Next Steps: Grad School and Moving Forward

Things happened and I have thoughts and feelings. So here’s a ramble about all of it.

Also, yay or nay for more videos in the future?

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Thoughts on Life, 3 months Post-Grad

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So I’ve been done with school for about three months now. Its been quite an interesting experience, one that no one ever really talked to me about and yet I wish someone had.

There have been some great upsides. First, I have discovered that I am a natural morning person. Well, once I actually get out of bed and based on whether I actually slept well last night. I wake up and feel alive and in tune with the world. If I walk/exercise/yoga after getting up, this amplifies the feeling.

In fact, being able to have time to walk and move and exercise during my day has been great. In school, I normally walked about 3 miles a day. Now, between my commute to work and my side-job of walking dogs I find that I am actually moving about five miles a day (though sometimes this number gets as high as 13 miles when I walk a lot of dogs on the weekend). And it makes me feel great. Like really great and I kind of kick myself for not moving more when I was in school. I probably would have been a lot less stressed.

I’ve been able to consume books, particularly audiobooks, at a rapid rate. I’ve also had time to actually keep on top of current events and news of the day. I’ve been able to keep up and read my writing/book websites.

I’m significantly less stressed, my R.A. has been incredibly manageable and most of my aches and flares have been food related.

I’ve been able to learn about myself and who I physically am.

But there are also a lot of things that have been difficult.

Graduating means moving away from your support network and your people, often to a new city or place and a new job. It’s a lot of new. As someone who likes the comfort of routine and stability, its been really hard. Cities mean a lot of people, but it also can be incredibly hard to connect with people. It can be really easy to feel and be lonely.

And while there is no longer the time commitment of classes and homework, work takes up 1/3 of the time in your day, not including commute time and the time needed to get ready for the day. In the end, I have probably about 3-4 hours once I get home before its time for me to go to bed and start over. This leaves not a whole lot of time for me and socialization and my side-job. In some ways, I feel like I have even less time than I did when I was taking a full course load and working. It feels like I am slowly becoming my work and my work is becoming me.

And on the topic of work, I also feel completely disoriented in terms of what I want to do with my life. There are infinitely more options out there than I could have ever dreamed of, and I wish I had been more proactive in trying to experience them during my time in undergrad through internships. It’s caused me to reassess my skills and interests. I know that I still want to go to grad school and that I would still like to teach college someday.

The quarter-life crisis is, in fact, a thing whether you want to believe it or not. I mean it does logically make sense that after almost 20 years in a routine of school that an abrupt change and thrust into the actual working world would cause someone to question everything they think, know, and want. Our lives up until this point have been so defined by the light at the end of the educational tunnel that once we get there, what is there to hold onto and orient us?

This is not to mention the brutal banality of the unpaid internship and ungratifying entry-level grunt work. You may think it sounds whiny, but there is a serious disrespect and exploitation of interns and low-level workers. Its a lot of discouraging experiences and frustrations that make me wonder “is this how it is going to be for the rest of my life”? A lot of the issues that I have had personally in the past couple of months have boiled down to issues of communication, project/personnel management, and respect. It’s been difficult to actually do anything about these issues because I am a low-level intern and I am at a VERY hierarchy-based organization. But it’s been very eye-opening in terms of what I am going to be looking for moving forward.

Also, being post-grad has made me hate money. A lot. Part of this is a bit of resentment at the fact I am an unpaid intern. Thankfully my parents have been generous in helping me to offset some of my housing costs to be able to take this internship. But even with that, I’m broke as hell. I have just enough money in my checking account to pay this month’s housing costs (I’m simply waiting for the check to be cashed) and $12 for my dinner on Saturday. I have to have a side-job in order to afford groceries and to save for my last month of housing costs. It’s stressful. I love my side job (walking dogs) but at the same time resent the fact I have to be chained to this side job jumping on any and every walk request so I’m making enough money. It’s stressful and its hard not to find yourself fixating on it. Not to mention when my student loan payments start coming due in 3 months, according to my exit counseling I should be making $40,000 a year (without any other cost of living expenses) so that my loans aren’t a burden. How is one not supposed to scream? And if you’re one of the people moving to a new city for a new job into a new apartment…the costs add up. It makes a lot of sense why people are so obsessed with how much their jobs are going to pay them because economic stability and quality of life hinge on it.

