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Anger

Last night I went out with a girlfriend who was on my course with me to celebrate having finished, to talk about feminism, to go dancing, to just generally have a good night.  It didn't start off badly, but around 11 we popped into a bar to have a beer before deciding what we would do next, and encountered one of the most angering and frustrating things: drunk, horny, pushy, persistent men.

We walked in and immediately noticed the high percentage of the male population.  I should say that both of us-- my friend and I-- have had an experience with sexual assault over the last two or so years, so we're both really conscious of keeping ourselves in safe situations.  The bar was a bit crowded, with only one place to sit: two chairs wedged in a corner behind a huge group of Eastern European men.  We opted to sit on the stairs instead since they'd closed the balcony area off already.  We figured, sitting on these steps, we were safe....and for a while we were.

The staring started the moment we walked in.  Even sitting on the steps ,we were being stared at.  We were engaged with each other in conversation.  I actually don't think I've ever done so little "checking people out" in a bar.  We did not want to give these guys any encouragement.  But that wasn't enough for them.  They started talking about us loudly behind us, albeit in what sounded like Russian, with enough gesturing and English vocabulary that we realized what was going on.  At this point, we started getting a little flustered, but it was fine.  Not too bad to ignore.

Then they started coming up and trying to talk with us, one after another.  I would say we probably asked four or five different men from the same group of friends to leave us alone.  It isn't that I wouldn't have been happy to be nice about it, but my friend definitely didn't want to encourage them, so she was pretty direct.  I actually think I could use lessons from her.  Finally, this guy comes up and sits between us on the steps, about one or two up from where we are.  We tell him that we're not interested in talking, and that we're having our own conversation, but he doesn't leave.  We try to go back to talking and he starts loudly communicating what we're talking about to the rest of his friends.  At some point they started loudly saying things like "I like vagina."  and "Pussy, pussy, pussy."  Yes, really.  We made some comment about preferring if he would leave.  His response was.  "You're bitchy, bitchy, eh?"  At this point, we are infuriated, done with our beers, and leave.

I ended up shouting down the street any number of loud obscenities.  I was just so angry, and a little confused.  How can it be okay for men to talk loudly about my genitalia and to stare and confront me but not okay or bitchy for me to be like, "Nah, really."  I just don't understand how that is appropriate behavior in anyone's mind.  Seriously.  If you are male: please do not be an asshole.  If I smile at you across the bar or you catch me looking at you, that's one thing, but if I ask three of your friends to leave me alone, I probably don't want you to come and sit down with me and ruin my night.

Needless to say, we came home early.  I guess I'll have to hope for better luck next time.

happy go lucky

I am happy, and I go, and, this morning, I got lucky.  Lucky how, you ask?  Well, in the organic process of coming to the conclusion of my dissertation, I was presented with the incredible opportunity to tie my research in with my larger position on sexuality, feminism, and the future of positive human interaction in a way that I had neither predicted or truly intended. 

For the entirety of this school year, I have occasionally been met with a sense of despair, frustration and purposelessness as I compared the work I have been doing here at Oxford with what I see as a my larger purpose in the world.  Surely, I have learned a lot, I have had opportunities to teach (and make an impact doing so) and I have gotten to engage myself in the community here in ways that have really excited me.  In my written work, though, I have felt constant frustration with the way in which the projects I have been working on often felt more like attempts to prove I am capable of conducting research than actually putting forth meaningful information.

This morning, I woke up at about 5 AM and started writing.  The words were pouring out quickly as I began to tie up all the loose ends of my research.  I hit my stride and found myself describing the work of a number of academics I have been fortunate enough to encounter during my education, and to describe my philosophy on sexuality--the model I think we must turn to if we are going to find ways to engage in sexual relationships that can actually fit into the contemporary feminist model, a position that necessitates developing sexual ideals which do not address heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality differently.  In other words, a sexuality that can be simultaneously individual and universal.  And the best part, I had the research to back it up.  I had said what I believed in, and had given a series of reasons why everyone else should listen to what I was saying.  It was like this "wow" moment in which I realized what research is for.

