10 Things I Learned About You.

architecture building campus college
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This Square Peg in college: ’twas an interesting time. When I look back, though, I can honestly say that I loved my college days. It was the 90s. The soundtrack of my life was lit, as the kids say, and the life lessons abounded. Here are 10 things I learned in college:

  1. My education really did belong to me. Other than that pesky Math credit, I basically curated my path of learning. If a class and its content didn’t interest me, I found one that did. I explored avenues of thought and learning that were entirely my choice. I was paying for it, after all. (Still am. Le sigh.) In other words, it was an interesting lesson in reaping the results of my academic decisions. When K-12 isn’t really about you, this was all about me.
  2. Never, ever, ever declare your undying love and devotion for your English professor when he’s likely within earshot.
  3. Don’t do #2 for professors you don’t much care for, either. I was in the cafeteria complaining about one of my not-that-nice professors and she was right behind me. Not pretty. Thank goodness I passed.
  4. College boys will be college boys. There were some doozies, y’all. One kid, a fellow English major, asked me if I used mushrooms to find inspiration when writing. I asked him if he meant the gross things in the ground. He said no. I then got it. I then walked away, laughing. *insert eye roll here*
  5. There’s an amazing literary world out there, people. I discovered some of my favorite authors, primarily female, during those four years. Flannery O’Connor. Edith Wharton. Alice Walker. I delved into their works and never looked back.
  6.  Sarah McLachlan has a song for every situation. Case in point: I lived the entire Surfacing album during my sophomore year.
  7. There are educators out there who passionately care for their students. I met a number of them.
  8. Overconfidence + higher education + assumptions = a D on your first paper for an English class. I learned to be humble and ask for help and advice.
  9. One will freak out about classes (four essay-heavy ones, to be exact) and working two jobs and believing you will flunk and one’s Mom will assure you that you’ll be fine and will command you to stop writhing around on the floor. College breakdowns are a dime a dozen. *shrug*
  10. After four long years, a seminal moment will occur when you finally begin the path to discovering just who you are and were meant to be.

Good times, indeed. I learned more than ten things, but we’ll pause for now. More lessons–and declarations of love–will come in another post.

Onwards and upwards…and college loan-wards…

Adjoa on a Monday.

Ever since my early twenties, coffee shops have been my true love. Many a coffee shop had me inside of it; ordering a cup, listening to the beans whir in the grinder; hearing the quiet hum of conversation as patrons did everything from chat with each other to type away at their laptops for whatever projects they were working on. (I almost always think the laptop-bearers are burgeoning novelists.) When I worked at my dearly departed Borders Books (see memories here and here), one of the areas I was assigned to, other than at the register or the info desk or shelving books, was the cafe. There, I learned to make a variety of espresso-based drinks, recipes that I still remember all these years later. It was, in a way, my first foray in working in a coffee shop. And I loved it something awful.

Naturally, I’ve always wanted my own shop. So in my mind, my shop would be called Adjoa on a Monday. Adjoa is my Ghanaian day name for ladies born on a Monday. The decor would unsurprisingly be rustic-y with a French touch; the French part is me, as you know, but I’ve also grown to love the rustic idea for a while now. Funny, huh? This Square Peg, who favored not-busy, not-busy, super modern spaces now longing for burnished wood finishes and Mason jar centerpieces? Girl, people be changing…

*All images derived from my boo Pinterest.

Anyway, further details about AOAM:

  • Free WiFi. I love the idea of people inhabiting that space and working on whatever their working on.
  • Open mic nights. At Borders, I freely took advantage of sharing my poetry with audiences. That college student had plenty of spurned-love poems to share, thank you very much.
  • Themed evenings every now and again. Paris jazz spot Tuesday. Speakeasy Fridays. Etc.
  • An assortment of staffers of different ages and backgrounds. This one is important to me. When I worked at Borders, a true pleasure was working with everyone from fellow college kids to part-time History professors and everyone in between. It was amazing.
  • A mini-bookshelf/donate-a-book area. Because you know books have to be involved.

More ideas abound. Will it happen one day? Will I venture out and start my own business and finally see this coffee shop of mine with my own two eyes? *Kanye shrug* I’ve never been ashamed or shy to dream out loud. Perhaps that’s the first step?

What thing/idea/venture/adventure have you nursed for ages? I’d love to peek…share it in the comments below.

And now…

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when they met.

