Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I've had an absence of restlessness for a while now, despite quitting smoking. But not tonight.

This afternoon I took the good Mr Brógan into the vet to get his annual shot updates; DA2/LPP, Lyme, Bordatella, Heartworm Antagen, and five months' Interceptor to keep the fleas and ticks at bay.

I scraped together every leftover dollar I had for that and there isn't a cent left to spare. It's always an expensive visit.

But it didn't end there, of course not! Low and behold, Brógan has some sort of growth on his lip. Joe noticed it around the 12th when he was in town. I mentioned it to the vet, who immediately became concerned because of it's colour; "if it were lighter in colour I wouldn't be too worried, but it's black and that's alarming." In other words, there's a chance it could be melanoma. There's a chance it could be nothing. In order to find out, I have to pay $520 for it to be removed and tested.

$520 to cut a lump the size of a pea hanging off of Brógan's droopy jowl by a patch of skin maybe the width of two toothpicks. This only because they have to put him under in order to do it; "if he were a person we would just numb the area, cut it off, and it would cost hardly anything. But he's a dog and we have no control over his head even if we were to numb the area so he needs to be put under for his and our safety. It only takes two minutes to cut it off, but the anesthesia and medicines for the anesthesia are expensive." Damnit I swear to god I will stand back there and hold his head still myself if they'd knock off money and allow it! Half a grand! To cut off this tiny thing! They don't even charge anything for the actual labwork/biopsy of the thing (thankfully)...so that's just the removal! Aye!

Can I just cut it off myself, put it in a little container, and bring it to them for the testing? 

I do not have the money for it. I don't know when I will have the money for it. I start work at the golf course on Friday, but as of right now I'm only working two days a week. I'm set to teach two classes but there's no guarantee that enrollment for either course will fill. 

Brógan, please please PLEASE stop getting strange / expensive / frightening ailments. This is getting absurd. First it was Idiopathic trigeminal neuritis, a week before I left for the Burren. "His jaw might work again, or it might not. There's nothing we can do, this goes away on it's own. It could take a week or it could take a few months." He was lucky with that one; after two weeks of making him goopy food and spoon-feeding it to him, and extremely messy water-feeding, his mouth was back to normal. Then the intestinal blockage. Again, extremely lucky. And now...some weird pea-sized black thing hanging off of his jowl which may or may not be cancer.

Argh argh argh. I must hope that Brógan has nine lives. Or....seventy, at this rate. My heart aches and my head pounds. I'm worried and frustrated.

Meanwhile, he sleeps peacefully, blissfully ignorant. 

In other news:
  • Quitting smoking is still going well. It's been a week now since I've had a cigarette. After dinner, and then after tea, in the evening, are the most difficult times. Other than that, it's been somewhat easy. Mornings are easy. Probably because the shite of the day hasn't piled up yet.
  • This has resulted in loads of bike rides. And jogging every-other-night with Brógan. He loves it; as soon as I put my jogging shorts on he knows what the plan is and runs to the door with anticipation.
  • My aunt gave me some of the best tea I've had yet. Some sort of black spiced tea. I'm not sure it's chai, but it's similar; naturally sweet and heavily spiced. It's magical and I've only had two cups of it so far in an attempt to spare it.
  • I sat on the patio for an hour the other night doing nothing but listening to and watching the birds. I then pulled out mam's computer and looked up a bird field guide with sounds and attempted to identify their calls, but was largely unsuccessful. There are a number that I know very well offhand, but there are many that sound so much alike, mostly all the small chickadee and sparrow varieties. The grackles, doves, red-winged blackbirds, robins, cardinals, and jays are hard to confuse.
  • The plan for September - mid November: Cleveland > Newark > Shannon > Burren > Inis Oírr > Galway > Dublin > England > Dublin > Mulranny > Whatever for a week and a half > Shannon > Newark > Cleveland. Highly liable to change.
  • Almost done redoing my brother's old room. Dad and I acquired shelves today so tomorrow I may spend the afternoon putting them up, stocking them, and getting everything at least moved into the room, if not organized and all set so I can start to make new work. Making work is going to be entirely different now, which is both exciting and slighty scary.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I'm officially done with undergrad. So that's that.

