Archive for the Graduate School Category

Last Year, This Year, and New Beginnings

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Family, Friends, Graduate School, Internships and Work, Love, Miscellaneous on December 22, 2010 by aprilpalo

Wow – it’s been one hell of a year!

I haven’t posted on this blog in a long time. I’m not sure why; a combination of restlessness and busy-ness, maybe. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come back, but here I am! As Sam Seaborn said to CJ Craig, “Let’s move past the fact that you’re a little late to the party and just embrace the fact that you showed up at all.” 😛

2010: Ireland, summer, and fall

At the beginning of 2010, I left for the city of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. What followed was one of the most extraordinary, challenging, amazing, inspiring, and fun experiences of my life. It’s hard to pin down the best part…

  • Going shopping for books at Dubray’s Bookstore on Grafton Street?
  • Hitting up the weekly farmer’s outdoor market in Temple Bar?
  • Seeing a play at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin’s Chinatown district?
  • Touring the Guinness Factory – two Americans and an Australian, no less?
  • Speaking of Australians, making awesome dinner parties every week with half the Commonwealth?
  • Classes on Irish history, folklore, and religion?
  • Working in the National Archives in the department of Irish Folklore?
  • Exploring the seaside town of Howth, climbing around a centuries-old abbey, and bringing home a fresh salmon?
  • Checking out the cute, funky, fun town of Malahide, in which the local castle was less fun than the awesome town?
  • Hiking around the ancient monastic site in Glendalough and taking pictures in front of a pristine mountain lake?
  • Kayaking and mountain biking in Killarney National Park?
  • Staying in a hostel/bar in Cork, including drinking with the local Irish kids?
  • Biking around Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland?
  • Hanging around Galway, sampling the local Italian fare and fish-n-chips?
  • Wading in the Mediterranean off the coast of Barcelona while eating an ice cream cone?
  • Climbing to the tops of Barcelona cathedrals?
  • Sharing a huge frying pan of paella in Spain?
  • Seeing the Sistine Chapel?
  • Seeing La Pieta?
  • Wandering around the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica?
  • The best spinach and tomato pizza we’ve ever had, from a street vendor in a backstreet in Rome?
  • The Coliseum?
  • That time we found that amazing little restaurant just off the Piazza Navona on a glittery, rainy night?
  • That amazing hostel room with the insane blue bathroom and huge linen curtains?
  • Napping in front of the Notre Dame with the pigeons?
  • French Onion soup in an amazing little cafe not far from the Notre Dame?
  • Exploring Montmartre and checking out the hippies?
  • Pigalle subway station?
  • The Champs Elyseees and that awesome McDonalds? (Yeah, we went to a McDonalds in Paris…)
  • The view from the Sacre Couer?

Well, looking at all that, it’s really impossible to say! But after a whirlwind adventure around Ireland and Europe, we were happy to be back and settled into familiar territory in the Midwest.

In Summer 2010 I started working for the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition, doing youth programming and funding/development work. Chris started working full-time as a tech support and networks intern for Wells Fargo in downtown Minneapolis. We couldn’t have been luckier!

Our luck only continued.

Fall 2010 was an amazing semester for me. I completed a full courseload with some of the most challenging classes I’ve ever had, including classical Greek; I kept my research afloat and applied to the National Conference of Undergraduate Research; I had an AMAZING start to my interfaith social justice campaign; I enjoyed a great semester facilitating weekly Multifaith Alliance sessions; and I got to participate in some great reading and reflection with the Mahle program. Meanwhile, Chris made an excellent professional choice and stayed on fulltime with Wells Fargo. He is currently building transfer applications to computer science continuing education programs, where he will be finishing up his degree with WAY better credentials and industry standards.

2011: New beginnings…

In January I’m going to be taking a J-Term course, then I’m going to be completing a full courseload and my degree in one fell swoop. With any luck, I’ll be completing my senior honors thesis, presenting in Ithaca, New York, and defending my thesis before a defense committee. Plus, I’ll be wrapping up the Better Together campaign by holding monthly interfaith meals and volunteering/donations for free-case refugee resettlement in Minnesota. I’ll be finishing up my fourth year as a student leader with Multifaith Alliance [:(] And I’ll participate in the Mahle lecturer programming with Sara Miles!