All through college, we pay our dues.  I have had a few moments now that I'm a graduate student where I've felt like I've finally gotten to a place where when I write something, I can see it being legitimately taken seriously, but there have been moments where it felt forced.  As I have wrapped up this paper, it has become natural.  I am no longer just trying to tie together a bunch of quotes from different books I've read over the last month, I am relating the larger framework of the topic I have now studied from different points of view for the last six years or so, evaluating a specific item within the subject and using it to propose a direction for forward movement that is fully backed up by all of the elements I have put forward.  I have had enough of an education, enough of an opportunity to explore these subjects, that I can take myself seriously.  I am not saying that the paper I am about to finish is amazing--I'm not the type of person who focuses much energy on the product--but I can sincerely say that my research process feels different.

Now, when I look at a bibliography of a recent book or article on a certain set of topics, I recognize the names.  When I pick up a new book, I can generally read the introduction and conclusion and have a good idea of where it falls in the spectrum of work on the topic.  I can write about people whose opinions are well respected in the field and know I've spent an evening dancing incredibly drunk with them at an alumni donors reception.  In fact, three of the people I've used as major references in this paper are people I have varying levels of "personal" relationships with.  This is what it means to be an academic, but also what it means to truly teach others.

I had noticed when I looked at the work of a lot of people who I seriously respected, both in the literary world as well as the academic arena, seemed to operate as a part of a community.  They were responding to and with the other great minds of their time, as close personal friends.  They not only knew each others work, they sat down and talked about it over coffee.  I know I'm not there quite yet, but I'm starting to understand that, if I stay on track and stay interested in this subject, that's a future that is very likely to be possible ten years from now.  Pretty soon, the work I am doing on this topic will no longer just be a one-sided process of learning.  I will be in a position to teach, to be heard.  As of this Friday, I will have completed all of the work required to hold a master's degree.  And I can say three key things about that: 1) I will have earned it.  2) I can be sincerely proud of it.  3) I can now (finally!) see how this step fits into the larger context of what I expect for myself from this life.  I am finally in a place where my personal philosophy can become my thesis.  I have finally figured out how to integrate my academic and my spiritual purpose.  I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Tasty bits

I'm working furiously on my dissertation.  This has brought me to sleep very odd hours.  (I slept all yesterday afternoon, and have now been up since around 1:20 AM or so).  I'm planning on being up continuously until around noon tomorrow when I have a full draft due.  In that process, I often feel the need to have meaningful human connection.  Thing is, all of my other really close friends here are also all in the process of writing this same dissertation, and since none of us are very good at syncing our study breaks--to be fair, I haven't really tried-- I've decided that I'll seek "human" connection by turning to this blog every time I need a break and writing some little piece of where my head is.

First bit:  I'm sitting here on a Sunday afternoon.  It's exceptionally bright and sunny in Oxford and about 70 degrees, which is quite, quite warm by UK standards.  Basically, everyone is jovial and bright.  People are walking around with their kids and families and being exceptionally happy.  I am writing a paper.  I look around, and I can't help but keep having the same thought: if human connection is what really matters, why does the school process so often focus on these isolating, mechanical tasks.  I'm really looking forward to next year when my school experience will be much more about connecting with other people and actually developing intimacy and relationships.  The place I'd most like to be right now is lying in the grass on a blanket with someone I care about there to share it with.  Why I can't get a masters degree in that, I don't know.  I guess I just have to celebrate the fact that, in one week, I'll have all the work under my belt and will just have to wait for them to tell me just how masterful I am.  And then I can pronounce I am truly an expert on women.  Just 8,000 more words.

Oh, also, I painted my toenails this morning.

