of previous classical study might not cut it. It wasn’t intensive study, either. I was part-timing it previously to this week.

Shouldn’t giving it everything matter, though? I know I’m practically infantile in my knowledge of classical music and opera. I get it, okay? But I want to learn. The desperate nerd in me is trying to drag classes closer so I can go and get some homework. The obsessive musician is clamoring for my lesson tomorrow so I can get feedback and have a concrete reason to work in a practice room for the maximum hours allotted a day like I really, really want to.

But on the other hand, what if I’m not qualified to be here? I’ve been telling myself, they’ll teach me. They’ll teach me. They won’t judge me for what I don’t know, they won’t hate me because I’m ignorant. Students or faculty, anyone I respect and/or admire for who they are or what they do, won’t think I shouldn’t be here because I’m still learning what they were proficient at years ago.

I don’t want to be considered out of the running for success simply because right now I don’t know anything. If I am willing to learn, isn’t that important? If I crave the knowledge I’ve seen in action here, if I want it and will reach for it with all that I am, won’t that factor in?

If the thought of failing is breaking my heart, shouldn’t that mean something?

This doesn't really lighten the mood for me, but he is my new humidifier/penguin

To ghost along the border of spiritualism: my first visit to Lily Dale

Get ready for one long, in-depth analysis


So my visit to the mediums of Lily Dale was a learning experience, to say the least. I’m a lot calmer about the whole idea now, knowing what can be expected there.

I learned a LOT. It helped that, the entire time, I was thinking of it sort of like a field trip, like a class. Milk all you can from it and remember it, that sort of thing.

I’d done some research before leaving, so I knew that spiritualism was a religion. Upon arriving I had so many questions: they just weren’t written down. I legitimately had no idea what to be prepared for.

It turns out we were to wait in line for two hours before being admitted to Circles. I met Sarah’s grandparents: her grandmother is a medium, and apparently so was her great-grandmother. I also met two ladies staying with Sarah’s grandma; one was from Britain and the other from Rochester. Apparently they frequent Lily Dale as visitors over the summer.

My first impression of Lily Dale as a place was that it’s beautiful. Quaint little houses, brilliant greens of the trees. A kind of innate stillness and picturesque quality underscored by an air of mystery, of presence. It was just really pretty.

While waiting, I asked questions. At first it was tough to get going because hey, I’m not a journalist– I don’t really have an excuse to pry, and as silly as it may sound, I didn’t want to offend anyone. They take spirits and things very seriously there. But I am an obsessed academic and eventually found a manner in which to ask, without sounding like a putzkie.

Here’s a brief summary of some facts I garnered from a few who know a great deal about the facets of spiritualism. Bear in mind they’re just knowledge I’ve gathered, I don’t necessarily put stock in all of them. More on what I do put stock in will come later.

– Firstly, spiritualism is: a religion, a philosophy, and a science.
– Spiritualists worship one deity, one creator God, but acknowledge the existence of many spirits, floating around in the ether.
– Spiritualists believe that, just as in life, spirits can change for good or for bad on the other side as well.
– Ouija boards are a NO-NO: they let whatever’s chillin’ over there come visit, with no boundaries to keep the creepers back.
– According to spiritualists, we each have a group, a “band,” of spirit guides that accompany us as we grow. They can change depending on how we change or how we come to need them, but they are there to protect us from things like anxiety, imbalance, health problems, and, of course, evil.

And naturally there are other things, too, but those are the most prominent tidbits of insight I scrounged up.

Now for details on my own ten minutes with a medium:

We got into Circles the first round (there was a massive line). There were at least twenty mediums set up on the floor of the auditorium. Seating varied: some had four chairs around them, some five, and others six. We were taken to a medium named Bonnie White, an older lady with pale hair and grey eyes, dressed in black. She handed me a watch and said, say when it’s been seven minutes, then you get three minutes to ask questions. So I was the timer.