By May, I’m going to graduate from Hamline, and just a month later, we’ll be getting married at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival grounds in Shakopee, Minnesota. Our wedding is going to be a beautiful little afternoon affair, full of blues and yellows, whimsy, and fun! We’re going to have some great clothes, yummy food, and the best friends and family anyone could ask for!

We’re planning a honeymoon road trip around the country (Australia and New Zealand just wasn’t in the budget, I’m afraid). Afterwards, we’ll be closing up shop, packing all of our belongings into a U-Haul, and moving to one of three cities: New York, Boston, or Chicago. In September I’ll be starting a master’s program at a theological seminary or divinity school, and Chris will be starting the last two years of his computer science degree. We’ll share a cute apartment, our cat, and — God willing — a family.

New beginnings…

I am unbelievably fortunate. By birth, circumstance, choice, and hard work, I have a whole host of assets that I can barely even comprehend. I’m a young, able-bodied woman, successful in my career, with a great home, a wonderful family, and a close-knit circle of friends. I’ve got the best partner in the world — who else gets to spend every day with their best friend, and always find something new to enjoy? I’ve had a goddamn amazing year and look forward to only more and better!

But like everyone, I’ve had some struggles. Balance and mindfulness are particular concerns for me. I’m a natural workaholic and often get so wrapped up in what I’m doing that I do not focus on my home, family, and friends.

I’ve worked hard to change that over the past year, and in the process, I have identified some core values/nourishments I want to shore up. In particular, I feel most dedicated to and most nourished by my relationship with God/religion, my relationship with my mind and body, and my relationship with my partner/family/friends.

So, this next year, I’m going to be embarking on a 12-month long “happiness project”! My happiness project will formalize these three values through 6 months’ worth of fun projects to enjoy every month, then spend 6 months developing these projects to fulfillment! Deep cleaning the apartment, scrapbooking, knitting, perfecting my bread recipe, getting back into yoga again — all of these are examples of some small projects I’ll be developing over the year. I can’t wait! I can post more on this later, I think.

Anyway, 2010 and 2011 have been amazing, and I can’t wait for the journey. Happy holidays to all!

Hello, world!

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Family, Friends, Graduate School, Internships and Work, Love, Miscellaneous, Multifaith Alliance and Interfaith Activism, Notes from a Small Apartment, Oracle and Opinion, Study Abroad: The Great Adventure, Wedding on November 17, 2009 by aprilpalo

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? I suppose it’s about time I crack my knuckles and fill you in!

There are a lot of things I’m preparing for. First and foremost: studying abroad. We’re moving out of our apartment sometime around December 17, and our flight leaves January 10. We should be in Dublin by 8:30 am the morning of January 11, and won’t be back until mid-May 2010.

I can’t believe I’m going to be living, working, and studying in a new home for nearly six months! The University College Dublin campus is the largest in Ireland and teaches nearly twenty-two thousand students per year. Dublin is one of the oldest cities in Ireland – it’s been been a capital city and port since well before Christianity, Vikings, or the Roman Empire. Ireland itself is an island unlike any place I will ever live, a bizarre mix of old and new, ancient and modern. Everything is going to be different there – even some parts of the language! I am absolutely thrilled to go, and I’m only one $3000 loan away from making it happen.

Other parts of my life revolve around what I’m going to do when I get back:

  • I’ve got my academics all planned out for my senior year; it’s hard to believe that I’m only two Hamline semesters away from graduating!
  • On top of that, I’m applying for a Mahle Scholarship. The Scholarship is actually a paid stipend position dedicated to progressive religious education, reflection, and service. It would be a really great way to dedicate myself to interfaith justice on campus, and I’m already buzzing with ideas!
  • I’m also coordinating the next leg of my research project. After the incredible success of last summer, it’s back to the drawing board to see what I can hone, expand, or focus more deeply. I’m going to take advantage of some Ireland resources, and when I return I fully intend on spending Summer 2010 working through additional research. Then I can spend my senior year dedicating myself to my Religion senior honors’ thesis.
  • In terms of interfaith/social justice initiatives, I’m also dedicating myself to Multifaith Alliance’s future. We’ve finally lined up an amazing new student leader for Multifaith while I am gone, and when I get back, I’m really excited to tackle some new projects as a team. I’m in touch with Hamline administration regarding a potential interfaith living community on campus, as well as introducing some interfaith dialogue into freshman orientation programming!
  • But academics, research, and extracurriculars aren’t everything; I’m also focusing on my employable future. I am currently applying for an internship position with Saint Paul Area Council of Churches, ideally working with the Saint Paul Interfaith Network and the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition. I am so excited at the possibility of working with these teams, and I can’t wait to find out what’s next! What’s more, my dream goal is to attain a position in the Interfaith Youth Core’s Fellows Alliance program – it’s a year-long paid position and the ultimate in youth interfaith leadership. It’s a dream goal for me and I’m really working hard to make it happen!