Then there’s grad school. I still have no idea if I am going, if I am going to be able to afford to go, and where I’d go. It’s difficult because this is also the time when I should be applying for jobs. It’s just another layer of complexity that adds on stress. And if I don’t get in, what do I apply for next year? As all of the possibilities of the world yawn open before me, how am I going to be able to narrow down my likes and options into a program that I can get into?

I just wish that it was normal to talk about the transition from college to the rest of your life. It’s a huge step and I was so not mentally or emotionally prepared for any of it. I’ve been able to find other friends to whom I can talk to but even so right now I am going it alone. It’s allowed me to learn a lot about myself but at the same time its been hard to work through all of it. I just wish as a culture we would stop making things seem ‘easier’ than they are so that we could just be honest and help each other. It would make everything so much easier

 

Post-Graduation

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In high school, one of my teachers told us that life slows down when you get older, and gets more boring as fewer significant things happen further apart. There was little daily drama in her life. I was, and still am, eager for this degree of stability. I highly doubt that I will ever find it and that more likely than not it was a perception of hers, not a reality.

For the first time in several years, I find myself faced with what feels like an overwhelming amount of ambiguity.

I’ve graduated undergrad and while I know what I want next, the path to get there is so uncertain. I’ve tried not to look at the acceptance statistics, but sometimes I cannot help but look. I have better chances of getting cancer, and what feels like better odds of being struck by lightning. So needless to say, once my internship in April ends I have no idea where I will be. There is no clear path or option. As someone who likes to plan and organize, that scares me.

It scares me even more because I will be going through a lot of the ambiguity alone. I’ve graduated and while I know my friends are always there for me, it’s also scary to have them all suddenly so far away. Not all of these friendships and connections will survive. I’ve learned that the hard way from high school. I’m a creature of habit. I like my support systems. I know it is up to me to maintain these connections and to put in sincere effort and time. But finding out about grad school without them? In a strange city by myself?

I’ve been trying to frame things positively. This is an exciting new opportunity! You’ll find where you’re meant to be eventually! These things take their time! You now can do all the reading and writing you haven’t been able to do for the past couple of years! But in the end, the pessimist in me rears its head.

I’m trying not to be sad about it all, but change is difficult. I’m trying not to fight it, but it doesn’t make it any less lonely.

Gallo Pinto: How to Make Rice and Beans, Central American Style

 

So I rave about Gallo Pinto, a central American style of making rice and beans. I learned how to make it while I studied abroad in Costa Rica as I paid for some cooking lessons during my last month. I didn’t go into study abroad even liking beans, but now I am tolerant enough that I make Gallo Pinto for myself several times a year. After the last time I made it for an event, an end of the year work party for a job at my school, I had several requests for the recipe and how to make it. So here it is, kids.

Let’s Cook.

Ingredients:

⇒Vegteables: Onion, Bell Pepper, Corn
⇒Rice (Must be cooked the day/night before and allowed to ‘dry out’ in the fridge)
⇒Ketchup
⇒Worchester Sauce or Soy Sauce (Salsa Lizano is the actual ingredient you want, but these are adequate substitutes as Salsa Lizano is a bit hard to find)
⇒Half a Can of Red or Black Beans (About a Cup if you want to make them fresh)
⇒Chicken Flavor Bullion Cubes/Seasoning Packet (To Make your Gallo Pinto Vegan and Dairy Free, use Vegetable Bullion Cubes/Packets)
⇒Fresh Cilantro

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The ideal finished product should look something like this.

