I had some pretty high hopes for my fall quarter this year at UCI. I felt like I talked about school all summer–the great clubs I was going to be a part of, two mysterious literary journalism classes (what were those about, anyway, and why should I learn it?), 17 units that I was sure I could handle, moving into my apartment with roommates from last year and spending time with my boyfriend and close friends.
It seemed to work at first. My Chinese 2A class sometimes didn’t even feel like a class it was so perfect, and the mysteries of literary journalism slowly unraveled. In my two LJ courses I spent time studying the writing techniques of journalism masters such as Walt Harrington and Joan Didion (and even wrote my first LJ piece), and wrote basic news articles ranging from features to crime stories. The analyzing and reporting classes introduced me to literary journalism. Literary journalism aims to go beyond traditional, or news journalism. This journalism often requires the writer to spend time with his subjects for anywhere from a few weeks to several years, and a story can emerge while observing or from reconstruction. Although these pieces read like stories, every detail must be real. You can find writing like this in magazines like Esquire, The New Yorker and in writing anthologies as well.
Besides journalism and my classes, I got involved with ZotSpeak Toastmasters, Rotaract at UC Irvine and Harmonium Women’s Chorus. I applied for my first writing internship in Orange County and then quit choir at the same time. I was thrilled to be accepted to work as an intern but when things didn’t work out I threw my energies back into school and the other two clubs. I did a guest speech at Students Practicing Excellent Communication Skills (SPECS), and attended a couple club meetings which were both times for me to grow more comfortable speaking in front of complete strangers. Right after the second meeting I was asked to be the SPECS co-president by my Toastmaster veteran friend. I thought it over for a week and accepted. Running the two final meetings with my friend, the co-president, was exhilarating! It sounds silly, but I actually felt an adrenaline rush being up there teaching people how to make their presentations better. Toastmasters is like an advanced version of SPECS, and it help you learn impromptu, prepared and evaluative speaking. At the same time, Rotaract welcomed me with open arms. I felt at home the first meeting, and ended up doing service activities around Orange County with them for the rest of the quarter.
It was hard to keep up. I found that I was printing out essays five minutes before they were due at the library and scrambling to make it on time to class. I made it to every class, but it was difficult sometimes and I had to keep telling myself “I love school, I love school, I love school.” My enthusiasm level seemed to hit an all-time low in the middle of the quarter and I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t feel like participating in classes as much, even, and my rush to please and complete projects was also affecting my relationships. I valued the pieces we read in my analyzing class even though it wasn’t fun to read 40 pages in a night and write about what I’d learned, much to the chagrin of my boyfriend, Keith. Maybe I had stretched myself too thin. Was this what they called sophomore slump?
I realized that if I were to focus solely on school or just on my activities that I’d probably be having a better time. My combination of these things didn’t seem to be working, and I didn’t have much time to take for myself. I spent a few weeks paying for wanting to be so involved with everything. I had let external factors take over my life. Looking back on this time, it was definitely a time for learning–perhaps the perfect time–for these important lessons.
I began deciding to change my approach to things. If I was too tired to make a meeting, I wouldn’t go (with SPECS I only had to plan two amazing meetings, so there wasn’t a lot of stress here), and I kept my classes as the most important thing on my list. I stopped studying at 1 AM, and got a good night’s sleep. I remember listening to Trapt’s “Lost Realist” over and over and plenty of Rameses B, which helped me grieve and relax a bit. I worked on making people close to me a top priority as well.
These changes were both necessary and painful to go through. I cried a lot. Sometimes it is hard to admit that things are not working out. I discovered things about my character and work ethic, and although I didn’t handle every situation perfectly I did the best with what I had. I learned several things this quarter, and they are:
1) Find love. Develop your interests, do things that bring you joy. Take time to care for people around you, even if you have assignments. 2) Don’t think you can go through life with expectations, you have to be ready to throw them out the window. 3) Understand why you do you things. Be able to take yourself out of a situation and evaluate.
I did make it through the quarter. At the end, I felt peaceful. In fact, it was the best finals week ever because I mostly did whatever I wanted. Next quarter I’ll be able to follow my own advice and get an early start. I look forward to it. I’ll be doing more LJ, a writing internship for Patch.com, taking an easier GE and continuing on with Chinese. I’ve laid aside time for SPECS and Rotaract, and know what my priorities are in advance.
Hopefully you were able to get to know me a little better. Thanks for reading.