Of the Average College Student

Wish we could turn back time. To the good old days. When our mamas sang us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out.

Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” is probably the song of the average college student, and plays overhead as Dylan and I do homework at Brew -n- Bake, our favorite locally-owned coffee shop in our hometown.

“It’s overplayed,” Dylan complains, and he’s probably right about that, but I commented on how accurate the song is, when he caught me staring out the window lip-syncing along, and that’s not any less true. It’s very accurate, and some days I’d give up anything just to be a kid again for an afternoon. I don’t remember my mom ever singing me to sleep, but, you know, that’s fine. As long as the stress is taken off—that’s what would matter. To go back to the “good old days” where all I really had to stress about was bringing home a B on my report card in math, and whether or not my friends were really my friends.

I guess from one point of view, the trade-off now is worth it, because I have real friends, and don’t have to worry about what they really think. Shoutout to Bianca, Emily, and Melissa, my three French friends on campus: when it comes to our French classes, you girls make it all worth it, and I don’t know what I’d do without you. The downside, though, is that I stress about every major assignment: every test, every exam, every presentation, in my French classes and even my English classes, which never used to affect me like this. Sometimes it feels so overwhelming, to the point that, last semester, my mom asked me if I’d rather drop my French major and just do it as a minor, and drop being in the Honors college. I told her no, of course, but she doesn’t know how much it means to me that she asked. That it would be okay if I wanted to do that. It takes me back to one day, probably two years ago now in the fall, she came into my room and found me crying with my English homework spread across my bed in front of me, and a math problem scribbled across the back of a piece of paper: I was calculating what it would take for me to earn an A in that class for the semester, after one bad exam grade and only two more exams to go: it was a lot, and I was having a panic attack because of the stress and anxiety I was experiencing. She’s often told me that if I need to see a psychiatrist about anxiety, I can do that, and some days I consider it. A couple of semesters into UH, I diagnosed myself with generalized anxiety disorder, though I’ve never seen anybody about it or attempted to do anything about it. Being self-diagnosed, I’m not even sure how accurate it is, but maybe it also serves an explanation for how neurotic I can be.

Everybody says I’m too hard on myself. I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe it is, but even if it is, I’d rather my parents and Dylan and my friends tell me that I need to cut myself some slack, than have them tell me that I’m not working hard enough. Because already, I tell myself that, all the time.

I know how important it is to slow down, unwind, and take time to love yourself. I believe in that. But the fact seems to be that I just run on stress, and in my head, I’m still pushing myself often to do better. To run more on coffee and less on sleep. Stay up late, write. I can sleep when I’m dead. Not that I’ve been doing any of that—maybe it’s good I have a love affair with my bed. Maybe that’s how I unwind. Sleep.

For now, though, there’s no time for that, so it’s coffee and French homework.

It’s all the same to the clam…

“I think you have to decide who your audience is. If you don’t pick your audience, you’re lost because you’re not really talking to anybody.”

— Julia Child

I stumbled upon this quote a few weeks ago while obsessively searching the World Wide Web for information about Julia Child, after having watched Amy Adams’ and Meryl Streep’s Julie & Julia for the fourth or fifth time; if you haven’t seen it, and you enjoy cooking, or movies about cooking, or food, I highly recommend it. At the end of the movie, it’s shown that Julia Child’s ninth and last kitchen, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, is exhibited in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History—and how does that not seize your interest?

Anyway, I suppose Mrs. Child made a valid point: who are you really talking to, anyway, if not to a specific audience? Who am I talking to? Hello! Is there even anybody out there!?

But, let’s think about this: blogging is a lot like journaling, right, except it’s public, so really, I’m talking to myself and just leaving it out for anybody to read if they feel like it. So, am I my audience, or am I just typing aimlessly into cyberspace, kind of like the idea of a Shakespearean soliloquy, like Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be…” speech…because a soliloquy in theater isn’t really directed at the audience…

It’s after 8:00 on a Thursday night, and I’m sitting in my usual chair in my church’s auditorium—second row on the right side, second chair—with my laptop in my lap. The worship team, minus Dylan’s dad tonight, just finished weekly band practice, and I remember a couple of years ago, it was the same circumstances, same chair, where I created my very first blog post and sent it out into the world.

