Permafrost by Eva Baltasar (lesbian protagonist, set in Barcelona)
They Never Learn by Layne Fargo (thriller/mystery, murder, bi women protagonists, femme fatale, dark academia)
Lumberjanes vol. 1 by Stevenson, Ellis, Watters, Allen (graphic novel, queer women)
How to Find a Higgs Boson and Other Big Mysteries in the World of the Very Small by Ivo van Vulpen (science, physics)
Fable by Adrienne Young (YA fantasy, pirates); I’m nervous about this one as I didn’t match well with another novel by the author, but it’s interesting concept of pirate-vibes (well sea merchants) and danger has lured me in once again.
City of Betrayal (City of Spires #2) by Claudie Arseneault (high fantasy, lgbt; big queer cast and aro-ace mc, politics)
Baker Thief also by Claudie Arseneault (urban fantasy, lgbt; among others are aromantic, biromantic, demisexual & nonbinary characters, witches, thieves, enemies-to-lovers)
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark & the other prequels (steampunk fantasy/sci-fi, set in Cairo, thieves, lgbt; f/f relationship)
Three things on my mind:
I’m just finished with what I named the Easter studying-drinking bootcamp. Weird name since I have had to be sober for most of it (my new meds wasn’t to happy about me drinking probably nor my very much currently active chronic illness). I’ve tried to explain it and this is what I’ve come up with;
We’re three roommates (out of the usual fifteen) and one additional friend having chosen to stay in our university city over easter vacation. Because of covid, but also we all have a lot of school work to catch up on. First one because he’s an engineer too busy making super-awesome-dangerous drones, second one because he takes too many high-level math courses and me because my chronic ill ass (crohn’s mainly) decided to throw a tantrum and become really sick this semester (not yet on the other side of this, which complicates things). Drinking is optional. Making a bunny sculpture as a friend to our ethically-sourced-from-dumpster taxidermy fox is not, as this is the project we chose to make the week a bit more interesting. That is as much as we’ve got planned, we’re just as confused as the people we’ve tried to explain it to.
I’m in so much pain sometimes and I both adore the people around me right now and the awkward support they give as best they can. But also I’ve been conditioned since I was a kid to never trust anyone to not let me down when it comes to chronic illness and it’s so difficult to let people close to me right now, as I do have a lot of solo coping mechanisms that require a lot of effort, energy and focus directed at myself. For the first time in forever I do have some energy though, and can only hope for the best and try to prepare for anything else.
I wish I could discuss with other chronically ill people how bad it feels in the scenario where people want to help, but truly deep down don’t get it. Because it’s the gray area of them trying and you wanting to encourage that, but it ending up with the equivalent of holding someone’s hand and guiding them through a tunnel, pointing out all the things they need to know to even begin that process. And they’re not bound to remember, and nowhere near change, after one walk through it. It just makes sense that they’ve not put in the work that you’ve been forced to. Personally, I’ve both been the sick one and the relative/friend to the sick one, it’s two very different experiences, but still I’ve had to do the work twice at the minimum. Even the smaller things are so interconnected to basically relearning how to view illness both in the view of a person and the ableism in society, it seems impossible to just get people to stop doing them as they don’t understand why and don’t just accept/remember the request.
For example, if you hear even the smaller things like «I hope you get better soon»constantly from people close to you – it’s really draining. Because you sigh inwards and make the choice to explain how it’s not bound to happen magically like that – maybe even the doctor has given you numbers to attach to a time-frame – making sure to assure the loved one you understand they mean well. But still it’s just as if you’re arguing against their well wishes and then the comments of being too pessimistic hit you like pellets, you counter with how you´re objectively realistic – there’s even numbers this time backing you up, not the usual «it´s my body and I’ve been in this situation before». Andthen you know there’s need for another talk about forced (!toxic tbh!) optimism and how it might help for right now, but it will crush anyone’s soul in the long run, but you’ve had that talk beforewith this person. Maybe even the day before. You’ve already spent too much energy on this. You leave it be, even if these parts of the conversation constantly drains you just a bit more as you bite the social bullet again and again. There’s certain people I want to talk less to these days, even if I care for them very much.
After those two very different thoughts & vibes, I hope you had a great easter. And if you wasn’t able to relax, or you dealt with too much family or felt lonely and missed seeing them bc of covid – that’s all very understandable as well and I hope it better weeks are ahead.
tldr; gender is strange and complex, and so is mine ..?
SO. I’m bisexual, which was something I did not realize before a lot later than most, and when I definitely did I went like – “we’ll put that off for later”. Now, during the whole of COVID-19 being a major thing in my life, for twelve long months, I’ve been putting off somewhat of a gender crisis.