This is Bonnie White, the medium we met


She started with a prayer. We held hands and she asked the great spirit to bring a white light down around us, to protect us and bring us only good spirits.

I will say this, when I first entered and sat down I felt a great deal of energy, not my own. Around me, a warmth touching my skin, the right side of my neck. It was pleasant, not unnerving or weird. Just different. But it was something.

It turned cooler as the sitting went on.

She started with Sandy, Sarah’s mom. Spent a few seconds touching her hands, “connecting with her individually.” Then Ms. White proceeded to tell Sandy things that a stranger wouldn’t know.

It was hit and miss, with Sandy and with Sarah. She did “sense” that they were mother and daughter. She hit upon Sarah’s boundless energy and constant activity, as well as her interest in athletics and music. It seemed as though she faltered a bit, though: if she stumbled upon something correct, she would blather about it for a little before continuing on: to fill the time, is my guess.

When it was my turn, Sarah took the clock. Apparently she’s better at reading cell phones than hand-clocks, because she gave me twelve minutes instead of ten (love that girl).

It was weird, to say the least. Maybe I just use weird as a filler word because I don’t know what should really go there to describe it.

I was skeptical, but then I’m always skeptical. I tried to keep an open mind, though, for the sake of… I don’t know. For the sake of academia.

She didn’t connect me with anyone from the other side, though. I guess no grandfathers felt like chatting with me (don’t know how I feel about that). Potter must not have wanted to, either, but if she’s in spirit form she’d be bounding off and eating something instead of waiting for me to hold hands with some bad psychic.

Instead Ms. White told me I was artistic. This is when Sandy, Sarah, and I exchanged glances because she told me I had a “good” singing voice, but art and drawing and fashion design were where I was really suited. Fact: I only ever finger paint. I suck at drawing. Blatantly pathetic.

Oh, and I’m going to the Eastman School in a week, folks. I think they accept at most ten sopranos per freshman class?

Man, I hope they have an art program so I can switch my major (HA).

No, you do not 'bong' on this instrument... merde, some people.

She asked me if I played a stringed instrument (no way, Jose), then said she saw a piano-like thing, and what did I play? I told her the xylophone, and she replied, and I quote “Don’t you bong on those?”

Oh, geez. If I wasn’t so curious I would’ve put my head in my hands, a mercy, please gesture before she could say anything similarly silly.

Then, a little later, she spoke directly to me. Earlier, when speaking to Sarah and her mother, and at the start of my reading, she was kind of speaking in show to the group. Now she was entirely focused on me. She began to get agitated. Grey eyes under bristling pale brows tried to connect with mine, fervently almost.

And this is as close as I can remember, it could be a little out of order but this is the gist:

“You’re very sensitive, I’m getting an image of a heart. You know what people are thinking, you’re very intuitive. This is hard for you. You know what people think and you’re right, but it’s hard to know it.

You’re very accurate, perceptive. You arrive at conclusions before everyone else, you’re quite quick. It’s sometimes hard, awkward really, for you to be there, but they’ll catch up. You get there differently, but you’re right. You are also on– what do you call it? Like, on the right note, you’re good at that. In tune. You know when you’re in tune or not.

But… you’re sad– anxious. There’s a spirit guide around you who just wants to calm you down. Do you have a lot of stress, relating to making choices? It’s difficult for you to know you’re path. Did you have a lot of stress recently about college?

But you can follow your intuition. You’re right when you do. When you see a light around a decision, take it, you know it’s right.”

And then she became the most lively she’d been:

“I– I just get this sense– I just really want to comfort you. Don’t be sad, okay? No one wants you to be sad. It will all work out. Your life is just beginning now. It will be an entire change for you, but it’s just starting. Just don’t be sad. You’ll grow from it.”

Later as she said the closing prayer it was as if she was trying to talk straight to me. “Let us be comforted and feel safe and grow and learn from new beginnings, wherever they may be and wherever they may take us.”