Second bit: I wish I had the capacity to convey to my friends exactly how much I love them, now that I have the capacity to do so.  And I also wish I could go back to all those moments in my life when I wasn't capable of that sort of emotion and treat my friends with the respect and care that they deserved.  I also realize that over the last six or so months, I've really struggled not to turn back into that person.  I know I build walls and use people (sexually..mostly) or pretend it doesn't matter to keep myself emotionally safe, but I also know that it's not healthy and not what I want.  I remember back when I was less emotionally healthy, I was so much more reckless with my affection.  Maybe now that I actually have the capacity to love more, I am more concerned about how much I am risking every time I allow myself to be emotionally intimate with someone.  The thing is, I still throw myself completely into my relationships with my friends, but I do completely the opposite with my lovers.  I'd really like to be the type of person who loves recklessly again.  And, more importantly, I'd really like to regain the spirituality in my human connections.

Third bit:  My across-the-street neighbors are throwing some sort of garden party and must have given really poor directions.  There is a steady stream of very confused people dressed nicely and walking back and forth around the corner.  Some of them even have cake.

Goodness

I believe in the goodness of people.  In other words, I generally believe--no matter how "bad" a person's deeds--that we are all driven by understandable motives, none of which are truly "evil."  I do agree that sometimes the results of people's actions are not positive.  Sometimes we hurt other people.  And I agree, sometimes we are actually cruel to other people, but I tend to think that the root causes of these actions are not generally truly bad.

I see people act out or cause hurt to others, and I look at them and what I see is usually sadness, yearn for attention, desire to be accepted, all sorts of things like that.  The people who are the unkindest to others are generally those who are the most in need of kindness themselves.  And I do know that people do horrible things--killing others, rape, etc.  But even when I look at the perpetrators of those crimes, I generally see misguided desires and loneliness rather than true "evil."  I'm often told that I'm naive when I say that I believe that most people have the ability to be good, but I think that type of thinking is exactly what locks people with harmful behaviors and attitudes into a negative pattern. 

Here's the deal:  you know a guy who is a complete and total lad--the type of guy who shows absolutely no respect for women, tends to get into fights with his male friends, etc.  When you interact with this guy, your first response would probably be to interact with this facade.  That might mean basically ignoring him, laughing at him, bantering with him, whatever.  Since you're interacting with this facade, what you are doing is reinforcing it.  You are encouraging him to continue with the type of behaviors he engages in which can sometimes be harmful and "assholish."  The thing is, this exterior, this behavior, is most likely just an act motivated by internal needs to be respected, loved, appreciated, safe, etc.  He has been taught that in order to get what he wants from the world, he has to act a certain way.  This sort of social construction is gendered, so he learns something different than, say, a female in the same position.  It also has race, class, geographical, religious, ethnic, and other positional components.  When we are socialized to believe that others out there are evil, unkind, likely to hurt us, etc., we will then interact with the people around us as if they are evil.  Sometimes, when that is our way of thinking about each other, the result is that we, ourselves, become the very type of person we are concerned is out there.  So this asshole guy probably thinks that the only way he can get ahead or get love or attention or whatever else it is that motivates him is if he takes advantage or hurts or uses other people--after all, they would do the same to him, right?  And the same is true for the bitchy girl sitting next to him.

The thing is, when we encourage that sort of culture, the only thing it serves to do is make it more likely that we, ourselves, are going to get hurt, taken advantage of, walked all over, etc.  I'm trying to do my part to encourage a better type of social interaction.  When I meet a guy or girl who seems to me to be the worst sort of person, I remember that underneath all that "shitty" exterior, they're really just responding to a set of social expectations they were raised with with the same sorts of underlying motivations that I have, that most human beings have in some combination or another.  And I try to interact not with their facade, but with that human being inside.  And I remember that they don't actually want to hurt me, they are not a "bad" person, they just haven't figured out that there is a completely different way in which to interact with the world that comes from valuing each person rather than working against them.