How To Make It:

  1. Turn a Skillet/Saucepan (Cast Iron if possible) onto medium heat.
  2. Place Oil in the Skillet and place the Chopped Vegetables in the Pan. Sautee until the vegetables are tender and start to Brown.
  3. Next, Add the Beans and either some of the salt/water from the can, or add some water if you are using fresh beans.
  4. Add a squirt of Ketchup, a Squirt of Your Worchester/Soy Sauce (Like a Tablespoon of each if you need more exact measurements), and either two cubes or two packets of flavoring. Mix in the seasoning.
  5. Let the beans cook occasionally stirring until they are soft (you can easily cut them in two with a fork) and the bean water juice has begun to thicken.
  6. Mix in your rice. I don’t have an exact number here for you, but put in enough that there is a good bean to vegetable to rice ratio, but not so much that the rice is overflowing out of your pan. It might take you a while to figure how much this is, but that’s okay.
  7. Continue mixing/stirring in the rice with the bean/veggie mixture until it has seemingly absorbed the bean juice.
  8. At this time stir in your finely chopped cilantro (preferably with as little stem as possible) if you want until well blended. If not, skip to next step.
  9. Turn off the burner and remove from heat.
  10. Eat as much as you can. Save the rest for tomorrow.
  11. To reheat, place in a microwave after sprinkling water on the Gallo Pinto. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, then an additional 30 seconds.
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GALLO PINTO MAKES ME HAPPY. AND IT WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY TOO.

Rapid Fire Update on Life

So I have been horribly busy and negligent, but I have actually written a list of blog posts that I will be writing in the near future. But for posterity’s sake here is a brief recap of what has been going on in my life that is worth mentioning and noting (for those of you who care about these things).

  1. My classes this semester are awesome and I have been learning so much that is both overwhelming and exciting. This also reaffirms my belief that I should go to grad school because damn I love learning, if not a little too much.
  2. I have solidified the list of grad schools and the programs that I am applying to. The process starts this summer and I am nervous, but also incredibly excited for what the future holds for me.
  3. I have to take another standardized test: the GRE. And I’m not looking forward to it, but I bought a 5lb book of practice problems so that should help.
  4.  I’ve taken up swimming and it has been incredible. My friend E. thinks I am crazy when I get excited about going to swim my laps, but it’s a great way for me to exercise without sending my joints into a frenzied panic of discomfort and pain.
  5. I am staying in Ithaca this summer to work on a research project which is being funded by a summer scholars program! I anticipate that this might also result in an offshoot blog as well. Stay tuned. Needless to say, I am very excited about this.
  6. I also might have some summer internship possibilities as well, which is also incredibly exciting, so again, stay tuned.
  7. I am a finalist for my college’s annual research symposium for a paper that I wrote last semester, which is also incredibly exciting.
  8. I am feeling overwhelmed and overcome with a sudden boundless depth of creativity and drive to write and produce work. Which is only slightly problematic because classes and homework.
  9. I am pre-registered, and will soon be registering for my last semester of classes. I am graduating in December.
  10. I TURN 22 IN 10 DAYS?!?!
  11. I am feeling incredibly loved and supported by all of the wonderful people in my life. I feel so happy, and like I am finally finding my place in the world which some days almost makes me weep with gratitude.

And here is a taste of poetry (“Because” is the title) that resonates with me because of all of these things and then some.

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Just So You Know…

This doesn’t make me an unpatriotic American, just a human being with a bleeding heart.

I dread the day the Affordable Care Act is repealed and dismantled. Which seeing as it has passed both in the Senate and the House, is becoming an unfortunate reality.

As an aspiring writer and future grad student(hopefully), I was excited about being covered by my parent’s insurance until I was 26. It would give me more time to not worry about  being in a ‘real’ job, and allow me to pursue art with passion because insurance is expensive and…

…I have medical conditions. My parents’ insurance is generous and helps me afford my doctor visits, but more importantly, my medicine. Without it I. Could. Not. Function. But if the pre-existing medical condition protection clause that fully protects my care, regardless of pre-existing conditions, is repealed (which of course is happening)…

…I’d be spending ~$200 a month on medicine. Not to mention I’d struggle if not be  unable to obtain insurance because of my health conditions. And I have to see specialists so I wouldn’t be able to afford all my doctor visits either.

I’m a 21 year old college student. I should be prepping myself for class, studying for GREs, and perfecting my craft. I shouldn’t be stressing about how to keep my medical costs reasonable, and be thinking about the unfortunate possibilities my future might hold. (Will I have to emigrate? Will I have to take up a job that kills my soul? What if my disease progresses? What do I do if I can’t afford to live?) 

