Category Archives: Thoughts

A Brief Rant About Ophthalmology

I have had glasses since I was in the second grade. While poor eyesight runs in my family, I have always wondered if my habit of staying up until two o’clock in the morning reading by flashlight under the covers did anything to add to the rapid decline of my sight. Currently, I’m at a solid -4.75, which, in prescription terms, means I have a tough time seeing just about anything.

Being a naturally indecisive person, going to the eye doctor has always been stressful for me. I sit down in that chair, successfully (usually) refrain from telling my doctor to ‘use the Force’ and ‘let go’ when he puts Luke Skywalker’s trench run targeting computer in front of my face, and then proceed to sweat profusely as he asks me over and over whether two absolutely identical lenses make my eyesight better or worse.

Ok, here’s the thing. I’m dumb. I don’t know anything about eyes. That’s why he’s the doctor and I’m the idiot in the chair making Star Wars references. Why is he asking me about what’s good for my eyes? For all I know, I could be saying the complete wrong thing and unwittingly propelling myself down the path to blindness by age 30. Shouldn’t there be some kind of tool that measures the size and shape of my eyeball, or a machine that can detect the health and number of the magical all-seeing tubers that wriggle around in the back of my head? Why do I feel like I’m doing all the work here, sitting the most important exam of my life?

Then, a week later (after agonizing over the size, shape and color of a new pair of frames for approximately two hours and then choosing the pair that looks exactly like my old ones), I pick up my new glasses and the nice lady working there asks me if they ‘fit’. If they ‘feel good’. Lady, I don’t know a damn thing about fitting glasses. What is it supposed to feel like? I guess it feels alright. Until the next day when I’m at work staring at a computer screen for 8 hours and there are deep red marks on my nose and a bruise behind my ear. I’ve been back twice since last Monday, and I’m still not sure they fit ok. Who has time for this shit? Why aren’t they taking measurements, like a tailor, or making a mold of my face, like a dentist does my teeth, and forming frames that exactly fit the shape of my oddly proportioned, non-symmetrical head?

All I’m saying is, it’s almost 2013. Shouldn’t there be a better way for doctors to do this than them having to rely on my fool self? It’s gotta be as frustrating for them as it is for me (case in point: my doctor shows me two lenses and asks me to pick which one is better. When I respond ‘number 2’, he says ‘….really….?’ in a very skeptical voice.) There must be a way to innovate this process so that the guesswork is removed, and I don’t lie awake at night, wondering if I really ought to have gone with option number one.

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Filed under General, Life, Stress, Thoughts

Moving Away, New Adventures, and Potential Failure

As promised in an earlier post, it’s time for a rousing game of “Where Will Hannah Be Living In Six Months!”

Will it be:

A. Western Massachusetts

B. The Boston area

C. Montreal, Quebec

D. Austin, Texas

E. Seattle, Washington

F. Madison, Wisconsin

G. Somewhere in North Carolina

H. Vancouver, Canada

I. Los Angeles, California

J. San Francisco, California

K. Frankfurt, Germany

L. Somewhere in Poland

M. Burlington, Vermont

N. Some other, as yet undiscovered location.

O. Any of the above

If you answered, ‘O’, congratulations, you’re right! For those who are unaware, I will be moving to some sort of new location at the end of October, and I am very excited/nervous about it. Brandon currently has one job but is searching for a new one, and when he finds it we will be moving to that unknown place, which is potentially one of the above locations. I have been getting an increasing number of probing comments and questions about this from well-meaning friends and coworkers (yes, my work knows I will be leaving. :'(), most of which are along the lines of these:

  • Why are you following some guy around?
  • Why are you leaving a perfectly good job in this economy?
  • What do you plan to do once you get to this unknown place?
  • What if you can’t find a job?
  • Why are you leaving the most beautiful/wonderful/best place to live in the whole country? (subjective statement I know, please don’t hate me I love it here)
  • What about your school loans?

These are all legitimate questions that I find myself asking a lot as well, along with these ones:

  • How important to me is money/being comfortable vs. working on things that I love and that matter to me?
  • What can I afford to do right now?
  • Do I even really want a career at this stage of my life?
  • Is future me going to want to throttle present me if I have no retirement money because I was too busy pissing it away on ‘following my dreams’?
  • What do I really want?

I’m sure my friends and colleagues mean well with their questions, but this is the stuff that keeps me up at night. If anyone thinks I’m not considering this stuff, they are wrong – I think about all this pretty much constantly, and I have come to a few conclusions.

The fact of the matter is, this all may totally fail. I might come crawling back to my job after a miserable six months away, begging them to rehire me and telling everyone how right they were about what a terrible idea it had all been. Or…it could not fail. It just might be possible that I could end up going on an excellent adventure with my best friend, seeing new places and trying new things, and getting the chance to see if I can make a living (or part of one) with my writing. Maybe I’ll have my strength tested, and find out I am more capable than I ever thought possible. It could be that, 10 or 15 years from now when I’m ready to settle down and have a family of my own, I could return to Vermont, the best place in the country (that I’ve seen so far), and make a home here knowing full well that this is the place I want to be and where I want to live out my days. But, if that happens, I will settle down with the knowledge that I saw a lot of things and lived a full life, and wasn’t too afraid to try.

The bottom line is, I don’t want to live with ‘what ifs’ and regrets. I don’t want to stay here, stagnant, and then look back in a decade when I’m tied down with a family and wish that I had done something else first, something exciting and important and brave. I don’t want to look back and wonder what could have been. I want to know. And if it turns out that it’s terrible and I hate it and I run screaming back to New England, I am ok with that. That would not be a failure, in my eyes. If that happens, I would come back not wondering but knowing that this is the place for me, and where I truly belong.