My critics say that my belief that everyone is good at heart, and treating them as such, is the quickest way to get hurt and taken advantage of.  My argument against that is twofold.  First, it's a lot harder to be an asshole to someone when they respond to your behavior with kindness and love.  And even if it doesn't change the way you treat someone when you are face to face with them, it will likely change the way you feel about the interaction when you reflect on it later.  Secondly, what exactly is this concept of "getting hurt" and "getting walked all over," pointing to?  Is it suggesting that my ability to succeed in life will be severely hindered if I am a nice person who believes in the goodness of others?  I think that reaction has something to do with what the term "success" has come to mean.

Success is, for a lot of people, money, a certain type of home, a certain type of family, a certain social position and status.  We are taught that the easiest way to getting these things is to beat out other people in our struggle against each other.  So we put other people down and climb over each other in this attempt to be the first one to the finish line.  The thing is, that model doesn't actually work.  That type of success is the sort that means that if you ever do get to the "other side" or the "top rung" or whatever term you want to use to describe the goal, you have had to become the sort of person whose life is likely no longer filled with any sort of love or true human connection that actually makes life worth living.  Sure, you might get all of the material things you were hoping for and have the semblance of "the dream" from the outside, but you won't be able to enjoy it.

On the other hand, when you are the type of person who engages the world with goodness and kindness, these sorts of things stop mattering.  We are always able to be content and happy because we are always surrounding with people and things that remind us of the goodness of life.  And the model changes.  Suddenly, when we are truly seeing the people around us, we realize how much they have as individuals that they can use to contribute to the projects we want to work on.  We are no longer climbing over them, we are working with them to build a new ladder or a new bridge.  And that sort of success is the type that is sustainable.  When people feel valued, they are much more likely to want to keep working and to keep working hard towards a shared dream.  The monetary success, the family, all of those things might be a part of where we end up when we're working through this sort of philosophy, but it isn't because they are the goal.

The other bit of this is that regardless of how we are treated by others, we are always responsible for ourselves.  No matter how much money we have, what our social position is, what others think about who we are, we are still, as individuals, responsible for who we actually are.  In fact, it's one of the few things that we have sole control over.  I know that at the end of the day, how much money I will make and whether I end up married or divorced or in a job that I love or living in a great house is all something that will involve a certain amount of luck, chance, economics, etc.  But whether or not I can go to sleep every night and be content with the type of person I am and how I treated others in the course of my day, that is something I can control, regardless of everything else.  And the best part is, that doesn't mean being selfless.  After all, we can share love with others only in so much as we are emotionally and spiritually in a position to give.  This often means nourishing our own needs first.  The other piece of this is that when we become giving, loving people, we generally find ourselves surrounded by others who treat us with love, kindness and respect and enable us to feel safe, respected, protected, etc.

The moral here really is that the phrase "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" gets at an important point.  When we except a certain type of behaviors from others, they most certainly will fulfill it.  When engage with people in a way that enables them to act with goodness, we might just give the chance to do so.

Unconditional Love

Occasionally, every few months or so, I'm struck by a desire to open up the Bible and find in it somewhere the principles by which I live my life, I guess assuming that, somehow, seeing them in print, albeit in a book I am often skeptical of, will make my faith in them more legitimate.

First, let me say that my approach to the Bible goes like this: I believe it is a book in which there are many truths written that can help people find their way to a relationship with a higher power, but the use of the Bible, and its many translations and revisions over the years, has made it sometimes difficult to distinguish higher Truth from human motive.  I live by the Quaker principle of valuing Truth more than "the" book, or any single textual, man-made source.  I have found so many important lessons in texts from other organized religions, I have to believe that each faith was established with the intent to help people find that "something greater" from life within the cultural and historical context in which it was developed.  When I encounter the texts that remain from these times, I generally have a strong internal sense of which parts are 'true," and this I trust as I develop my personal faith.