I’ve definitely used the time to make up some thoughts around it, but it took me a year and a half being around mostly guys to realize it might be not just my sexual orientation that makes me feel set apart from other women. For most of my daily life these days, gender is just not something I think about when it comes to myself. My pronouns (she/her) are fine, for now. But if someone does point me out as a girl or woman, it much more often than not makes me have a real internal freak-out. A good example is someone pointing out I’m the only woman in the room (as I study physics, it happens more often), usually another girl, and I’m physically uncomfortable no matter how well or casual they mean it. I think it took me a while to separate the issue of speaking about women in STEM, of which I have thoughts because I grew up as one, and me being identified as a girl. Like I can speak to having certain experiences as being perceived as a woman, but that does not mean I go around thinking about how I am one, if that makes sense. I recently heard a trans woman say “I was fine with being a boy, but not a man”, and that makes very much sense. And come to think of it, the reason I am to a degree comfortable right now without major changes is because – without having explicitly dicussed it – the friends around me (mostly guys) goes out of their way to brand me in a neutral way. A classic example is friends of friends coming over and using me as an example as a girl in their conversation. Immediately my guy friends, from the most masculine one to the gay one, tells them I’m both a bad example of a girl/woman and a shitty example of a human being in general. (A bit of hazing comes with the territory. They mean well.) That’s a bit on the light side, but in general they have enough time to come up with arguments towards me being split into the neutral/guy-ish category, no matter if I’m sitting there with a bunch of other girls in the room, wearing something very feminine like a dress or my boyfriends is there. And they don’t know the extent, but it means a lot.
It’s fun watching nonbinary & genderqueer people explaining their experiences online and then switch to me sitting alone in a corner of my room going like “same, same”. True facepalm moments, trust me. Going forward, I think my gender questions will be on standby while I feel it out. Maybe I’ll experiment with some clothes, as I sometimes like being very feminine and sometimes want to be very much more masculine presenting. For the most part, and this has been pointed out to me multiple times – my clothing and appearance just does not in any way express my personality anyway. It’s probably bad in meeting new people, but hilarious and also helps in this gender question in a strange way. I do really switch between liking my boobs and hating them intensely, but I cannot fucking wear a binder because I already have serious lung problems. That would probably be the first step I would’ve taken, otherwise.
There’s also this one issue I need to sort through soon, which is that I look most feminine when I’m truly going through a difficult period of time. It’s a bit darker and more complex one. A good dash of it is something about how we view gender, like I have chronic illnesses where I lose weight when they flare up and that makes me look a certain way. (Btw, the critique of The Queen’s Gambit main character’s breakdown as being too glamorous made me laugh bc I’ve looked my worst and best at truly awful periods of time. It all depends.) Maybe I do more skin-care then, because I find it soothing. There’s also more fun reasons, like loving anything that sparkles more or jewellery or colorful dresses/skirts because they give me a needed moment of joy. But then there’s also being more alone and dealing less with new people who will perceive me as a girl based on a dress, which do bother me, I just don’t know to which extent yet. If we were to delete the whole gender thing fully and think of it as at the very least more in less/more masculine/feminine with no harsh boundraries, I would feel a lot better. Like all the nonbinary-questioning tiktoks say; mostly I want to look feminine, but like guys can. Or pirates. Ah, to be a 17th century type of pirate, only now. Maybe that’s the aesthetic goal I should go for.
So in conclusion, I’m doing the same thing with my gender as I did with my sexuality; realize when I was young it was something different and then repress it without truly knowing. My mom grew up a tomboy and gave me all the freedom she could for me to do what I wanted; which was to have friends that was girls, but then get bored and run away to play football. I hated my body changing when it did, then just arrived accepting that this body is what I had to deal with and now is somewhat uncomfortable yet again. Still, I do think accepting there’s something genderqueer here is the right step. But also that how I present now is somewhat comfortable enough.
So, I’ve started buying more physical books (in comparison to none) and then I never do book hauls, so here they all are gathered up. Honestly, a few of these books are from a year ago, but too nice-looking to not include.
Astrobiology: a very short introduction by David C. Catling
Kant: a very short introduction by Roger Scruton
The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
Robin Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (penguin english library edition)
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (penguin english library edition)
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (penguin english library edition)
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (penguin vintage classics)
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart (bught used, panther granada publishing edition from 1978)
how to: absurd scientific advice for common real-world problems by randall munroe
A Separate Peace by John Knowles (simon and schuester edition)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher`s Stone (scottish edition)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (slytherin edition)
Dune by Frank Herbert (penguin edition)
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat
Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore
Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
War on Peace by Ronan Farrow
The Iliad by Homer (penguin classics edition)
Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman (david fickling edition)
Maya by Josten Gaarder (found for free)
The Library Book Haul (aka books I promised to return a month ago, but have not read yet)
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Story of More by Hope Jahren
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu
The City We Became by N. K. Jemish
The Notebook Haul (mostly gifts)
Floral (green) notebook from Paperblank (called poetry in bloom)
Flowers (dark) notebook from Paperchase
Edinburgh illustration notebook by Libby Walker
New book posts:
Other books I’ve been reading:
Currently reading Winter Hours by Mary Oliver (poetry/prose/essays)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (fantasy, lgbt; lesbian mc)
World Without Fish by (graphic novel, nonfiction, enviromental science) by Mark Kurlansky
Added to TBR:
A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design by Frank Wilczek (science)
Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality by Frank Wilczek (science)
The Queen`s Gambit by Walter Tevis (chess, fiction)
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots (fantasy, superheros, lgbt; bi mc, nonbinary)
The Monster Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade #2) by Seth Dickinson (fantasy, lgbt; lesbian mc)
The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters (contemporary YA, lgbt; m/m)
Tell Me by Kim Addonizio (poetry)
Bound by Claire Schwartz (poetry)
Hours Inside Out by Isabella Presiz (poetry)
Three things on my mind:
About physical books; it’s funny how much taking photos of books is would boost my book posts more than anything. My short review of graffiti by Savannah Brown is a perfect example, it gets too many views each day solely from google image searches. I’m using the library more this year and in general have bought more physical books, so I hope to also take more photos, because I do love that aspect as well. I definitely did a lot when living at home, to the point where we would rarely get good natural light in winter and it annoyed me because book photos were worse, hahha. Physical books are just more expensive and less convenient. You’re talking about the girl who at the age of 10 years old chose to learn books in english instead of the translated norwegian copies because they cost so much. But I do prefer having physical copies of science and poetry books a lot over digital ones, because it’s so much easier to refer to and really sit down and take time with reading the book. I would love to have a copy of all my favourite books on hand in case friends are looking for recommendations, but I just don’t have the money for all the fantasy series that would include, as the student I am.