In recent news:

  • I was awarded the 3rd Agnes Gund President's Traveling Scholarship, $4,500 for the trip to Inis Oírr. 
  • I managed to pull straight A's for the first time in my life.
  • Commencement was much more fun than expected. Mostly because all of our faculty were wearing crazy silly hats and everybody was so incredibly happy and excited.
  • I'm in the midst of a single-handed conquest against my brother's old room with hopes to make a decent work/studio space. 
  • As of yesterday I'm in the process of quitting smoking. I was hoping to go cold turkey but I'm having a difficult time; yesterday I had a total of 4 cigarettes. Today I've had two (one of which I had half around 3pm, and just had the 2nd half of it about five minutes ago...and it made me feel quite ill for a moment.) I normally smoke about 20 a day, so this is massive in-itself. I'm just ready to be done with the filthy, smelly, expensive things.
  • This means that Brógan has been going on loads of walks and jogs. And my bike is getting plenty of use. 
  • Currently finishing The Return of The King
  • I miss Joe greatly.
So summer is here then. 

And with school done that means I have very few things left to gripe over. What will I talk about now?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Well, sin uile.

I can't exactly retell how it went, because it's a blur in my mind now.
The hour beforehand was miserable; my heart raced as though I had run a mile, my chest felt tight. I sat alone in my car trying to detach myself from the situation, telling myself things like "It's just one small hour in one small day. It takes longer to drive home in rush hour, and nightmares last longer." I was trying to view it as a situation that involved little to no emotion, like a mechanical process that I had to do, similar to sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office, or in rush hour traffic. Of course this didn't work and my heart continued to race.

The first two minutes were a little rough; my hands were shaking as I held my statement and read it. I was more conscious of that than anything. My mind kept saying "damnit hands, stop this, why do you do this." As soon as I was done reading my statement / introducing the work and my faculty began to ask questions, the nerves disappeared. It was exactly what I was hoping would happen, and the other 25-30-however-many-students-and-staff were there ceased to exist and it was only me and my panel of faculty having a discussion about my work.

I don't remember the questions that were asked, save a few (paraphrasing: "Are these pornographic or are they hermetic?" "Why are they mounted to panels, how does that effect the read of the work, and why do you want that effect?" "What role do the conventions of photography play in the development of narrative and understanding of the pieces, for the viewer?" Amongst a slew of others and many about my personal criteria for the creation for the creation of the work."

Also can't tell how it went because, from my perspective, too many emotions and nerves and expectations, good and bad, were involved to judge it. I will say that it went significantly better than I expected, but that doesn't say much because I set myself up to expect the worst. The nerves and buildup of anxiety and fear beforehand was infinitely worse than the feeling of standing up there and being under the onslaught of difficult questions.

And then my panel had an awkward lull, tenish minutes before the end, where nobody asked anything; silence, and questions were opened up to students and staff (nobody asked anything then either). Never have I seen this happen at a BFA before. I was in disbelief, unsure of whether it was a good or a bad thing; was it because they then understood the work and no longer felt the need to ask questions? Was it because it was the end of the day, near the end of an incredibly long week, and they were simply getting burnt out and exhausted? Was it because I was playing dodgeball, my answers wishy-washy, and they felt defeated, that they could no longer pin me down and get meaty answers out of me to work with? Or was it because the work was merely not engaging enough to spur many questions?  That last one, more than anything, made me squirm.
But then, before the silence stretched too far into an awkward abyss, one panel member asked a question, which then spurred a bigger question and discussion afterwards.