So, the principle on the table tonight is unconditional love.  Now, I know tons of people who go to church and claim to be religious, and I am pretty confident that love is a strong Christian theme, but I really don't see it practiced that often.  I have a few friends who I would say I have unconditional love relationships with, and my family, of course, but the whole point about unconditional love is that it's actually supposed to be for everyone from everyone, despite anything else.  I would love to live in a place or a community that actually practiced this amazing level of loving each other, and I hope I get to at some point in my life.  As my mom always said when I was really little: "I don't always love the things you do, but I always love you."  And that's the moral of the story tonight.  I know I am far from perfect, and I screw up...sometimes more than others.  And sometimes, that screwing up bit even extends to my ability to be a truly loving human being, but I can promise I am trying.  In my ideal world, we'd all try a little harder to just love the heck out of each other.  After all, we owe it to each other.  And let me tell you, it feels amazing to wake up everyday and know that you are loved, no matter what your yesterday consisted of.  This is why God's love is so appealing, because we are told that it exists without limits.  The thing is, we are all also capable of giving this to each other, and that's what "god's" love truly is.

So stop judging, stop hating, start loving.  When that's returned to you tenfold, you'll know it's worth it.

Why so rude?

So, tonight at dinner after rowing, I was basically made fun of for thinking one of the guys was attractive (albeit too young for me) and fessing up to him about it (albeit after a beer or two).  The context is that this guy had had a hard week full of his crew mates making fun of him, so the girls crew thought he might need a boost and had dropped the "fun fact" that someone in our boat thought he was good looking.  I'm not really about secrets, and I'm also pretty convinced that compliments are a good thing, so I happily told him the next time it came up.

The thing is, this was six weeks ago, and this guy's friend still thought it was worth poking fun at me for having said it.  I'm not sure if this is just a level of Oxford men's rower banter that I just don't get, or if he actually thought I should be embarrassed for having said it.  I've noticed recently, that it seems like no one here really gives positive feedback to each other that often.  (I don't know if this is a UK thing or just an Oxford thing--I've come to realize recently that Oxford is a very strange place.  It may even take the cake over Williamsburg.)  I have been accused before of awkard honesty, and I think that's particularly true when it comes to telling people who are nice, attractive, sexy, smart, talented, etc. that I dig what they do or who they are (or, just what they look like).  I'm definitely the type of person that will go up to an attractive guy at a bar, chat him up for a while, find out he has a girlfriend, pretend not to be disappointed and, before I get up and walk away, tell him that I came over because I thought he was really good looking.  In the past, this has worked out for me just fine.  Sure, it is a bit awkward to be honest with people about things because we're not that used to it, but at the end of the day, people like to hear nice things about themselves (whether or not they have girlfriends/boyfriends/friends).

The way I see it, I generally don't say nice things because I'm looking for a certain reaction--like someone wanting to date me or give me a compliment back--I say them because I mean them.  And as long as I don't put any expectations on a person's reaction, it never feels like rejection or something negative if they don't exactly seem blown away by what I've told them.  Usually, I get some sort of positive reaction, though, like a "thank you," or an "I needed to hear that."  So why, then, does this make people who are honest with each other about thinking nice things about other people a good target?  I'm not quite sure.  I really miss being around people who are comfortable with me saying really sappy dappy nice things about them, like my best girlfriends.  I'll be super enthused to visit them all and tell them how pretty they are and how awesome they are and how much I've missed them.

I know that those of you who (might) be reading this have (both) had moments when you've experienced my slightly awkward honesty, and I guess all I can say is that I hope you didn't find it offensive.  Perhaps this is just some social norm that evades me, but I can't, for the life of me, understand why positive feedback is a bad thing, even if we don't give it to each other all that often.

Human Contact

Some days, I just need someone to touch me.  I need to experience human contact, skin, warmth, energy, being.  Recently, I haven't been getting nearly enough.  Hugs are not even a daily occurrence, and you can forget cuddling.  I don't know if it's British people in general, or just the group of friends I've been spending time with, but there seems to be far less physical affection, and I'm starved for it.

I am pretty sure that the thing I miss most about dating someone is having that person to spend a Sunday afternoon lying in the grass with, heads in laps, or cuddled up on the couch with watching a movie.  I never lack for things to do when I'm single or without close friends who I feel like I can be that physically close to, but I definitely miss touch.