Of course, all of this stuff is happening on top of writing for The Oracle and working three jobs in IT, so I’m busting my ass on a regular basis. It’s worth it, though. Now that I know what I want to do and how to work towards it, I feel unstoppable. I feel like my calling is definitely leading me somewhere – I just have to keep up!

I’m really working on making my projects my own priority, instead of comparing myself to other students and friends. I’ve got some friends who are attaining serious career success right now, but the thing I have to remember is that I am, too. And I will continue to do so! I’ve just got to buckle down and follow my vocation wherever it takes me!

Let’s see, what else? Well, I’m also preparing for what comes after graduation. I’m obviously planning for graduate school, and here is my current list:

  1. University of Chicago
  2. Northwestern
  3. Chicago Theological Seminary (Can you tell that Chicago is a running theme?)
  4. Columbia
  5. NYU
  6. Harvard
  7. Yale
  8. Duke

Yeah, so I’ll admit I’m not setting my sights particularly low. But what’s the worst that can happen? They say no? Big deal – I find somewhere else, and I turn it into the best decision I ever made. 🙂

I’m also flirting with the idea of pursuing a Fulbright. I hadn’t considered it very much before, primarily because I was also thinking about the Peace Corps, the potential language barrier, and whether or not it would work for our plans as a couple. But I got to talking and thinking about it, and I realized: There is no realistic reason why I couldn’t pursue a research future in the United Kingdom. Why not apply? I can always defer grad school until I get back, and Chris can always pursue employment abroad if the Fulbright grant doesn’t support him.

Mentally/Emotionally/Physically, I guess I’m in this really powerful transition mode. My mind, my heart, my body – every part of me is moving forward. I’ve written before that I’m in a really peaceful, motivated place in my life; I am both deeply tranquil and brimming with passion, and I think that’s a really good place to be. My happiness must always be balanced with a reflective gratitude, and I try never to let a moment go by that I don’t thank God* for what I have been given.

* This might also be a good time to touch on my spirituality. You’ll notice that I put an asterisk by the word “God”. Usually I write “the universe” or “life”. I definitely still believe in those things; I certainly don’t believe in a personified, reified God. But I am starting to identify with a Jewish/Christian tradition, and part of living a Jewish life and living by Christ’s example is recognizing the depth of my faith and the value of community. In terms of faith, it’s important for me to stop running away from the concept of God and instead approach it thoughtfully, flexibly, and with utmost love and gratitude. Rather than obfuscating the words “universe” and “life”, I can take a page from Soren Kierkegaard and engage in a subjective, faithful relationship with “God”. Do I believe in God the same way others do? No, but that doesn’t mean I can’t engage in a relationship with It. In terms of community, it’s important for me to stop talking and begin living. I can’t just keep speaking and hoping I find something; I’ve got to jump in and practice my identity fully and passionately. I’ve never pulled punches in any other part of my life. Why should I start now?

So, that’s a process and I’m very excited to see where it goes in the future.

All told, I think we’ve touched on a lot of the important things in my life right now! It’s a pretty hectic way to live, but it’s a powerful, thrilling, and enjoyable way. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There’s a lot I didn’t discuss – there’s been a lot of social justice issues I’ve been tackling, and wedding plans I’ve been considering – but I’ll leave those for another time!

Stay tuned. Thanks for listening. 🙂

Profound Moments of Clarity (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Movement)

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Graduate School, Internships and Work, Love, Multifaith Alliance and Interfaith Activism on October 30, 2009 by aprilpalo

[Cross-posted from Bridge Builders, IFYC’s social networking site, and Multifaith Alliance.]

Well, I have a confession to make. I had to completely fill a notebook, spend a full day in two airports, and write frantic thoughts all over the whiteboard in my apartment before I could sit down and write this today.