That was the weird part for me, when she started talking about being sad. I never mention that to anyone. Ever. She told me that the spirits “wanted me to” march forward with my head up. You know, be confident and all that jazz. She made a cringing motion when she tried to illustrate what they didn’t want me to do. They didn’t want me to enter this new chapter of my life weak and scared. They want me to go kick ass, apparently.

In Sarah, her mother, and her grandmother’s opinions, this lady sucked. I’m not saying she was legit, because I gathered she made stuff up to fill time. I’m not a fool.

But the part about being sad? It’s cute, I guess, that there are floaty guys that want me to not be sad. No one else would know that. In fact I try my damnedest so no one does.

When I got home, I rehashed it all with my mother and sister. My mother’s not “into” it, per se, but she’s aware of the fact that we’re not without ectoplasmic friends.

My mother has had contact with a “spirit world” before, and I’ve talked to people who have had legitimate touches with the other side. In the case of my mom, she didn’t ask for it, didn’t want it. “I never liked spooks.”

But she’s had vivid dreams, in which dead relatives have been with her, spoken to her. She doesn’t normally dream at all. Yet, she’s done a walk-through of her grandparents’ home in her sleep, where she saw things she wouldn’t have drummed up in her subconscious by herself (her memory is awful). She’s ridden in the car with her uncle on the night he died, from her sleep. And she’s had a conversation with a member of my father’s family that she’d never met: when she woke and described her, it was exact.

She’s been to see a medium twice in her life. She said the first time was out of spite, when she was in college. Her father died in an accident when she was in her early teens, and this was a personal visit for her. She was angry with him, and with the medium, for reasons I won’t discuss.

The second time, she said the best part was the dog the lady owned.

Schnauzer (not necessarily the type of dog the medium owned)

She did tell me, very seriously, that psychics and whatever were for entertainment purposes only. And I get that completely, because if you don’t know who you are or where you are in life, it’s highly possible to be duped and tricked. Personally I know that if I spent time trying to puzzle out the mysteries of the ether, I’d go stark-raving. But I’d like to have a professional reading done, for the hell of it. Just because I’m curious. I feel that I’m like my mother: I’d be able to go and keep a level, cool, head. Without putting my faith where it shouldn’t go.

I’m not buying into spiritualist rituals and all of their theories. But I’m a firm believer that there are things out there– call them what you will– and that they come in shades of good and bad. Where some would touch their relatives or friends with love, others would seek to harm. Whether we become these things after death isn’t up to me to figure out. I’ll gladly pass that decision on.

In addition, I know there are, because I’ve felt them. This is what I asked Sarah’s mom, a practicing spiritualist, about. I know when I was younger, and even recently, I’d be praying alone, just trying to have a conversation with God, and feel a little niggling worry, an unease. A lurking, creeping fear. I used to feel it a lot when I was eleven, twelve. I would get scared and start praying hard. Just curl up in my bed, jostled from my thoughts, praying like the dickens for it to go away, for God to protect me.

Sarah’s mom’s take on what to do was similar to my actions. She acknowledged that there were spirits who might try to bust in while I’m praying; she said the spiritualist action would be to say “God bless you, but leave me alone in peace,” and to always ask for “the best and the highest” spirit when praying. And something about asking for a white light.

See, I always just start going when praying, you know? Just, “Hey, so God:” and go from there. But it’s interesting to think that when I’m talking to him, there are eavesdroppers… some benign and some not-so. At least I can tell them to hit the road because it’s a private convo and know I’m not being a neurotic paranoid.

Sarah’s mom also told me something else. Let me just say right now that at no point was she ever trying to sell me her religion. She was just informing me about it, which was cool, because I wanted to know.

The board outside a spiritualist church

She told me that spiritualism wasn’t a mainline religion and that she was raised with a Lutheran background so she’d have something steady, then made her own choice to become a spiritualist when she was old enough to learn about it on her own. A remarkable statement I recall, though, was: “At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters necessarily what we call the one we worship, because it’s probably the same guy anyway. Allah, God, the great spirit, the Creator– probably all the same. It’s what you do in this life that matters– whether you use your life for good or for evil, what you do with it. How you love.”