I started writing a short thing about how I’ve been thinking about gender for a while, as I did put off an imminent gender crisis during the first season of covid-19 lockdown. But then it turned into its own whole thing, and I think it will just be a post on its own because it fits nowhere else. Not that it has any conclusion, it’s more of an on-going discussion with myself.
I’ve listened to & loved the podcast Reply All from Gimlet Media for years. To the point that when company after company was revealed to have racist practices and similiar recently, I actually thought about if these (until now seemingly empathic) white guys behind Gimlet Media would disappoint me to. But instead they’ve hired and otherwise given platform to producers of color with a purpose to cover a more diverse range of topics. And it’s really brought things to my feed that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, I think. A very recent addition to this is a series on the Bon Apetit test kitchenwhich had a “online reckoning” last summer with being exposed for being racist. Told by reporter Sruthi Pinnamaneni, she goes hard in the first episode by calling a huge number of past and current employees over a period of twenty years and highlights the many people of color that has quit already way back because they were devalued in different ways because of the color of their skin and them not coming from the same background or looking the same as every other white person in the kitchen. She does an expert job by pointing out other possible causes for situation as well, many of these people struggled at the time to understand it themselves, but overall it shows a pattern. Especially in comparison to the newest known scandals that made so many very-much-loved-by-the-audience cast members quit. Absolutely worth listening to, I’m sure the next episodes are going to be great as well.
Resistanceis another new podcast by Gimlet Media hosted by Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. all about the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement. The third episode “Shake the Room” was the first I listened to, and the story of how american police targeted protesters months later, and this example of how they showed up at the house of the Warriors in the Garden protestor Derrick Ingram in particular, really shook me to my core in its injustice and the potential and threat of violence.
Here’s the thing – I thought I could, and would actually have to, celebrate my birthday with those of my fifteen roommates who are home. We were asked not to go back to our university cities right now unless necessary because of a major corona outbreak there, but for many that message came too late as the semester is starting up. Personally I was supposed to have a hospital appointment that could not be moved, so I would have to travel there. Turns out, when you have a possible allergic reaction to the kind of medicines I am on and an ambulance has to treat you, it’s suddenly (and thankfully) possible to postpone hospital appointments for two weeks more. I’m good enough right now that I could probably go, but I would have to be much more in and out of the hospital to take tests, and that increases the corona risk so much more than if I was in total lockdown with my friends. Well roommates, but we’re pretty much all friends. Which leads me to do all that here and instead celebrating my birthday alone, but with my lovely mom.
In a few more days I will know how badly my start of the year will look like and I’m not looking forward to it. Sometimes there’s only bad alternatives, and there’s nothing you can do except accept that. Ah, I’ve always told myself and those around me that when physics & math are my biggest problems, my life is good. I’m truly excited for that too be the case again. I had a reminder of that when someone (kindly) asked me if it wasn’t better to take a reduced course-work this year, and the pure rage I felt at having the one good thing taken away from me right now. Of course, at a point I will admit defeat, but that’s not one week in.
I was supposed to do the regular yearly 2020 TBR Update, but then I had to leave a lot of half-finished books behind for winter vacation (the downsides of switching over to physical copies again) and tbh I’ve not had enough energy to read. So I’ll extend that into 2021 and make the post whenever I feel I have caught up a bit, which is probably halfway into the year, let’s be real.
Other books I’ve been reading:
Rereading Corazón and reading Tesoro by Yesika Salgado (poetry)
Shame is an ocean I swim across by Mary Lambert (poetry)
Added to TBR:
In the event this doesn’t fall apart by Shannon Lee Barry (poetry)
What truly is burning a hole in my soul right now is that, as students, people were so shocked and heartwarming about me having been admitted to the hospital. But in real life I’m so much expected to take care of myself without help, especially as everyone is busier with exam season close by, and it’s truly hard to keep up this semester with making food for myself, let alone study enough.
It’s not my fellow students’ fault – chronic illness is something truly difficult to understand how affects a person (and how much it varies) unless you’ve seen it up close, but I’ve found the STEM (mainly physics) crowd I spend most time with have few people that truly understand. I’m used to that, but it also tears at me, because I have to stop mirroring the people I’m surrounded with and realize I’m at a disadvantage. It does not mean I can never aspire to my ambitions, I do study physics for fuck’s sake, but that certain things will be different; more difficult for the most part.
Disabled is a term it took me a long time to be comfortable with using about myself for various reasons. Now I have to make the people around me comfortable with it as well, because even the ones who mean well have not yet faced the fact that I won’t become – and then stay (which is the most difficult part) – not sick. How energetic I am will constantly change, how much I can participate in parties or movie nights, or anything in between, will change. I can work on not instantly becoming social anxious when I’m more ill, because suddenly I can’t read the whole room like I usually can and I know I miss more social cues – these are examples of things I’ve realized overwhelmes me only recently.