I’ve known for a long time that religion was my calling. From the first Religion class I took at my University, I knew it was the path my career would take. And I’ve also known for a long time that interfaith work was an endless joy for me – from the first day I took up facilitating my University’s interfaith discussion group, I was hooked. But never before this conference have I experienced such a profound sense of total vocation.

At one of the morning plenaries I was sitting in the Louis room, looking at the shore and downtown Chicago in the distance, listening to panelists speak about starting and sustaining the interfaith movement. Sitting there, watching the waves crest and taking notes in the early morning, I came to the first of many profound moments of clarity.

I realized that – whether in academia or activism – every career choice I make needs to lead always, flexibly, and continuously to this, the interfaith movement. Whether it’s pursuing graduate school in religious studies or whether it’s facilitating dialogues and service projects in my community, I know that the interfaith movement is not what I want to do. It’s what I need to do. Winda, one of my new friends from Luther College, spoke about how the interfaith movement is like her “new faith”. I couldn’t agree more.

After three days of a relentless, grueling schedule – jampacked with plenaries and workshops, documentaries and panels, networking and boxed lunches, airports and waiting lines – I came home and propped up a whiteboard on the coffeetable in my apartment. I cranked up Angelique Kidjo and filled the whiteboard with lines and lines of careful handwriting. I even borrowed from my high school writing tips, going so far as to make a brainstorming web! By the time it was full, I had organized some pretty serious thoughts.

First and foremost, what is my public, civic engagement? I liked what Rev. Jim Wallis said about public engagement and its relationship to a personal commitment, so I wanted to establish the former first. Simply put, my public engagement is a religiously pluralistic world. It is a world defined by a respect for religious identity, mutually inspiring relationships, and common action for the common good. Unpacking these terms presents a powerful, beautiful vision of the future.

Here’s an analogy: It’s like we have to share an office. If a Hindu and a Muslim (let’s say) have to share an office together, then they’ve got to respect each other. Each must recognize that the other is a full, complete person and is allowed to work there, too. Next, they’ve got to establish a working relationship. They’ve got to build a working friendship that will connect them equally and respectfully with each other, so that they can get the job done. In turn, the Hindu and Muslim have to accomplish certain work tasks, like doing a presentation together. They’ve got to compare notes on their shared skills, and make the presentation the best it can be in a cooperative fashion.

In this analogy, sharing an office is like sharing the world. Unless we want to remove ourselves from it completely, we’ve got to share this space. To do that, we have to recognize that every other person on this earth, including those with whom we fundamentally disagree, is allowed to be alive, too. We’re all allowed to be here and allowed to breathe the same air, right? In turn, just like establishing a professional friendship, we’ve got to establish a working local and global relationship that will allow us to mutually inspire and care for one another. Finally, just like pulling off a presentation at work, we’ve got to apply our common values and shared goals to the social justice tasks at hand.

So, that’s my public engagement. But where does it come from? What are my personal commitments to the cause? One of the presenters at the conference spoke about complex biographies. We all come to the table with a complex framework of identity. Inherited and chosen identities, race, gender, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, ability, religion: all of these formulate a unique construct of our ethics.

My inherited and chosen identities, my recognition of White privilege, my strength as a woman, my hard-working, middle class upbringing, my Irish-American heritage and resilience, my independent American consciousness, the maturity of my twenty years of life, my able-bodied size, my Jewish tradition of social justice, my Christian tradition of Christ’s example – all of these inform who I am and how I am going to engage in the world.

Ultimately, the application of the best of these ethics formulates my personal commitment – what I can bring to the pluralism table.

But now what do I do? I know how I want to engage in the world and I know what I can bring to the cause, but what action can I take? The answer to that question is a highly personal and specific one, but I can articulate it in three parts:

1. Education – I must educate myself on the history of my communities, the current needs of my peers, and how the administrations function. I can’t confront local Twin Cities issues unless I know how they came to be that way. I can’t bring the young Hmong or Somali communities together unless I know what the youth want and feel. And I can’t make change in my environments without knowing how campus and local administrations operate and what they demand.

2. Leadership – I have to take the skills I’ve learned (from dialogue facilitation to fundraising, from leading the movement to developing sustainability) and apply them to my life. Tips, tricks, tools, models: I’ve got to internalize these and translate them into my progressive action. Establishing a framework, building a knowledge base, and engaging a skill set are all tools that can make me an interfaith leader. Storytelling, service, and shared values are are concepts I can utilize to my advantage.