That was a few blogs ago, of course, and has long been erased, but since they say anything put on the Internet never truly disappears from existence, maybe you can still stumble upon it someplace. I’m not sure I would recognize it now, if I did.

A lot has happened in the time that’s passed since then, and I just like to sit in my chair, type on my keyboard, and think about how much time has passed, how different my life is in some ways, and how the same it is in others. How this is a post on a different blog, on a different blogging platform, even, but how it’s the same place, same time of day, same activity. Same person.

Same audience, because if I don’t have a specific audience in mind…I can’t know whether it’s any different.

The Time By the Sea

In a way, I hate vacations, because when I come home everybody wants to hear all about it, and I never know what to say. Yes, I had a great time. I went to the beach, got a sunburn and a tan that you wouldn’t know is a tan if you couldn’t see the line around my neck from my bikini top, and I snorkeled for the first time and had my hair braided into cornrows, that looked frizzily awesome when I finally took them out. I drank two piña coladas in coconuts, and became pleasantly tipsy. We swam in the pool at our house, and drank mimosas and wine and beer. We visited Parque Garrafón, where H. and I zip-lined, and drank strawberry daiquiris in and out of their pool, and Dylan and I sat on swings at the bar and I finally had a cup of beer that tasted like water to me but at least it was cold. I was hot and sweaty almost all the time when we were out, but I was on an island, and everyone else was, too, so it didn’t matter the way it matters when I’m home in the U.S. These are all the things I should have said when my parents asked about my trip, but I don’t know, I just didn’t. So now I’ve written it all down.

Do you know what a seashell wind chime sounds like? It’s not like the cheery, jangly tinkle of normal wind chimes that evokes Christmas bells. It’s softer, more muted than that, and carries more the tone of wood, with tiny tinkles to it. It’s very pretty, and, as Dylan’s mother suggested when I texted her the picture of the one I’d purchased earlier this week, will remind me of the time by the sea. She bought one, too, from the same lady who spoke mostly Spanish on the side of the road where I bought mine. It feels, and is, more authentic than the ones for sale at the tourist trap shops in town, and I paid 120 pesos—currently the equivalent of six or seven dollars. I can’t explain how, but that whole experience just feels as authentic as the chime itself. Think about it, and I hope you’ll understand.

At the airport yesterday, there was a Harley-Davidson shop, and I bought T-shirts for my parents, because that’s their tradition whenever they travel. The shirts say “Cancún” but I didn’t really spend any time at all in Cancún, because my vacation was on Isla Mujeres. I think it’s probably best that way: a more authentic experience of Mexico. Not a resort, less of a purely tourist experience.

I didn’t send postcards, but I took lots of pictures, and walking into the tiny, abandoned airport for a couple of shots was scary, but I’d do it again.

Thank you to J. and K. and Dylan for the trip. Thank you to Mexico, and to Isla Mujeres.

Now that you know about mine, I want to know about your exotic vacation. Leave me a comment, or send me a message on my “Contact” page, to tell me all about it. 😊

Beach Day Birthdays and French Toast

This is the third year in a row that Dylan has had a birthday on a family vacation. The last two summers, he blew out the candles at Lake McQueeney, in a house owned by one of his father Jeff’s friends. This year, however, he celebrates in Mexico. Would everybody please wish him a happy birthday! 🎂

It must be nice to turn a year older in a different country. One of my friends had her sweet sixteen on Spring Break while we were in France. We spent most of that day at Versailles. Unfortunately, my birthday falls in the middle of February. No beach day birthday vacations for me!

Today we ran into some trouble with one of our golf carts; the second time we’ve had golf cart trouble, actually. The first was on the first day before we even reached Casa Cristal; the golf cart that had been rented to us just more or less petered out. This morning, we notice a flat tire on one of our two, with no idea as to how that happened, because we took both carts out for dinner last night and had no trouble. Well, whatever; we had to have breakfast, so all six of us piled onto a cart built for four, and whizzed up the street at a much slower pace than normal.

For breakfast? Mango Café’s “famous” coconut French toast, of which I failed to take a photo. No matter. By the end there wasn’t much to take a picture of, anyway. I will say, though, it wasn’t quite as tasty as the “Dark n’ Stormy” stuffed French toast from yesterday morning at Lola Valentina’s. I’ve had a lot of French toast this week…

Back to the house after breakfast to have the flat tire switched out. After this, we’re supposed to zip-line over the Caribbean at Parque Garrafón. I love zip-lines; they’re the closest I ever get to really flying.