It's raining right now, and there's definitely a part of me that wants to run outside and get soaked, just to feel.  To feel wet.  To feel cold.  To know something is happening in my life and I'm a part of it.  I'm so disconnected from it sometimes.  Just wandering around, learning things, watching things.  The only time I really feel like I'm doing something, like I'm a part of something is when I'm out on the water rowing.  I guess that's why I don't mind that I spend so much of my time rowing and doing things related to rowing.  There's something about being in a boat with eight other people that makes me feel like I'm a part of something and I need that here.

It's raining harder now.  I'd be a fool if I didn't go out and enjoy it.  And honestly, dancing in the rain is something I think is always best alone.

Men and sexual consent

So, I am gonna try to make this quick because I have a paper I'm working on and 2,000 more words to write, but I came up against an issue in the paper which I am not quite sure how to address: the (hetero)sexual consent negotiation process as it relates to men.

First, let me say that Oxford is an extremely conservative place, so my liberal ideals run the risk of being met by a lot of criticism, and that is a major part of my conundrum.

On our women's studies course, there are a number of students and professors who still believe that feminism is about advocating first and foremost for women.  It's almost as if they fail to understand that by disenfranchising male concerns and opinion, they are simply enacting reverse patriarchal culture rather than fighting against it as a whole.  As someone who has always connected better (in some ways) with men, and who has had a number of varying degrees of close relationships--intimate and otherwise--with men, I have always seen myself as something of a champion of the male cause within feminist understanding.  I have had so many heart-to-hearts in which my guy friends have expressed ways in which they feel undeniably restricted and constrained by current cultural normatives when it comes to sex and masculinity, and I can't help but acknowledge these reactions when certain topics come up in conversation.

Repeatedly, though, I am met with the reaction, "It's not the same.  It's not as bad for men.  Those concerns are nothing like the ones that women deal with.  It's an insult to feminism to try to draw a connection between the two."  Specifically here, I am thinking about times when I have brought up male circumcision with relation to female genital mutilation and male sexual pressure as related to female sexual pressure.  While I am completely aware that the topics are different for men and women, and that conclusions drawn about one do not imply the same conclusions be drawn about the other, I just think that it's foolish to try to have conversations about topics without exploring subjects which are related. 

So, in the case of female genital mutilation, it's not that I think the US practice of male circumcision is directly analogous, I think that thinking about how our culture has encouraged and substantiated male circumcision, and the related stigma that some men have faced because of being uncircumcised in such a culture can be useful for thinking about how a similar process functions in communities which practice female genital mutilation.  (I should note that US male circumcision rates have declined significantly in recent years, but there was a time when nearly 80% of all men were circumcised.  The percentage of newborn males circumcised today is just over half.  And, in case you are interested, for those born in the 1980s, the percentage is right around 75%.)

In the specific paper I'm writing now, I want to address the social pressure men experience to desire sex and cast it as restrictive in the actual process of negotiating consent.  I have friends who have expressed frustration with the assumption that all guys want sex all the time, because as men who don't, they sometimes feel pressure to behave differently in order to prove their masculinity.  In the paper, I want to posit the notion that men can find it difficult to say "no," to sex, but I know that my very female-oriented feminist examiners will probably look down on the argument since, as the presumed speaking subject, men are "always able to express their desires."  It drives me crazy that people refuse to recognize that, in one way or another, all people are limited and restricted by social expectations, regardless of their sex, gender, race, class, etc.  In truth, we are all only able to fully express our desires insomuch as they adhere to cultural normatives.  So, it can be hard for a guy to say no to sex, especially if he has any fear of being labeled as homosexual or effeminate.  I'd love to hear thoughts on this if anyone has some to contribute.

I know a number of my W&M friends had a discussion group on masculinity at some point last year, and I'm certainly missing the type of environment that encourages that sort of open discussion.  Just last night one of my friends here told me after reading a part of one of my papers that, if I wanted to do well, I should probably edit my writing style to be more in line with what is considered "acceptable" under the British system.  I should point out that I am pretty attached to how I write these days because it reflects my theories on acknowledging the speaking subject.  If I self-edit, I am basically going to be acknowledging that integrity to my ideals is less important that a high mark.  It should go without saying that I am not planning to change my writing style.  If I do not give myself permission to write my opinion openly and in my preferred style as a graduate student, I will probably never start.