3. Networking – I have met so many people at this conference, from tons of different schools and multiple different states and nations. These people are my peers and allies in the interfaith movement. I’ve got to be in touch with them. Plus, I’ve got to tap into the people I already know, too – there are potential leaders around every corner on my campus, and I’ve got to take advantage of that.

Ultimately, the conference has made me recognize my vocation, and has given me the framework to do it: public, civic engagement; private, personal commitment; and the local actions I can explore today.

For that, I can never be more grateful.

Thank you for giving me my calling,

April Palo
Religion ’11
Hamline University’s Multifaith Alliance

Incandescence

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Family, Friends, Graduate School, Love, Miscellaneous, Notes from a Small Apartment, Study Abroad: The Great Adventure on September 21, 2009 by aprilpalo

So, today is going very well. After a long while of buckling down and doing some hard reading, I managed to get all my homework done for today, tomorrow, and Wednesday! That’s right – I am two days ahead in my homework!

I’m very lucky to have a good schedule this semester, especially one that allows me to work ahead in my homework and maintain a good balance of work and life. Counting my blessings about this has inspired me to take a break and post a little about fortune and happiness.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve found myself in a position where I can finally, in all facets of my life, reach out and take hold of certain hobbies, goals, and ambitions. Yesterday, I walked a labyrinth for the first time in my life, and while I was walking there came to me the following idea: such incredible opportunity must always be paired with a reflective, generous sense of happiness. Ambition is nothing without self-reflection, and success is nothing if not shared.

Upon this realization, I wrote my gratitude on a little slip of paper and left it near the candles and bowl at the center of the labyrinth. Filled with positivity towards my future, I practically danced out of the labyrinth, so excited to continue forwards!

Later that night, Chris and I went for a late-night walk around our neighborhood. Going for walks together is a great way for the two of us to wind down, compare notes on our day, and spend some time connecting with ourselves and with our future. While we walked, I shared a little more of my experience. Primarily I expressed that although it’s fantastic to have found some direction, the happiness and positivity that I currently feel is what makes that direction so special to me.

Allow me to go into it a little more.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there a number of little things I want to reach out and work towards. Some are superficial, and some are simple; others, however, are rather personal. Improving my body through diet and exercise is one of them.

But in addition to this, I am also working to nourish my mind through challenging research and academia. Opening up new books and exploring new topics is like setting a bowl of fresh salad in front of my mind; it’s as delicious as a crunch of carrot and as delectable as a strawberry!

I’m also dedicating myself to interfaith activism and planning my career – most notably, planning Multifaith Alliance’s inaugural service project, organizing networking opportunities when I return from Ireland, and scheming towards graduation and graduate school (maybe at the University of Chicago)! All of these strengthen my mind as well, and keep me focused and active and inspired.

But the body and the mind isn’t everything. There’s also one’s heart, and I’m proud to say that I’m nurturing mine. I’m finally learning to let go of the past, and to dedicate myself to my current love, family, and friendships. I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the people I am with, and it’s high time I let go of regret, fear, and anxiety in favor of simply enjoying the ride. For too much of my life, I’ve kept resentment and hurt stewing way down inside, and that degree of discontent always had the capacity to mar my optimism. My heart is finally letting those go, in favor of unbridled happiness!

Quitting Facebook in favor of Twitter and this blog is actually part of that. Reducing my communicative quantity in favor of quality goes a long way towards letting go of pettiness and focusing on productive positivity. Striking a good balance between work and life is part of it, too. Being gifted with such a nice schedule is allowing me to explore new projects and hobbies with a full heart and passion.

Last but not least, my spirituality has also found some momentum. I am typically the sort of person who wants to convert to everything, but since establishing my relationship with God and developing my Judeo-Christian affinity, I have begun to be able to discern. Being able to discern and discriminate between options tells me that I’ve finally found something I can stick with, something that matters, something that won’t get brushed aside by the next simple fancy. My Buddhism class is starting to provide that shove, but I am overjoyed to find that my spirituality is standing its ground, and instead of bowing to some new thrill it is growing ever broadened and stronger.

So, I guess what I want to express is this: Finding myself in a place where I can reach forward with intention and passion must be – and thankfully is! – coupled with a reflective, generous joy. This is true across all my endeavors of the body, mind, heart, and spirit, which is why I am so happy and can’t wait to approach my future.