The hardest parts of being chronically ill for me hasn’t been the pain, although that is a major problem when it truly gets bad; it has been to get people – doctors, friends, former friends, family, teachers, school administrators – to understand. Although I’ve lost a lot being chronically ill since I was a child, I’ve also gained qualities, among them a high level of empathy. It makes sense; it has been cruicial to my survival in a particular way, as well as something I’ve been raised to be very aware of. But I think going forward I’m going to have to mold what empathy means to me and kind of extract the parts of it that hinders me from asking people for something if I think they’re going to reject me. At this point I would rather go through that painful process and hopefully end up with a core group I know that care, even if I’m not in shape to go to a certain party with them. Or worse – somehow see me studying less or being awake at strange times, and directly connects it to laziness and me not being up for this. Whatever this is.
I’ve seen the signs of that happening recently with a truly close friend – I’ve gone through that type of friend-breakup before after all – along with some comments I’ve been getting from them. And I got so frustrated until I realized more than anything we’re in an university enviroment where you’re constantly afraid people will suddenly just leave. We as a student body are dependent for each other for more than we realize in our daily life, especially during covid-times, where we have nowhere else to turn to to fill our days (hopefully with some work), get us out of bed on a schedule or cheer us up.
Or discuss big philosophical ideas with, while hating on the one obligatory philosophy course we have, of course. In the end, my core friendgroup is weird, not in the way of ~we’re so quirky~, but in the way of “we’re STEM students all with different degrees of lack of social abilities, we joke about that constantly, but it’s true and sometimes the areas we lack makes people more hurt than intended in certain situations”. Sometimes it makes it impossible to see that you’ve hurt someone, or is making it more difficult for them. I think another change I will have to do is be conscious of telling them when it happens, softly of course*. Because I do believe they don’t dislike me as a person, even if I’ve gotten the reputation of being a bit chaotic and not as smart recently. And for the last one, at least, I know I can prove them wrong, if only my health would pick up the pace getting better.
I’ll continue looking elsewhere for support when it comes to my chronic illness. I think the temporary conclusion I’ve come to is that I’ve always found myself having friends for different purposes; I do different things with them and have a different level of openness/vulnerability. And that a person doesn’t have to understand what I’m going through as long as they show that they do care, even in their mistakes. It’s a strange space to be in right now; I both do not have the energy to deal with it, and it has risen as a bigger issue because of that.
The next day
I’m wary about sharing anything too personal on the internet, so I’m nervous about this one. But I want to add that I went from writing this post as a very much uninterrupted stream of consciousness to walking out into my living room and seeing the people I live with and three additional friends, who’d just gotten here from a chill night drinking someplace else. And they cheered for me being “alive!” and home. And then threw a whole lot of questions at me, which included how I’d forgotten to tell one of the people I live with & talk to mostly every day about being in the hospital at all, which I mentioned in this bi-weekly update (my excuse is that I was truly drugged on painkillers).
After some hopefully-faux hurt souls, we were back to a strange place, but a more comfortable one than we had been for a long while. I didn’t feel like such an outsider, they could at least recognize something big had happened and that I was not that okay. That it wasn’t me that had voluntarily distanced myself from them, but shit had hit the fan health-wise and led to this.
And then as the evening progressed and we watched a movie, these obviously drunk people of mine continued to make fun of each other, and me, with some very poignant hospital/health jokes, which I laughed at genuinely because they were clever ones. But they did always add a concerned look, a comment that they were glad I was there and rounding the night of with a genuine discussion of “how bad/okay are you right now?” If anything it only reinforced the existing ideas I had about this whole situation the last months; they mean well, but sometime lack the ability to communicate it or are too hung up in their own things/views. But they also have generated this environment which has truly become home for me and for that I will work with all of it. ❤
* Or maybe not so softly. I might’ve already started this new strategy of mine off; it was the second time the same person commented on how I shouldn’t have kids because of my chronic illnesses and my reply might’ve been a longer version of “I understand what you mean because I know you, and you know I don’t currently want kids, but what you’re arguing for is pure eugenics.” They took it well, I will give them that.
For those wondering my diagnoses (so far) is the autoimmune illness Crohn’s disease, the gallbladder disorder Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction and a lung condition.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (classics, short story, horror)
Pedagogy of the oppressed by Paulo Freire (nonfiction, pedagogy, politics)
Chilling adventures of Sabrina vol. 1 by Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack (graphic novel)
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt: not that excited by this book synopsis or the lack of knowledge I’ve got of it even while being a big Tartt reader, but still – I got to give it a try
Lanny by Max Porter (magical realism, small-town)
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis: because my deep down on him, Donna Tartt and their time at Bennington College has interested me enough to actually read his book even though I do believe he’s a high grade idiot at his older days from the clips I’ve seen.
Three things on my mind:
I always know I’m going to be offline when starting a new semester, but this time a lot was thrown at me in a row. Do you ever get the feeling that if you knew beforehand how much you would have to go through in a short amount of time – you would just not be able to? I’m not so sure I want to be able to tell the future, is what I’m saying. Anyway, I’m leaving those two massive physics exams, then writing a majorly important letter of complaint bc of misdiagnosis (in hopes of an apology or at least that the doctor not make that mistake again) the last possible day before it would be out-dated like its own “statue of limitation” kind of thing. It was then followed by a week filled with every major hospital appointment at once (bc everything was postponed until now that corona is less of a problem here) and an abrupt total worsening of my autoimmune disease. Also during those three weeks I had signed up to welcome new students, so I went to a couple social gatherings, which made me even more tired, but also might have brought the break of normalcy to save my brain a little (well, a lot).