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Photo courtesy of NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

If you haven’t heard, a total solar eclipse took place yesterday, August 21. Pretty historical stuff. I was excited beyond words, not necessarily because of the historicity of it or the celestial phenomenon, per se. I, This Square Peg, a writer of words and a purveyor of poetry, have used the moon as an allegorical foil/subject since I started writing eons ago. There was something about that big, gray, somber ball in the sky, not peppy and cheerful like the sun, ruler of tides, that struck me in a purely deep and artistic way. To me, there wasn’t a man in the moon. Symbolically, she was a woman in every way. My kind of girl. Powerful and moody and boss. Naturally, I frequently turned to her in my poetry. In my fiction, she’s always a character; whether providing silvery light for my character before his/her eventual epiphany or the third person in a two-person scene, viewing the action with a cool, disaffected gaze. In my poetry, though? In my poetry? The moon runs things.

When I was moving to Texas and engaged in my bout of horrifying packing, I found a poem that I wrote in college. The subject? Frustrated love. (Nothing new there.) The allegorical character? The moon. The denouement? An eclipse.

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So college-y. So eclipse-y. So moon-y.

I was able to see the eclipse yesterday, courtesy of a co-worker who shared his special sky glasses with me and some of my other colleagues. Because our city here in Dallas wasn’t on the path of totality–those cities would see the full, total eclipse; we would see a partial eclipse–I didn’t get to experience the moment my moon met the earth and the sun. But halfway is still pretty cool, no?

Here’s to my fabulous moon and her big moment yesterday.

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National Poetry Month: Poème #5

Hi, Poetry Lover. Wanted to share a classic today. I fell in love with this piece in college after more than one poetry professor introduced me to the wonder and complexity of Theodore Roethke. Please read and enjoy.

In a Dark Time
Theodore Roethke

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks—is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is—
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

Government Names: Random Memory #4

No, I’m still not going to tell you what mine is. Just know that very few people can spell it.

By people, I mean most of the young women and men who work behind the counters of Starbucks shops in my area, in other areas, in all the areas in the world. (For the record, I don’t even remember if the Versailles Starbucks spelled it right. I was on a palace high. Anyway, they get a pass.) Apparently, no one has heard my very common name before and no one remembers phonetics from elementary school and sounding things out. I have spoken my name slowly, have spelled my name slowly–all to no avail. This morning at a Starbucks close to the OK Corral, one poor guy asked me to spell the name. After I did, he laughed at himself for even asking, because, I repeat: it is a very common name. 

Anyway, the whole name thing brings back an interesting memory. Back when I was a college-aged Square Peg and worked at my beloved, dearly departed Borders Books, I went through this weird phase where I was tired of hearing my own name. Blame it on the lack of nutrients and being a teenager, I don’t know. But one afternoon, while at work, I started asking my co-workers to call me a different name, a variation of my government name. Hardly anyone questioned this request. By now, most of them understood that this college girl who was in love with books and writing and a certain boy (see link above) was in a universe all of her own. Soon, my name tag changed. When called on the loudspeaker, everyone used this new name. In conversation, I was referred to by my new name. I was on cloud nine. And let me tell you, when my crush used this new name–let’s just say that it was thrilling. Of all people, he was so serious in accommodating my new name…which made me adore him even more, if that were humanly possible at the time. I digress. I rode the high of having this new identity and I enjoyed every moment of it. Until I didn’t.

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Especially fake ones.

The thing with a new name: if you’re going to arbitrarily ask people to call you by a different moniker, it’s probably best to request this in all facets of your life. Not just work. Because, sure, people were calling me by this exciting new name in one place, but I was still the same old [Insert Name Here] at home, school, etc. After a while, it felt strange and jarring. And unwanted. I quickly informed my co-workers that they could go back to my old name. As expected of my old comrades, they acquiesced. Funny enough, however, some had gotten so used to the temporary name that it was actually hard for them to go back. Can you imagine? Anyway, eventually, things got back to normal at Borders. Old names returned and steady infatuations continued. You can guess which one of the latter two remained.

The above was brought to you a random memory…

…but before you leave me, tell me how you feel about your name, won’t you? Feel free to add whether your local Starbucks butchers it beyond reason, as well.

The Poetess Who Sings: Random Memory #2

It just came to mind. And so I will share.

In my junior year of college, I took a pretty memorable Poetry course. It was memorable for various other reasons, in addition to what this post is about: I was reuniting with my beloved, favorite professor, Jennifer Atkinson, after having taking a creative writing class with her in my sophomore year that pretty much changed how I looked at my writing style, my voice, etc.; my sister was in the same class with me, which proved to be an exercise in entertaining our peers with our sibling hijinks and so much more; other familiar faces were in the class, so it was even more of a reuniting. Anyway, one morning, I overheard a guy in front of me talking about a CD he had just purchased. I heard words like amazing and poetry in music and so on and so forth. Immediately intrigued and far more open about my ear hustling, so I asked him who he was referring to. “Fiona Apple,” he replied. “Get her CD immediately. It’s like poetry set to song.” Hook, line, sinker.

Fiona
The Poetess Songstress.