Okay, back to the paper.

Outreach

I used to keep tons of blogs.  I had blogs about this, that and the other, and I really enjoyed keeping them.  There's a verifiable bread trail of my blogs from here (grad school in the UK) back to freshman year of college, and all the travels and tribulations in between.  When I got a livejournal account, I told myself it was just for a specific community I wanted to post in, and for leaving non-anonymous comments on the one journal I read regularly.  Thing is, blogging gets sticky sometimes.  There's the type of blog that I want everyone to have access to, like the one I was keeping about being in the UK, but the problem with that is that "everyone" includes people like my former preacher's wife.  While she is a very nice lady and a family friend, there are just some things I don't want her to know about me.  And then there's the completely secret blog, which I have one of, in which I post(ed) rants and "secrets" that I'm unlikely to share with even my closest friends.  It's kind of like a personal postsecret.  Thing is, sometimes I need an in between space.  I need to know that someone I know has access to what I'm saying and knows it's me saying it, but I don't want that to mean everyone.  Part of the beauty of blogging is knowing that someone out there feels your joy, pain, silliness, frustration, etc.  With my family friendly blog, I have to pretty heavily censor, and now that I'm friends with some of my family on Facebook, the same thing applies.  With my secret blog, there's no chance that anyone would ever know it was me (unless they happen to know all of my photos--or my face--extraordinarily well and can identify a slice of them).  So, I'm hoping this can be my "in the middle."

So, "hi," and "here goes."

Actually, I think just making this first post was sufficient to lift the black veil of disconnection from my body enough to let me get to work.  (Hmm..based on how long this post goes on after I wrote that sentence, perhaps it was just nudging aside some of my writer's block.)  I need to write about 15 pages over the next 19 hours which, though doable, means working damn hard.  I feel a little stupid.  I got an extension for the two papers I was supposed to turn in last Friday (one of which is done and just needs major editing).  Thing is, I'm in graduate school and still need to ask for extensions.  I would have thought I would have figured out this whole school thing by now and not screw up and risk getting kicked out.  The papers are worth 50% of my grade and I waited until so late to actually apply for the extension, that I've spent the last few days in limbo just hoping for the best.  The other thing is that I asked for the extensions primarily because I've been super depressed recently, mostly related--as far as I can tell-- to losing my dad this past September.  It's May, and I feel like there must be something wrong with me that has prevented me from dealing with things and being able to emotionally move on.  Granted, I have had to deal with it mostly on my own since I came immediately to Oxford where I had no friends and a ton of work to do that prevented me from making too many friends, but I still feel like normal people bounce back more quickly.  this last extension request made me think back to most of my college years in which I was a verifiably broken record or extension requests and excuses.  Obviously, my teachers always believed me and believed in me, but I'm starting to wonder why. 

Even in kindergarten, I had difficulty with task completion, so I guess it's something that I've always struggled with.  I actually do think I'm an amazing teacher and I presented at a conference here on a panel where my tutor said I was the best speaker, so I think I would really excel as a professor (one of my current career goals), but I'm not sure I could ever make it through writing a thesis.  I understand now why it takes some people so long to finish.  If I am honest with myself, I know that I am always capable of getting work done, it's just sometimes a matter of not feeling the proper motivation to do so.  Paper writing feels so artificial sometimes because I know no one else is likely to see what I've written, and it's usually just a process of faking more knowledge than you have (although in my most recent case, it was a process of running out of room to write everything I knew and wanted to convey).  Speaking of which, I should actually get back to figuring out how much I do know for the paper I'm about to write so that I can decide how much of it needs to be elaboration and aside.

I'm looking forward to using this space in the future, and I thank you for joining me.