Ahh, a book blog this was supposed to be. Well, there’s been a lack of book blog posts, but it’s coming. Until then I would highly recommend writing some of Mary Oliver poetry on a sheet and hang it on the wall, reciting each one as many times you want until you feel comforted enough to sleep. My favourites recently has been “Wild Geese”, “I go down to the shore”, “An old story” and “Dogfish” (link here!).
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY WEAPONS! Why hadn’t I heard of this fanedit of the first hp movie that turns every wand into a gun along with more clever & fun additions to scenes? I had doubts, thinking it would be overwhelmingly much, but it’s just far enough between the altered scene that it’s just easter-egg kind of surprises to a movie you (hopefully) already love. (I realize after some research that I didn’t know about it until now because it came out a month ago … in which I was as mentioned prev. very offline.) Here’s more info.
Because I’m not going to pretend I can give advice, especially not as my circumstances will be vastly different as my first year was cut short because of corona, but now everyone is dealing with it from the start. Since the world is in widely different stages of having been through corona, this list is mostly unrelated to that.
I’ve made many “mistakes” this first year, but at some point you realize you just didn’t have the knowledge to make the better decisions at the time. But I have accomplished the things I was most worried about not being able to going into university, especially as a queer woman in a high-percetage male STEM program that is physics; to get a good group of friends. And we have reflected on and discussed our first year a lot. So here’s me summing up the conclusions we’ve arrived at for hopefully someone else to find some use of, or at the very least I will as I go into my second year.
1. Expect to do everything perfectly, already in the first semester you will achieve absolute balance
It just won’t happen. I’ve not talked to one person that’s got their whole life together and means it, you always feel lacking in one area or another. Think about what you need in your life to function, then what you would like to achieve and then whatever extra you could do to improve your life. You might have achieved really good grades in high school, but recognize that you need to find friends or another form of support network (or both) to be able to get through a whole uni programme. You might be neurodivergent or disabled or have mental health issues that you should dedicate time to get acommodation for or get a new doctor/hospital doctor/therapist/contact at disability office and figuring all that will take its toll and new coping strategies. New routines! Making food! It’s not as stressful if you go into it mentally prepared and not already overwhelmed.
What you can do; go into the first semester very aware of your priorities, observe how much time everything takes in a week, reconsider your plan & priorities the second semester. Understand it’s a learning process and about personal growth. Have compassion with yourself.
2. Change who you are to fit in or fit with an idea you have an uni student of X program
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. Because I and many others realize that we got the chance to reinvent ourselves going into uni. But the whole dark academia aesthetics reminds me that some first years come into physics ready to “fake it ‘til they make it” in shaping their life and style and persona and I would advice – no matter how much you love the idea of academia or any other aesthetic – to let that aesthetic/goal compliment you as a person instead of trying to show yourself off as some (WRONG and honestly toxic) idea of a physics student/professor. This goes for any area of study. Don’t change ur clothes, dress more modest in every setting, hide questioning of sexual orientation or gender, not ask dumb questions, pretend you’re more introverted or extroverted, change ‘not mainstream’ interests or shame people for anything like this just to fit into this perception of an aesthetic necessary for success. I’ve seen all of those happen this year. Most common one is to drink to feel less socially awkward; it’s not worth it! Do it because you want to, not feel pressured into it.
3. Hang on to only the first people you meet and not spend time with a wider array of people.
This particularly includes starting to date someone the first week/month and not attending any social gatherings. I’ve seen people do this and reappear three months into the year or more being like ‘oops I got a boyfriend’ and having to reintroduce themselves only to disappear again. Take into consideration how dependant you’re going to be on your partner (or bff really) for a while as it might be your only friend, and whether they’re also spending time with friends and creating a network or if you’re spending all free-time together. It’s okay to state those concerns out loud to someone before you two getting involved at all.
The new people I find easiest to talk to is a smaller friend-group that is trying to be inclusive because the flow of a conversation, teasing and topics of interests are already known. But where I come from people usually all move to the same place, as a friendgroup, and never learn to really include others that way because they don’t need to and it’s a sad thing because so many potential people you might love to talk to and you’re basically shutting them all out before they get a chance. If I hear one more ‘so hard to date’ I will punch them bc the problem is so obvious, they only know other people from back home.
What you can do; wait to date and state concerns or remember to spend time with possible new friends as well, maybe especially in a group with the potential partner if that’s natural. don’t hang on to one person, but try to decide to split up and find potential friends to introduce to each other or go make friends together.
4. Believe that you’re going to find your eternal friend group the first week.
Maybe you had a good group in high school, maybe you’re finally ready to discuss interesting things with like-minded, interesting people. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out as quickly as hoped.
What you can do; see it as a way to get to learn to speak with many different types of people, seeing who you vibe the best with. Become casual friends with a couple people only increases the chances of having a familiar face in a lecture or someone to ask for help when stuck or simply study side by side in a room.
5. To shame people hooking up. Or who dress less or more revealing than you. And to not keep an eye out for others experiencing unwanted sexual advances.