I’ve always wanted to fly.

“So I’ll just sit right here and have another beer in Mexico…”

Or maybe I’ll have another piña colada, because this is our third full day in Mexico and I have yet to touch the beer.

Our plane touched down Saturday afternoon and we were picked up at the airport and taken to the ferry from Cancún to Isla Mujeres, and our rented house. Casa Cristal is a beautiful two-story villa that is white inside and out, with many windows, two stories, rooftop patio and bed, and a relaxing pool that did much to refresh me after our day of travel and my one to two hours of sleep. We spent much of that first day in the pool, ordered pizza for dinner, and then went to bed.

Sunday, however, was our first full day on the island. Two golf carts were delivered in the morning for our use during our stay, and Dylan’s father and siblings, J., N., H., and I took one out immediately to find breakfast and explore.

Confession time: whenever I traveled to France, I expected to hear, either in the streets or in my head, the serene music from Disney’s The Aristocats whenever I went out. The kind of French music that plays in movies. I didn’t, of course, and wasn’t surprised not to, but that didn’t stop that same part of me from expecting to hear lively Spanish music everywhere in Mexico. Needless to say, I’m not disappointed that I don’t hear it. It doesn’t take away from the experience for me. What I do see that I expected is color. Residences and buildings painted in bright, cheerful colors; some other vacation homes for rent like ours are the same white, and all of it is set against a backdrop of Caribbean blue.

Breakfast on Sunday happened at a café called Rooster—“World Famous Benedictines,” advertised the street sign—a stone’s throw from Playa Norte, and it was delicious. J., N., H., and I all had mimosas, and after that, they each ordered a Bloody Mary; I declined one, but tasted H.’s, and it was a yummy spicy. My crème brûlée French toast tasted more like simple French toast and less like crème brûlée, but still, I ate every bite. The service was as excellent as the food: everybody was very polite and helpful, and afterward we were given first one voucher for four free margaritas from a new place down the street, and then a little while later another voucher for five free margaritas from a person who seemed like a manager or owner. He first assumed that I was under 18 (the legal drinking age in Mexico), so he offered us “three free margaritas, and… [looking at me] a smoothie, yes?” The four of us laughed, and when he discovered that I’m 22, he upped the voucher to five, saying that I get two. The next morning, we returned for breakfast with Dylan and his mother, K., and I think they enjoyed it as much as we had.

Grocery shopping in any country is still grocery shopping. Did you know that Mexico has Walmart? I didn’t, though the store we shop at on Isla Mujeres is actually called Superama By Walmart, and isn’t quite the same. Of course not, of course not. J., H., N., and I stopped there after breakfast and loaded up on some groceries and snacks for our stay: pineapple, bananas, and cantaloupe, cereal and milk, water bottles, suntan spray for H., beer and wine, etc. We’ve still eaten out for most breakfasts and dinner, and the food on the island is yummy, just like at Rooster.

Yesterday after breakfast was spent at Playa Norte, and it is the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. I think I would have liked to have spent today there, as well, except that I’m already sunburned, much as I tried to avoid it, and ought to stay out of the sun as much as possible now. Playa Norte is the kind of beach I wish our Surfside was: white sand, and the bluest water I’ve ever seen. We lounged under umbrellas with cold drinks, cooled off snorkeling in the water, and H. and a sweet lady braided H.’s and my hair into cornrows. Everybody napped in the afternoon; Italian for dinner.

Today, Dylan and I took one of the golf carts in the morning and went out on our own. We ate breakfast at this little café called Lola Valentina, just across the street from Rooster, and I had the best stuffed French toast with fruit. Dylan ordered the blue corn pancakes, and they came with sliced plantains, the way pancakes would with bananas at home! We did some shopping afterward, and met a guy from the island who has visited Austin, TX; we purchased a couple of small items from him, mostly drawn in by the fact that he spoke to us more as people and less as tourists.

Everyone has returned to the house now, after our various activities. I missed out on the turtle farm, but tired as I was, I probably made the right decision for me. A hot shower, and relaxing in pajamas as I finish this. H. and N. are in the pool. Dylan is nearby.

Time to make a sandwich and read my book.