 I’m just one person, and this is one tiny issue. There is climate change, poverty, immigration, class, race, and so many other problems. Progress and the change that come with it can be scary at times, but we cannot regress. Things cannot be the way they were ever again. But we can try to learn, move forward, and find ways to better ourselves and the situation at hand. 

The repealing of this flawed, but progressive and monumental legistaltion will not make my America ‘great’ again. It’ll make it hell.

Refraction of Summer

It has been brought to my attention by Sim, that I haven’t written at all in some time now. I know I have been delinquent. I have sat down and tried to write posts but they just haven’t felt right and well, why right if you aren’t sure what to say or feel.

So I will start where I left off. The end of the school year and the start of summer.

The end was agonizing and stressful and by the end, I was such an emotional mess I was relieved to leave. I was thrilled to be home with my dogs, to sleep, and  to be alone and away from people, something that you don’t really realize until you live with strangers and in a dorm. Summer for once seemed like it was going to be a rejuvenating experience.

In some ways it was. I recharged for the school year. I was able to relax and indulge in my love of reading which resulted in my impressive feat of completing 25 books. I spent time with my dogs. I cut my hair short again.

In other ways, it wasn’t. My arthritis flared mildly, and I was in an almost constant state of exhaustion or achiness. I felt incredibly isolated and lonely at times, unable to connect. Without schoolwork to occupy me, my mind sometimes crumbles into an emotional inconsistency and habit of hyper-analysis.

I figured out I’m okay at writing poetry. I took an online poetry class for my major and in the process of producing some material, I realized that I have a lot of things that I need to emotionally process, that I had convinced myself I didn’t need to. As upsetting as it was, it was also soothing to pour everything raw onto the page.

My jobs at home were the same as always, and the tedium didn’t drive me insane. Rather it was the creepy men who forced undesired attention and comments on me while I had to avert my eyes from their profane leers, trying not to scream or become physically ill. People are shitty, people are shitty.

However, my job working at a writing camp this summer helped me solidify confidence in what I want to do (writing and teaching), and it was one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. I feel ever more confident about this choice, but at times I still do worry and have uncontrollable moments of stress over whether I am making the right decision and if I am truly following my heart and what feels right.

School has resumed. Already I am drowning in readings. In fact, I should probably be doing some right now. I feel conflicted about how I feel about my classes. As an anal organizer, I need to know the assignments when they are due and the specific parameters. This semester I have several professors that only give out short term schedules a month or so at a time.

In fact, my stress is already going so high through the roof I’ve been in a low to moderate flare since class started. The other day I couldn’t open my bottle of Motrin and I cried. I hated my body. I felt awful that I was never grateful for my good health. My medicine upsets my stomach and I now have to be conscientious of not only what I eat (which is a problem for me because I love food so much) but how much I sleep even the physical activity I do. It makes me feel older than I am. It makes me angry. I try to bear it with grace and dignity but how can you when you never know when you are going to cry over your Motrin bottle?

But on a more positive note, I have discovered the magic of compression gloves. They make it so that I can function and wearing them the other day I was almost ready to weep with joy for I couldn’t remember the last time my hands felt that good. We must delight in the miracles anyway that we can.

 

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Will this food make me flare up tomorrow? Probably. Will I eat it anyways? Probably.

 

Looking Backward, Stepping Forward

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

It has been 3 weeks  now since I have been home from college. I managed to get through my third year of college, and my first year at Ithaca. And I am very, very tired.

Going into Ithaca I struggled. I felt incompetent. My brain felt rusted-over from a perturbing semester abroad, and a distressing summer spent working jobs that well, I sure as hell didn’t love. I was hoping, dreaming that Ithaca would be my place, that I would find my people. The strain of the cost of college and being unable to find employment gnawed at me constantly, and I faced an immense fear that I would not do well in my classes and that I would not succeed. But in the end, I pulled through and managed to make Dean’s List. Twice.

While I  had at least come to accept that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, I was still living in denial. At midterms in October, I pushed too hard, stressed too much and had a painful flare that left me incapacitated. I couldn’t type, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t finish my midterm essay. At the moment, I was frustrated, but there is still an immense wave of frustration and shame. I can’t work the way that I used to anymore. I felt like an alien trapped in my own body.