Who I Want To Be

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Family, Friends, Graduate School, Internships and Work, Love, Miscellaneous, Multifaith Alliance and Interfaith Activism, Notes from a Small Apartment, Oracle and Opinion, Study Abroad: The Great Adventure, Wedding on September 17, 2009 by aprilpalo

I’m going to share something with my readers that I don’t usually talk about.

Generally speaking I am a very happy person. I consider myself to be positive and excited for my future most of the time, and while I may have certain fears or anxieties, I try to be honest with myself about what they are and how to deal with them. On the whole I am very pleased and proud with where I am in life – my physical, mental and spiritual health, my calling, my classes, my organizations and involvements, my work, my love life, my friends, my family. This is a fantastic place to find myself!

On a more specific level, though, there are certain things that I want to improve on. They’re never really huge things; they’re typically more along the lines of… how I would be if I took advantage of all my ambitions? What would I look like if I really went after all the little things I say I want to do? So I’ve made a list.

Some of the items are superficial, and include how I would dress if I had the money and how I would decorate my home if I could. Others are essentially sketches of how I am right now – for example, my art, literature, and music tastes.

And yet, some are rather personal: activities (religious studies, research and academia, interfaith activism and organizing, world travel and culture), talents (studying, teaching, writing, working, organizing, travel), and interests (pinup, tattoos, film, writing, fantasy, and computers).

Right up there with improving my mental and spiritual health (such as quitting Facebook and embracing my spirituality), the most personal of all refers to how I want to improve my physical life. It’s no secret that I’m learning to simultaneously love my body and stop ignoring it, and physical health is part of that. There are a number of ways I want to do this:

Nutrition

– I’m debating between: 1) switching to organic, farm-fresh, free-range meat at home (and going veg when I can’t be sure), and 2) going veg all the way. We’ll see.

– Increase the mixed veggies and mixed fruit

– Get some healthy snacks: veggies, fruit, trail mix, yogurt, or cheese are good!

– Eat a little breakfast in the morning, so I don’t pig out at lunch. Have a light snack in the afternoon so I don’t wolf down dinner.

– Eat in moderation. Don’t be afraid to leave food on your plate.

– Decrease the pastas and boxed/processed food.

– Avoid sweets. No more donuts and pastries, and no more handfuls of Hershey’s Kisses every meal.

– Avoid oils. Less butter!

Exercise

– Do some kind of exercise every day

– Go for a bike ride every day

– Work up to some cardio and resistance training

And… the announcement of the century:

I have actually been achieving some success!

I have begun to eat more healthfully, including more fruits and veggies and eating in moderation. I feel better, and I feel more fit! But most importantly, I have begun going on long walks at night, and last night…

… last night…

… Last night, I went for a run. It’s the first time in my LIFE that I have ever voluntarily gone for a run. Previous times it’s always been because I’m part of a group or a class that is forced to jog, and I always hated it. But it occurred to me last night: “It’s dark, it’s quiet, no one can see me… Why not?” So I threw on some shorts and a tank top and went out and did it.

I didn’t go far – only around about a block and a half – but I made it. I didn’t stop once! When I returned to the house, I slowed and walked around about a three block area, finally doing some stretches before going back inside. On the whole it didn’t take me more than fifteen to twenty minutes.

It’s not much, but it’s a start. It’s a big achievement for me, and I wanted to share it with all of you!

Updates on a lazy afternoon

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Graduate School, Miscellaneous, Study Abroad: The Great Adventure on September 15, 2009 by aprilpalo

Well, it’s the first full week of school. I am taking essentially a normal semester – 16 credits as opposed to 20-plus. All of my classes are pretty awesome, especially Seminar In Buddhism and Philosophy of Art. Tonight I’ve still got two more classes to go (Excavating Hamline History and Crossing Borders I), but I’m still excited and happy to be back.

In related news, I’ve whittled my various extracurricular involvements down to two: Multifaith Alliance and, potentially, the Oracle. This will be my fourth consecutive semester running Multifaith Alliance, and it’s my pride and joy. We’ve got a blog up this year and a ton of new activities! As far as the Oracle is concerned, I’ve recently applied to be a columnist. I interview on Saturday at noon, so we’ll see how that goes!

Finally, while I am technically employed at four jobs, they are spread out over 25 hours and a whole week, which makes each job quite manageable and enjoyable. It’s nice to be working and it feels good to get stuff done.