And of course most of all, should go without saying; never make unwanted advances when someone is saying no or clearly uncomfortable or too drunk. Actually, even if you think of yourself as a good person, get a very clear ‘yes’ to any sexual advances. If it’s one thing I’ve learned it is that you should never underestimate the trauma a person can already be carrying with them around sex (and then how they react in certain situaitons), and so thread carefully and be on the safe side.
It’s a time for people to start experimenting in all aspects of their identity, keep your judgement to yourself pls. I heard a guy make a critical comment on an older female student’s low neckline and I wanted both to kick him and it struck me how much it just emphasizes my idea of him as insecure, no matter if that is true. Don’t be that person.
6. Forget the due date for signing up for lab partners or times.
Ours was at 7 am the only free day we got! The first two weeks our schedule was insane because we didn’t have normal lectures yet, so my program the day before went from 8 am to 8 pm, I have to make dinner and am deeply tired getting to know roommates and go to sleep at 1 am, then remembering I need a lab partner for the day afterwards. I sent so many texts at 1:30 am, waking up at 6:30 to see if anyone had responded. A lab partner you know don’t matter that much, but it truly was good to have one I didn’t know, but knew I could at least be civil with. This year it was the same damn thing only we had to choose the people of our corona-friendly groups to be with the whole year, without warning. It was one stressful hour.
7. Feel like you need to participate in all aspects of student culture or be on your own. Or go the other way and think you need to focus too much on studies the first month, which is very busy.
Clubs! Interest groups! Sports! Volunteering! Each uni program’s society. I don’t know what your university offers, but you should after the first week! They’re all there to be a support and a place to meet people, spend the first month wisely by trying out which places of the university/college you feel like you are most comfortable and like. But also don’t feel like you need to drink, or that you need to drink to attend parties. It’s okay to be sober in any situation, do you think college drunk people notice your potential higher awkwardness? Mostly not. Personally, I went into the physics programme from the real world being considered someone who liked the occassional party, but not really. But I just don’t like that many people around anyway. The moment someone started talking about physics stuff at an after-party, I was in love with that aspect of the culture. If you find your people, you might find that the ‘parties’ and their conversation is a lot more interesting as well. Or not, and then you might want to do some daytime activities with a club/sports team. And again – you don’t need to drink.
8. Not look for one older, very active student’s name that you write down, (befriend on facebook) and is ready to ask if you got questions which needs to be answered quickly. Or elected student representative.
Often councellors are inaccessible in the beginning of the year and even through they’re supposed to be there every mail seem to go missing. Not to mention the professors. Usually a STEM class will have layers of people with responsibility and even knowing someone to ask who to turn to or where to look it up is truly valuable. Cue me trying to reschedule an obligatory lab time for a Germany trip and not realizing there’s one certain person resposible for all the labs among the many names of ‘lab assistants’. I had time, but if say you’re ill and can’t join – especially in corona times – have that name and a plan ready.
What you can also do: Generally familiarize yourself with what to do if ill or not able to attend obligatory work and the consequences. You think you won’t need it and suddenly you got a fever. Or just need motivation to get your hungover self out of bed and get to that 8 am thing.
9. Feel like you don’t belong in certain rooms.
I have a strange background (school-wise), making me feel like I definitely do not fit in with all these smart people I’m surrounded with. You just have to be uncomfortable sometimes, of course that’s a long way away from unsafe. Looking back there’s certain people I’ve met & gotten help from and actually courses I’ve switched out because I went into those rooms; I once joined a group of guys arguing loudly in a room only to find out that they were discussing how awful matrix calculations are by hand are with older students and I joined in after some truly shy thirty minutes. I joined a party the first day where I wanted to leave the first five minutes, near panic, but a girl took my hand bascially and introduced me – making me take inspiration from that the rest of the year. After a few weeks two older girls, separately, noted that I was the only other girl in the room (kind of like a break-room, but at 1 am and filled with older students, it’s fun & weird) and if that bothered me – at that point I’d gotten enough familiar faces that I was surprised it didn’t. (Like obviously in a working for gender equality kind of way, but not in a personal anxiety level way hahha.)
What you can do; fake a bit of courage if necessary, stay in a room for ten-fifteen minutes before fleeing, don’t do anything that’s actually unsafe, but not let anxiety/self-confidence hold you back. Only you know what you want, only you know where you belong and not let anyone tell you otherwise.
10. Not explore early on what modules/classes you want to take, even if two seem very similar
Here the older student advisor comes into good use. I briefly mentioned how I changed one of my courses the first week, it was a difficult, but good decision. There’s always the ones that take too many classes or have already taken some in high school (an offer I never got??). You don’t need to know what you want to do or which special field you like the first year, but perhaps ask anyone in your major what they would’ve done differently. My physics friends mostly agree on how we should have had one year of pure maths before then going into a physics bachelor course, because it would’ve gone pretty seamlessly at my particular university, but we didn’t know about that possibility. It’s still not something I would recommend randomly, but if you do really care about getting good in a programme, the A4 solution given might not be the best way for everyone. Or it might be a good reason behind the set-up, but now you’ll know.