But I made it and whipped my mind back into shape. I approached the next semester eager and ready for my second round with 18 credits. But within a month, I realized that it was way too much. The cold of CNY winter chilled me to the core. My body, already exhausted from engaging in RA’s driving my immune system into a warp speed frenzy of ‘cannibalistic’ practices tired so easily with the cold. I could sleep for 12 hours a day, and still be sleepy. My class load was more intense, wading deeper into upper-level classes that require more time, thought, and homework I found I had next to no time to socialize. Sleep and School. On top of this, I forgot how cloudy and dreary CNY is, and I felt the lack of sun in my productivity and my overall mood.

There comes a point in all of this that I suddenly realized that part of me regretted my decision to come to Ithaca. That perhaps, I made the wrong choice. As the semester progressed, I realized that while I was making friends, I was making more acquaintances than friends. I felt so incredibly lonely. As an old soul, non-drug/non-alcohol user, who is always incredibly emotionally invested in everything, and a painfully shy introvert posing as an extrovert, I felt like I hadn’t found my people. And I need my people for support. As I thought about reaching out to other friends in other places, I found myself hesitating and stressing over whom to turn to.

I felt super shaken still about grades and academics, and for a few brief weeks seriously considered dropping my second major in history down to a minor. Will I even be capable of grad school, or would my RA reduce me to a dependent, pathetic mess? Which rattled me enough that I became unsure of what it is that  I want to do.

On the brink of despair, I finally admitted that it was time to sit down and see a therapist. So I did. And I will continue to do so in the fall. I still have a lot of mourning and emotional processing to do with my RA. And the first step has been realizing no more  18 credits a semester. The second step had been accepting that I need to exercise and yoga consistently to keep my body strong but to also manage stress and keep it low. Thirdly I need to choose wisely where and into whom I put my time and energy.

I still feel lost, I still feel uncertain, I still feel alone. But I know that I must, that I can, and that I will endure. I know that I will make the most of my remaining classes, and next year will continue to cultivate the good friendships and things in my life. I’ve bought some books on RA to help educate me moving forward. So far this summer I’m already feeling recharged. I’ve been running with my mom and I have been significantly less stressed. I have spent some beautiful moments with some friends that have made me feel loved and supported and capable of taking on the world.

It is difficult some days but I have to keep thinking forward, to not let my pain and new limitations get me down. I can, and I will succeed if I put my mind to it.

21 on a Tuesday

It is hard to comprehend that I am am turning 21 on Tuesday. And no, I will not be drinking. Yes, you read that right. No alcohol for moi.

No, I have had it before and in fact love my mixed drinks and wine (so tasty). I just have finally made the proactive choice to not drink at this point in my life, for a couple of different reasons.

  1. I need my liver uninhibited. I dread the possibility that my current RA meds will become ineffective for any number of reasons and the next strongest stuff takes a toll on the liver, so I would like to keep it as healthy as possible.
  2. I like being in control. When I drink, I lose fine motor control, like everyone else. But I am incredibly upset by the fact that I have to think really hard about not slurring my words and what it is I am saying. I get stressed by the fact there is so much I cannot have control over, so intentionally putting myself in a situation where I lose control my faculties even a little bit is enough to send me weeping.
  3. I don’t like how sad it makes me. As someone who deals with depression and sadness alcohol is literally a horrible idea. Its a downer which makes it even a worse experience when I suddenly become a weeping mess. Not to mention I cannot emotionally bring myself to physically function the next day.
  4. There is a medical history of addiction in my family, and with this I have chosen to follow my parents choice to refrain from alcohol, and refrain from exposing myself to that possibility.
  5. I just don’t want to. Yeah its tasty sometimes, but in my opinion it isn’t that fun.

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For my birthday, unlike last year, I won’t be doing anything exciting. I am going to lunch with my parents, working, going to class, and then I have an honor society induction that evening. I’ll have a lot of homework to do and a paper to work on. And I don’t have a car, and my friends are really to busy to do anything. That makes me a little sad, but I guess I just have to cope with that. A lot of people don’t understand how important my birthday or celebrating it is to me, because its about managing to make it another year despite everything. So I guess I will celebrate it on my own, just like last year. And that wasn’t so bad. At least I’ll get a real birthday treat this year, not a brownie flavored protein bar. Ice Cream, here I come!