I bought Tidal that week.

He wasn’t wrong.

Oh, how Fiona Apple slayed me. She slayed me so easily and quickly and painfully and beautifully and deeply. She was a poetess, yes, weaving her experience and her life into verse and piano. I was a bit crazed by it all. For me, she didn’t have the intellectual rage of Alanis or the ethereal of Sarah McLachlan or the haunting beauty of my Tori Amos. She was wholly different. She had tremor and strength and fragility encased in this rich vibrato that transfixed me and transported me to my own life experiences and thoughts. I couldn’t put her in the same category as my other treasured female musicians, because I simply felt like Fiona Apple was speaking directly to me. Needless to say, I swallowed everything I could find about her. Interviews, televised concerts (her *version of Jimi Hendrix’s Angel on MTV’s Unplugged series remains an utter favorite)–whatever Fiona said or did, I read about it or listened to it or watched it.

Of course, now in my “old age”, the obsession has diminished, in the sense that I’m not minutes from camping outside of Fiona’s house, but I’m still a pretty devoted fan. Any discovery of good music thrills me, so yes, I’m glad that I totally barged in and asked my classmate what he was talking about. And speaking of my classmate, it’s no mistake that Fiona and her music/poetry moved him. I watched him fall in love with poetry in that class. His own work was pretty compelling.

Nice, random memory.

*You knew I’d post it, didn’t you? Enjoy.

Keep Your Voice Down When Making Declarations of Love: Random Memory #1

Welcome to a new feature on This Square Peg, where I share the random memories that come to me during my morning commute to work! You’re welcome.

There’s always a catalyst to the memories. This particular morning, as I stepped off the train, I saw a young woman who reminded me of a girl that was in my Introduction to Shakespeare class in college. Immediately, I was

you ain't never lied, Wills.
you ain’t never lied, Wills.

transported back: back to those heady days when I was a happy English major and a Math class fugitive, and specifically, when I was head over heels in love with my Shakespeare professor. Regarding the luurrve, can you blame me? Prof E was a true lover of the Bard (as was I, and still am), handsome, funny, and wore glasses. I swooned from day one.

So the Prof would hold these readings once a week, where members of the class would voluntarily meet and read a play–whether Shakespeare or Christopher Marlowe or anyone in between, it was a fun way to get to know each other and discuss literary thoughts and conventions outside of class. Needless to say, I signed up as soon as possible. The night of the reading I joined, we were dismissed for a short break. After a pal and I grabbed something to munch on, we were heading back to the reading room. This was when it all happened, when I suddenly got all up in my feels over my professor. I’ll never forget the following conversation.

Me: I think I love him.
Pal: Who?
Me: Professor E, of course. I’m in love with him.
Pal: Oh, Lord.
Me: He’s amazing. He’s so smart. And funny. And cool. And awesome.
Pal: Ok, [Government Name], chill out, though. Keep your voice down.
Me: I can’t! I want to shout it from the rooftops. I love him!
Pal: Seriously, stop talking right now. Don’t say another word. Don’t.
Me (suddenly freezing and turning toward her): He’s behind us, isn’t he?
Pal: Yeah.

Like clockwork, Prof E walked from around us. Of course, to add to the sweet misery of it all, he turned around, grinned at me, and said he’d see us in the room. What happened next:

Me: I’m going to kill myself.
Pal: You’re not going to kill yourself.
Me: Yes, I am. We’re on the 3rd floor, right? I’ll jump right here, from this balcony.
Pal: Get away from that balcony. Look, it’s no big deal. So he knows you love him. He’s probably flattered.
Me: I want to die.
Pal: Later. We need to get back.

(Can I tell you how cool my old friend was back then? She was the senior to my junior, listened to most of my melodrama with the same dry, unruffled, and hilarious reaction, and let me escape the craziness of college days in her dorm room. The best.)

Anyway, as you can imagine, going back to that room took all the strength I could muster. But Prof E never made it awkward. After that day, we continued to have our interesting discussions, in and out of class, as if nothing had happened, as if I hadn’t declared my love for him on the third floor of the Johnson Center. Sigh. I’ll never forget your rimless glasses, Prof E.

This was brought to you by a random memory.

Lessons in Frenglish

Let me explain my relationship with the French language. In 7th grade, I was in a class called International Foreign Language, where we were basically given a smorgasbord of different languages and cultures to learn about. French, Spanish, German. Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with French. Can’t really explain it; maybe it was how it sounded, the chateaus, the croissants. By the time I reached 9th grade, where I could finally choose which language to study, there was no doubt: français all the way.

Sigh. My high school French teacher had this on the wall. Gazed at it way more than the stuff on the board.
Sigh. My high school French teacher had a poster of this chateau on the wall. Gazed at it way more than the stuff on the board.