11. Not go to lectures
This is straight off the press (tongue) of my math major roommate who was ahead of all of us even as first years; “my first advice to new students would be to go to lectures, even if I barely did.” I had a laugh, because if someone was way worse than me to show up; it was him. Give it a good two months’ worth of trying. Even if the lecturer is terrible, you can bond over that with other students and find out a strategy to create some kind of plan together. I didn’t attend lectures at all after the first few times in two courses; first semester’s intro programming course because it was truly annoying to sit through (but I should’ve stayed even if doing something completely different, just to pick up on possible exam questions) and second semester’s wave & fluid mechanics. The second one I had learned my lesson, but I had a weekly appointment I had to go to and it was the only day I could – let’s just say I recently retook the exam and it went better this time :)))
I hope this was useful to someone, it was at the very least useful for me to think through new students arriving! Stay safe in the corona season we are suffering through. Think about the people in the risk groups (like me) that have to be super careful, and will suffer greatly for you not participating in that work of being careful. Wish you the best of luck and please feel free to add something!
A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green (it was so awesome)
Added to TBR:
Starlight by Richard Wagamese (ownvoices for indigenous)
The end of everything (astrophysically speaking) by Katie Mack (science, physics): I’ve followed Mack on twitter for a while and she’s this great astrophysicist, so I’ve been truly looking forward to this book
The winter duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett (YA fantasy, lgbt; f/f & nonbinary characters)
Spellbooks of the lost and found by Moira Fowley-Doyle (magical realism, lgbt; bi): I do truly love good trios, especially if they’re witches
Mexican gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (horror, historical fiction, gothic, set in Mexico)
The city we became by N. K. Jemisin (urban fantasy, lgbt)
Burn by Patrick Ness (dragons!!!, fantasy)
Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas (fantasy): because I should give up on her by now, but everyone seem to like this (finally) adult book and I can’t help being interested/hopeful
Kingdom of souls by Rena Barron (fantasy, set in West Africa)
A thousand splendid suns by Khaled Hosseini (historical fiction, Afghanistan)
Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji (historical fiction): I’ve actually wanted to read this for a long time, but never added it to my TBR somehow?? I’ve seen some amazing quotes/paragraphs from here out of context.
Earth and ashes by Atiq Rahimi (historical fiction, war, Afghanistan)
PET by Awaeke Emezi (YA fantasy, trans mc, Nigerian author)
Passenger to Tehran by V. Sackville-West (travel, memoir-like, set in 1926): I fell down a rabbit hole reading about her life dating both men and women and this book written as a diplomat’s wife seems very interesting
Honeybee by Trista Mateer (poetry, lgbt, smalltown)
SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson (poetry, sexual abuse)
Rosewater by Tade Thompson (sci-fi, fantasy, set in Nigeria)
It was another quote from an article that set me out on a deep rabbit hole; Esquire’s “The Secret Oral History of Bennington”. It’s about the college in the 80’s, producing a group of famous artists, including Donna Tartt (the author of two of my favourite books; The Secret History & The Goldfinch) and American Psycho’s Bret Easton Ellis. There’s so many good quotes in that article, and I’ve rarely trusted a group of people less to say the truth accurately and not have a skewed perspective because of their heightened sense of self-worth. Doesn’t make it any less fascinating to look into, though.
TODD O’NEAL: The Secret History isn’t so much a work of fiction. It’s a work of thinly veiled reality—a roman à clef. When it came out, Claude and Matt and I got endless calls. Everybody was saying, “Oh, did you know Donna just wrote a book about Claude and you all? And Claude is Julian and Matt is Bunny and you’re Henry.”
Todd O’Neal was another student at the college Tartt attended
I booked my tickets back to university, finally. I knew more people would travel by train because of corona making planes more unsafe, but I didn’t realize 95% of the tickets would be sold out for the next week and a half during what’s still summer! We don’t start up school again truly for another three weeks guys! Seems like everyone is like me and have decided that five months away from my dorm is already too long. The fact that it’s still summer also means that they’re working on the tracks, so instead of eight hours, it’s a twelve hour train trip. And I’m truly sick from an sinus infection (I tested negative for corona, no worries), so that will be hell on earth, no matter how much I love train-rides. I went on a hunch that the earlier train at the end of the week was the right one, and a minute afterwards my new roommate (and friend) texts me, turns out we’re on the same one train by accident.
If there’s something I’ve learned in my personal life this week is the reinforcement of this idea – find your support anywhere you can, trust those people even if it will hurt if they break that trust, create your own family through friends. It goes with the story that I’m leaving earlier than expected because shit went down, that I’m lucky to have a mom that loves me, and that I’ve experienced a lot of rejections from family in the last five months. I miss my uni family, so deeply. Soon I will again use my insomniac nights sending my rants on literature, in this case it would be Bennington College and the type of elitism there, to the other insomniac directly across the hall until we both give up and meet for a nightly snack in the kitchen.
I went into my first year of university knowing that I could count on no one to be there to catch me if I fell. I’m going into the second year of university having stumbled and fallen a lot these last five months, but always having the hope that I would be back home soon, where people are so different in how they show they care – but they all do. Only four days left.
A year ago I wrote a draft of a post explaining why I loved the ocean, as to explain why I gave this blog the name aquapages. The problem is that I’ve yet to find the right word to describe how or why I love the ocean. So as I’ve put some thought into the design of this thing, finally, I thought why not post a little snippet of the explanation behind the name and the strange level of interest for someone who isn’t on or in the ocean that much.