On the whole, the semester is shaping up to be fun, fulfilling, and challenging all at once!

When it comes to future plans, I simply cannot wait for this semester to fly by. When Christmas hits, we’ll be packing up our stuff and moving to Ireland for six months. Beyond that, plans include getting settled into a new apartment and wrapping up our senior year. For me, this means completing my academics (one major, two minors, a liberal arts degree, and hopefully two scholarships), research (finishing two years of summer collaborative research and a behemoth senior honors’ thesis), extracurriculars (Multifaith and the Oracle, and as much volunteer work as I can squeeze in) and lastly, work (in addition my four jobs, I hope to nail down one or two faith-based internships). After that, we’ll move to wherever is next and set up shop – hopefully grad school, and maybe even Chicago!

On a more local and unrelated note, I am also transitioning away from Facebook and into Twitter and this blog. While my Facebook status will update itself automatically, my real updates will happen via Twitter, and more lengthy updates will happen via this blog. So keep your eyes peeled for both, my friends!

Well, that’s two bells ringin’ above me – time to pack up and go to class!

Interesting

Posted in Academia and Research, Dreams for the Future, Graduate School, Love, Miscellaneous, Notes from a Small Apartment on May 22, 2009 by aprilpalo

It’s been an absolutely wonderful week. Last weekend (as detailed here) I had an absolutely incredible, fulfilling time. I had a chance to really center, breathe, and relax, and it was a much-needed breath of joy and happiness. The good mood stayed with me for days, and one thing after another was just positive, happy, and true. (Check out blog posts here and here and here). It’s been fantastic!

But tonight I’m feeling a little down. I’m cold – it can’t be more than 50 degrees down here, and I was foolish enough to wear shorts and a tank. But more than that, I’m whiny. I’m bitchy. I feel too large for the space and too loud for the air. I feel cranky and hypersensitive, inept and obvious. 

For one thing, now that everything is wrapped up and dealt with (I turn in my study abroad app tomorrow!), all I have left is my research project. While there are a lot of positive things destined to happen between now and the real kick-off for the project, such as getting a visit from home and going camping, I can’t help but feel the oncoming rush of fear.

What if I can’t do it? It’s becoming a history project, I can feel it, and I’m afraid of it. I don’t know how to do a history project and I’m afraid I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into. I can just imagine myself getting up in front of the group, blundering and bullshitting through what I can, and then sitting back down with a red face, cuttingly aware that everyone knows I can’t do it.

I don’t want to let Polk down, for sure, but mostly I don’t want to let myself down. I fear what I’ve bitten off, and I’m feeling pretty inept about that.

Chris gave me magnificent book today – Dessa Darling’s “Spiral Bound”, written by Dessa of Doomtree – and I love it. I’ve been poring over it today, enjoying every line and word. Dessa is an incredible artist, a phenomenal rapper and beat poet, and a profoundly talented author. She’s also a professor and has a Philosophy degree. In a word, she has a dream life… and a talent that I can never match.

I talk about being a writer and a good one; I know in my heart of hearts that I have something to say and have been gifted with the skill and creativity to say it well. But what have I got to show for it? Two floundering poems and a heart of stacked dreams… miles of writerly desires and only an inch of time. Dessa’s got the writing career I wish I had, and I admit it.

I think another reason I’m feeling down is because I’m readjusting some thoughts in life. As I have alluded to in previous posts, Chris and I have been doing some long, hard looking at our life and our place in it. We’re both bright, ambitious, driven, success-oriented people, and in a sense, that’s come around to bite us in the ass. We’ve both been working so hard, we’ve been missing our life as it happens. But worse still, we’ve both committed ourselves so far out – trapped ourselves so far out – that we’ve both been feeling a little claustrophobic.

Clearly we are committed to each other – that was never a question and there was never a doubt in my mind – but through questioning the process together, we came to the realization that we need to scale it back. We need to be twenty years old, we need to have room to make mistakes, and most importantly, we need to have room to breathe. We’ve got to relax and take it one day at a time. We have to enjoy each other and enjoy our life and feel the breeze on our faces, and let grad school and kids and plans happen as they will.

The joy I’ve felt this past week has been proof of that truth, and perhaps giving myself some time to simply be will help me achieve my research and writing goals. But it’s still going to take some adjustment. I guess right now I’m feeling the creak and pull of rearranged dreams, and figuring out where they lie.

And so there’s that.