However. There’s a difference between hearing that lilting language and learning it. I came to despise verb conjugations and masculine vs. feminine. All I wanted was to move to Paris and communicate with the proprietors of various boulangeries. I didn’t sign up for passé composé and conditionnel. (If you speak French, congratulations for knowing what I’m referring to, and you feel my pain, don’t you? Or do you, le traitor?) But guess what? The love was too strong. I couldn’t leave. Deep down, I didn’t want to. Year and after year, I sat in the next-level French class (somehow passing, might I add), convinced that the same remedial part of my brain that couldn’t get Math was stopping me from comprehending the mechanics of this language. Yet I was still hopeful that I’d join the ranks of the kids who were now practically fluent.By the time sophomore year in college came and it was time to take a language course, the Stockholm Syndrome returned. I signed up for French like an automaton, forgetting that those conjugations and verbs weren’t going anywhere.

Enter Professor Oliver Morgan.

Prof. Morgan's twin.
Prof. Morgan’s twin.

He looked like Tim Matheson. I suppose that’s what stopped me from dropping the class. (This Square Peg freely admits moments of superficiality.) He was also charming, had a wry and cool sense of humor, and was a great teacher. I couldn’t stand him. Read on. I could see it his eyes: he was going to teach me French whether I liked it or not. He wasn’t going to throw his hands up in defeat like my French teachers in the past who couldn’t get me to speak in anything other than present tense and short phrases, which therefore allowed me to rest on my laurels and gaze at posters of chateaus. He was going to woo me with stories of his French wife and their bilingual children who spent 6 months of the year in France. He was going to call on me and force me to speak to him only in French. And because I saw that determination in his eyes, how he ignored my scowls and sarcasm, I found him highly irritating. In the end, I supposed that determination and his handsome face worked. I started paying attention in class. My comprehension improved somewhat. I passed tests with more than my ability to remember vocabulary words. Because essentially, that was it, the problem I had from the beginning: I could remember all the words. I just struggled to put them all together and in the correct tenses. Finally, in Senior Year, I took my last French class. Guess who the professor was? We had a much better time together.

Last year, I met some new French-speaking friends who, to my everlasting shock, marveled at my “perfect” French accent. I almost collapsed. I told them of my past struggles. They waved it off and continued complimenting me and said to stick with it. Whaaat? Following that, some friends and I went on a trip to Montreal, where I stunned myself by conversing with people in my usual Frenglish, but–wait for it–more French than English! Again, whaaat?

One day, my dream of living in France will come true. I, too, will walk to the local bakery and order mountains of baguettes like Professor Morgan’s children. I figure that living there and being immersed in the language and culture will cause a miraculous loosening of my brain and tongue, releasing all the French hiding in the medulla since was I was 14 years old. Until then, Frenglish it is.

Oh, other lessons I learned: 1) try, try again; 2) don’t give up; 3) eat lots of sweet bread.

 

Thursday and Friday.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I wore yesterday? And if I’m grateful for anything today? Have you? Well, since I forgot to post what I wore yesterday, let’s combine the two, shall we?

Gratitude

1. You, because you visit this blog.

2. You, because sometimes you click “like.”

3. You, because sometimes you leave a comment.

4. Anyone who supports my writing.

5. My 4th grade teacher, who inspired me to become a writer in the first place. (Have I mentioned her before? I am mentioning her again. I love you, Mrs. Chrytzer!)

6. My 11th grade English teacher, who recognized my love of writing and shaped it by saying, “I think you should major in English in college. That would be perfect for you.” (And I did, and it was.)

7. My mother, who shaped my love of writing and storytelling from the beginning by telling the most marvelous stories and introducing comic books and fairy tales into the lives of her daughters.

8. My creative writing professor in college, who taught me the value of research in fiction. It’s important!

9. My old college friend, who told me to stop using writer’s block as a crutch for not writing.

10. Music and art, for being the best friends this writer could ask for.

Ok!

Fashion

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It’s Casual Friday here at the farm, so the details on what I’m wearing:

Skinny jeans, gifted to me by my sister. I was late to the skinny jeans thing, so, in actuality, she forced me to wear them. They’re nice. I’d like to happily report though that they’re now a bit loose. Time for new (skinny) jeans…

Cowl neck blouse – this may have come from Mom’s cloest. Love cowl necks. You can’t really tell from the photos, though. Plus, I tend to pull up the cowl part, which hangs a bit low, to prevent the entire office from seeing the world up top, if you get mah drift…

Silver chain, Avenuethey have terrific accessories. Got this one on sale.

Cream Crystal Studded Beret, Claire’s – one of the purchases I made when I did this three weeks ago.

Standard Black Boots – the usual. I live in these things.

Bon weekend, all!