It reminded me a little of Brendan, and even of my own conclusions relating to religion and love. Just love with all you have and learn everything you can. Keep an open mind and an accepting heart and you’ll be okay.

And so yeah. I’ll wrap this summary up with what my mother told me after I got back home and recounted to her the events of the evening.

“You’ve been raised with a strong faith. You have a strong faith. Don’t waste your brilliant* brain cells trying to figure out things about spooks. Know that there’s good and bad in this world, around us all the time, and that there’s God. The rest you can come up with yourself, but always remember those basics. And now I’m going to smoke and go to bed.”

*Not saying I’m brilliant here. Just quoting my mother, who is probably obligated by law or something to say that.

Psychosis

Here’s the definition for it; it’s not just taking up space as the title of this blog entry. Psychosis (pl. psychoses): a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.

It has nothing to do with what I’m about to talk about, except that the core of the word “psych” is also the core of the word psychic. “Psych” comes from the Greek psychikos, meaning “of the mind” or “mental.”

I’m going to see a psychic today.

I feel like both a skeptic and a wimp. Cool, man, cool (not)

I tried to think of other ways to phrase that, but the truth is? I’m feeling a little weird about it and don’t know what to expect. I’ve always had a tendency to research the paranormal, and in doing so have compiled the following facts that seem to be making me nervous.

01. My grandma is a pretty avid Christian and has mentioned to me before that seeking spiritual guidance of that nature is highly ill-advised. She basically conveyed the idea that reaching into the beyond without God was dangerous. Anything from tarot to Ouija to psychics– ex-nay.

02. My mother went with my aunt to see a psychic in Lilydale a few years ago. I remember them returning and detailing the visit for my grandma, cousin and I. Some pretty weird stuff was discussed: everything from the child Kathy must have miscarried to the possible future of Caitlin, to contact with my dead grandfather. Weird shit.

03. The Bible says that seeking mediums are not the way to go. The advice of a centuries-old book shouldn’t be discounted, should it? Granted it was mentioned in the Old Testament where there were hundreds of rules, but still. (Along with psychoanalysis and paranormal research, I’ve been interested in religion as well.)

04. Maybe I’m just a cynical skeptic when it comes to the whole “here let me tell you something about your life that I shouldn’t know at all, but I do” thing. That makes me feel vulnerable. Also, not in control.

05. Plus, I am pretty solidly in the “spirit world is real” camp. I realize that we’re blind to the actions of the ether, normally, but I think they’re there. Thankfully I’ve been blissfully unaware, mostly, thus far… can you imagine neurotic me, trying to live alongside ghosts and knowing it?

06. Also, to be brutally honest, I’m nervous. I’m nervous because even though I’m going with Sarah and her mother and they’ve done this before, who knows what I might learn. Apparently it’s this thing called “circles” where you pay ten dollars or so to sit in a circle with four or five other people. This psychic gives you (and here I’m quoting Sarah) “a mini reading.” I’ve never been to Lilydale and don’t know what to expect.

And here’s the kicker for me, I guess. I’ve never– never— been afraid of learning something. I’ve been afraid of many other things: death, sharks, deep water, slashers, stalkers, cannibals, fire, baby-killers and sadists. But never new knowledge.

I guess I’m just unnerved. What if I’m told I’ll suffer unspeakable tragedy soon? Or that my greatest worries will become reality? Or that on the way home some normal guy will suffer a psychotic break and steal Sarah and I for a fun couple years in his basement lined with human skin?

I just don’t know what I’ll be told, and I won’t have any control over it. I don’t like to be unaware of what I’ll face. So maybe I should be happy that whoever gives my “mini reading” might give me a heads-up… or maybe that five minutes will be the most terrifying five minutes of my life.