At the end there was clapping, hugs, handshakes, congratulations, and even a few "thank-you's." I was told I did fantastic, that it felt much more like a discussion and talk than a critique or intense exam. It's hard for me to agree or disagree with this because the entire thing was incredibly surreal. The only thing I can attest to was that it was much less intense and terrifying than I had led myself to believe it would be.

And I have to say that after all of that build up, all of that self-pressure and doubt and fear, shaking and sleepless nights and evenings crying on the phone with Joe and making my parents nervous for me, the end, so far, has been anticlimactic. There was no sudden rush of release, no great sigh relief was heaved. It was merely "Well, I'm done. So that's that."

That's not to say I'm not relieved; jaysus it was nice to wake up this morning without feeling tense. It was nice to sit on the patio with my parents and the dogs last night and not feel as though I were wasting time or procrastinating. And that in-itself is reward more than I can ask for.

Joe is in town this morning. We're headed to school to watch the last of our four-man band of drawing students endure her thesis-defense. I'm very excited for her because I know she's just as nervous and anxious as I was, and I can't wait for her to be done and to congratulate her. Later this evening is a public-reception at the school, and I think my dad has invited half of northeastern Ohio to it.

Tomorrow is a celebratory cookout at a faculty-member's house. Monday my thesis-binder is due. Next weekend is commencement. And there it all will end.

I'm looking forward to consuming a diet consisting of more than coffee and carbs. And I cannot wait to take Brogan on a much much much needed hike.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The day has nearly come.
My thesis defense is tomorrow. Tomorrow.

One hour upon which to judge an entire year of work and research.

Some professors try to be reassuring: this is not to belittle you, it's not a firing squad, it's a group of well-informed people whose attention is on nothing but you and your work for an hour, they have your best interests at heart, are invested in you, want you to succeed, and are there to help you tie the last ends together. Others say different; it's a bloodbath, it's a test.

Despite attending many thesis-defenses over the years, and having freshly watched two of my fellow drawing peers go through the process this week, I still couldn't tell you which opinion is more accurate.

I realize that after my hour is done, everything is done. The work is done, the anxiety is done, the beast will be put to rest. For better or for worse, it will be the end. I realize that unless I run out half way, refuse to take a stand, or blatantly don't show up, I will not fail. For those reasons I feel great excitement and anticipation to finish and close the book, be the ending good or bad, pleasant or painful, and to move on to the next.

But until then the anxiety builds. My self-doubt has possibly reached a new height. As I develop and rehearse the small speech I will have to say tomorrow, every word feels precarious and deadly. Every word feels like a snare. I fear that my own words will be my undoing. I doubt whether I understand my own work, whether I can defend it. Every weakness I show will be pried open, poked, and exposed.

Perhaps that is salt in the wound; while it hurts, it serves to clean, to heal.

I try to reassure myself that life goes on, and in the big scope of things this one, small hour of my life will matter very little. I drive through the park and I see the trees, the people out, the river flowing, and I notice that how my defense goes will not matter to any of them. I come home to Brogan who jumps and smiles and cries with excitement, and realize that to him it makes no difference at all. I sit with my neighbours and family around the fire at the weekend and reassure myself that these patterns and things will continue on, unchanged, unfazed, unaffected whatsoever by this one hour. 

But such weight has been put on it! From your first semester as a freshman to the final applaud at the end of your defense you are reminded that this is the crux of your time at school. You are reminded that your four or five years of work will all amount to this one, hour-long performance. There is an incredible degree of fuss and pressure over it. This is not easy to ignore despite how hard I try.

Emotions are split fifty fifty; excitement and anxiety. I look at my peers who are done and see them glowing with happiness and relief despite however good or bad their time at the gallows went.

I must keep reminding myself how little it matters. I must keep reminding myself that it is one mere hour. If I don't, if I let myself succumb to the pressure, I will fall even harder.

For better or for worse, come 5:30pm tomorrow, I will be done.