I don’t think I could ever live in a place far from an ocean or any body of water that I can look out on. The light-dark-blue-green-black everchanging color calms me, the open space makes anything seem possible as my chest expands and is rid of worry, the endless movement energizes me. It makes me feel entirely too small and too grounded at the same time. I get the same feeling that drives people to look up at the nightsky. But when the nightsky seems the same every night, and my neck gets tired of arching the weight of my head, the ocean always seem to be right in front of me and different from an hour before.
I have never been happier in my life than when I feel my body floating, when all I am able to smell is salt. It eases pain, it’s probably the only time my body is all one temperature because my hands and nose are always too cold. Here in Norway, especially further north, the water is always too cold, too restless, too dangerous. I should curse the ocean, I should stay away and despise it. My mother is afraid of it, even before it took the latest family member. In a family of part-time fishermen more than a handful of people has been taken by the ocean at this point, even if I only know the name of the latest three of them. Still it’s just as dangerous as the beautiful nature here always is, a reminder of what humans never can conquer all of, something that never can be child proof. Small accidents are reminders to not make bigger mistakes. To be a good swimmer. We take our precautions, sometimes, but other times there’s whales – enormous whales, a flock of them, sprouting water from the holes in their back like in the kid’s cartoons and every tiny white plastic or wooden boat is trying to get as close as possible.
Have you ever seen how strange water moves? How sound travel in water? How objects move in water? How when the melted ice that’s river water meets the ocean it creates a weird mix that I’m not entirely too happy about because it’s not salty enough? (More salty water just smells different and tastes different and makes you float better, still people don’t understand my problem with it being less salty.) I can lie just beneath the water surface, sound warped just enough so that I feel isolated from my surroundings – but still aware of what’s happening – and watch the living world underneath me through a scuba mask for hours.
Ok, I hope I don’t have to specify how those two things were unrelated.
The lack of uploads are because of *drumroll* – me not reading anything! YEAH. NO. I hate it, but you know – starting university. My first meeting ever in a book club was a while ago and it went great, I talked mostly not about books with other people, but also lent out my copy of my favourite of Mary Oliver’s poetry collections; “A thousand mornings” (review linked) so I see that as a success. Anyway, we’re supposed to start with discussing “1984” by George Orwell and I haven’t even gotten to opening that book, let alone one I actually want to read.
Short reviews: Fencing & Geeks (Fence by C. S. Pacat & Queens of geek by Jen Wilde)
Failed book posts:
So, I started a lot of book posts this summer and then I either didn’t finish them and let too much time pass or I just realized they existed, and they might be published soon-ish.
Shatter Me reread!!! It really held up, I loved it so much the first time and nearly equally much this time. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it now. I’m still amazed by how nuanced and morally gray all the characters are, and how amazingly Tahereh Mafi describes Juliette’s feelings of isolation and her transformation and personal change through the series.
Also I read Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi, the 4th book of the series. I never wrote that review either, mostly because I read the books so quickly that I mixed them all together in my head.
“Why I love the ocean” is a post I’ve had in the works for so long and never really got the final edit down on. I’m just going to force myself away from it and publish it as unfinished as it feels. There’s some things that just always could be made better.
Two other books I loved, but apparantly never reviewed??? (Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn and Running with Lions by Julian Winters.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren was my all year favourite book, and probably a review will be posted towards the end of the year – but I’ll have to reread it because I was so immersed in thinking about that story I forgot to write any of those thoughts down! I can’t recommend it enough, especially for people who want to look into one scientist’s life and made me so excited for university, even though I’m studying physics.
Posts about ways I try to declutter my way-too-long TBR
I started a series of posts called “reading my lowest rated books (on goodreads)” to find out the reasons behind it, but then I just stopped reading in general soo… some other time it will be a good idea?
Other books I’ve been reading:
Six Not-So-Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman (about physics, it’s the only thing I can allow myself to read right now hahhha). Six Easy Pieces (the first book in some ways) was a really good intro to physics for anyone.
Added to TBR:
IT’S THREE MEMOIRS! I love listening to memoirs on audiobook (it’s basically the only type of audiobook I really love), so I’m looking forward to this.
Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden
Antoni in the Kitchen by Antoni Porowski
Three things on my mind:
This last week sucked so badly, because of migraines. I’m really going to have to pull myself out of studying and doing fun things and put more effort into taking care of myself and getting myself to the doctor(s) to change some medicines.
About taking care of yourself; after moving by myself one thing I’ve really realized is that no one around me yet recognize how difficult certain things are for me. It should be a given, but it wasn’t. Mainly the small things. I made myself do the work necessary for paperwork connected with illness and hospital this week. I made myself agree to getting my first every appointment with a psychologist be moved up, even though I was freaking out for two days thinking about nothing else. I made myself go there, to be honest. And then it took a few more steps, with the guidance of that psychologist, to get me into the right place for more evaluation and eventually treatment. I’ve felt horrible all week, physically and mentally. But I did that. And I’m proud of myself for it.
Also I realized after that I really needed that first psychologist to believe me, to say that something was wrong with the way that I felt. Even though I knew she needed to refer me to someplace else, as her field is more general student problems and depression/anxiety, I needed that first person to agree with me that I was experiencing dissociation and to say what I was afraid of and call it (a most likely, and trying to be vague) disorder stemming from traumatic experiences. I don’t think what I brought to her table was what she expected that thursday morning, but I don’t feel too bad because of how intrigued she looked towards the end, trying to figure out which symptoms I was experiencing.