In other news, I have figured out my class schedule for next year, and will be registering in two weeks. I should get into everything I need. Hopefully. I mean  I will be a senior…even though I will be in Ithaca an extra semester. And besides, I’m am preregistered for most of those classes so its really just one that I actually need to worry about.

My arthritis flared up last week and it was really frustrating. I think the stress of everything right now is not sitting well with it, so I have put myself back on my 81mg aspirin routine and it seems to be doing just fine. I definitely will never again be taking an 18 credit semester. It works when you are only taking 100 and maybe some 200 level classes, but with upper level classes? Forget it.

There is a month left of school, and I can totally make it. I think.

22 Ways to Put Things Off During Midterms

Midterms are the worst because mentally you can never prepare, and you still have class to go to and homework  while trying to write essays worth 30% of your grade while somehow not going crazy. So what is a stressed college kid to do but procrastinate?

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  1. Exercise. Go to the gym, go to exercise class, decide to pick up water polo. I mean, at least it will help you with stress and sleeping. So that makes it productive and necessary right?
  2. Go to a career related workshop then update your LinkedIn. Heck, update all your social media: profile pictures, bios,  do some posts, share some photos. This includes updating your icon image for all your emails: personal and school. While your at it, have a new head shot taken.
  3. Volunteer to model for you friend’s photo shoot they have to do as an assignment. That makes you a good friend because YOU are helping them get their homework done. And I mean, someone’s homework got done for crying out loud.
  4. Sleep. Take a nap. Learn how to sleep sitting up. Contrary to popular belief, sleep is crucial. So don’t skimp unless you have to.
  5. Plan how you are going to study and get everything done. Then don’t follow the plan and watch everything fall out of place and get more stressed out.
  6. Do research for your paper that is due at the end of the semester. It is a bigger percentage of your grade and I mean you do need to  find those sources so you can maybe read them during break next week.
  7. Watch puppy videos, because they make you feel not stressed and sad about life for 30 seconds at a time.
  8. Take a shower. You feel like you can conquer anything when you are squeaky clean and smell like a garden.
  9. Organize your bookshelf and all your books. You need to know where everything is and know you have refreshed your memory and will be able to find everything when you finally sit down to study.
  10. Eat and hydrate. One cannot think on an empty stomach, nor when one is dehydrated. Also, I can’t be the only one who sometimes eats their feelings. And I mean you do kinda need to clear out the fridge of anything that might go bad over spring break.
  11. Speaking of spring break, why not plan everything you are going to do now? Organization is the key to success!
  12. Change your sheets so that when you nap and sleep you are enveloped in the comfort of clean smelling things.
  13. Do Laundry. So that way you can feel semi put together in your freshly laundered sweats as you drag yourself to class half awake.
  14. Bond with your friends. Take these moments of stress and anxiety to take a break and get to know each other even better. You’ll be bound to get at least one laugh out of it, and laughing feels good and since you’re both stressed laughing is a good way of dealing with all of the stress that you are feeling.
  15. Do free writing. Write a letter, poem, short story, gay “300” erotica. At least you can say you were motivated about something. And writing is incredibly therapeutic.
  16. Have a minor existential crisis about what you are doing, your life, what you are studying.
  17. Call your parents. Have them bring the dogs to the phone or the webcam so that you can talk to them, and your parents can tell you how they recognize your voice and are looking for you. At least someone loves you unconditionally and misses you.
  18. Decide to pick up a new hobby or skill. The more ridiculous and unrealistic and time consuming the better.
  19. Lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling and cry.
  20. Go through your clothes. Figure out what no longer fits and try on everything to find the perfect empowering power study outfit.
  21. Go through your backpack and clean out. In the process find the assignment sheets you probably should have located last week not the night before the paper is due. But at least you are doing it.
  22. Inner monologue yourself up to actually getting your work done. Because as much as you hate midterms and all the stress you’re here at college and you’ve gotten this far. You’ve got this rodeo. You can, and will survive.

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