Am I scared? Very much so. But I have never let that stop me before, and I don’t intend to start now.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.
-J.R.R. Tolkien

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Filed under Brandon, General, goals, Life, New Journey, Stress, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Thoughts On My Last Day As An Undergrad

The line on when the last day started is a little blurry, but let’s just call it 6am. After a quick five hours of sleep to take a break from not studying for taxes, I got a quick good night kiss from Brandon before he left to get his own quick five hours of shuteye. I frantically studied until 8:30, took a nap until 9, and then studied some more until leaving at 9:45 for my 10:15 final. No brush saw my hair, no shower was enjoyed, no clean clothes were to be found. I think I brushed my teeth.

I drove rather recklessly to campus, cursed Champlain College’s poor planning (why the flock would you decide to tear up half of parking lot 3 in the middle of finals week?), and screeched into a spot in the back. I ran up the steps of the Hauke building, rushed into Jazzman’s cafe for a chai tea, took the stairs two at a time up to my classroom, dropped off my stuff, ran to the basement of Ireland to print out a paper that was due the day before, ran to that professor’s final exam classroom to drop it off, and fell into my seat back in the taxes room at precisely 10:09. I flipped over the exam, and immediately hated my life. Thoughts of the freedom that awaited me after these two measly hours kept creeping into my brain, my ability to force myself to concentrate slowly drained away, and all of sudden I found my feeling of caring about grades, which has so constantly been my companion these last four years, floating past the window with the late April snow. I handed in my exam with more than a half hour to go in the exam period, drifted out the door, and sat in a chair by the window overlooking the courtyard. And sat. And sat.

I was still sitting when the exam period ended and my professor walked out. It was his last exam too – he was retiring after 41 years. I had had three classes with him – Cost Accounting 1 and 2, and Taxes, and he was phenomenal in all of them.
“What are you still doing here?” he asked.
“I’m not ready to leave.” He nodded.
“I never understood people who didn’t love being at a college. I’ve always felt that if you are not enjoying your time here, you are not doing it right. Why do you think I stayed so long?” We talked for a while longer, he gave me my exam grade (70 😦 ) and my overall class grade (A 🙂 ) before we shook hands and parted ways.

I delayed leaving for as long as possible, feeling a little teary, a little excited, kind of depressed, kind of liberated. In a word, emotional. I met up with some friends who were just finishing up their exams, and we talked for a while. I called Brandon to offer him a ride home as I was heading to pick up my Accounting Club t-shirt (Accountants Get Fiscal), and then ran into him coming in through the same door I was heading out of. (I realize this is rambling and probably boring, but I want to preserve this day forever, so bear with me. Or, you know, skip ahead or what have you.)

We headed down the street to see our friend Mike, who had been at the hospital the night before for what he thought was a collapsed lung, and what turned out to be a badly pulled muscle in his side. Then we turned to grown up matters: paying the bills that were due in approximately two days. This turned out to be a horrible, horrible shock. Turns out that in our complete stress and lack of sleep the last few weeks, as we would order takeout, buy coffee, buy beer, buy candy and anything else to make us feel better about the horrible hell we were living through….we spent all our money. I wrote a check for all the savings I had slowly managed to save up over the last year, and took Skipper for a walk down to the post office, feeling, if possible, even more emotional than I had several hours previously.

The next few hours were spent doing things I had actually planned to do after my classes were done – watch Once Upon a Time, create my NaNoWriMo profile and get super excited for November, and in other ways relax. Tomorrow (Sunday) Andy and I are playing a live show, so when I got a call from him that he had beer and his guitar all set to go, I walked the two blocks to his house and settled in for a nice, long practice session. Playing music with Andy is going to be one of the things I miss the most about moving away. I tried not to think about that too much while we practiced.

Knowing of my recent financial problems, Andy offered to buy me a slice of pizza for dinner to cheer me up, and, after getting a text from friends that they were at Das Bierhaus and I should join them for a drink (which they offered to pay for), I agreed to grab a slice on the way there. Mr. Mike’s pepperoni pizza is expensive, but worth it, and I savored the pepperoni as we continued to walk to Bierhaus, talking about everything and anything, as only good friends can.

Andy left me at the door to the restaurant, and I headed up to the second floor, still chewing my last bite of pizza, to find my friends Jordan, Allyson, and Andrew sitting on the comfy leather couches playing cards and drinking beer. We spent an enjoyable evening, slowly getting joined by more friends (Patrick, Ian, Erica and Jules – hey, this is for posterity) and talking over who had gotten jobs, how much they would be making, who would be staying in town. These conversations consume our lives at the moment, as we try to test out who will be doing well, where we lie in that mix, and which friends we will have to say goodbye to.

The night ended up at Rachel’s, as nights so often do, and, more importantly, it ended up with my closest girl friends. They were the ones I most wanted to see that night, feeling so vulnerable and depressed as I was, and they were the ones who made me smile. We made fun of Glamour magazine, talked about bathing suits for the summer, talked about our boyfriends, and who even knows what else. Just talked. Just were. Just sat together in Rachel’s living room and enjoyed each other’s company. I know we will only have a few more meetings like this, and I almost can’t bear that fact. I have never been happier in my life than with these people I know right now, and moving away from them feels like losing something irreplaceable. Sam will be heading home to New York state, Rachel to New York City, Liz staying in Burlington, and I will be….well, I don’t know where yet, exactly, but not here.

People always say that college is so easy, that college kids should never complain. But the truth is, college is what you make of it, just like the rest of life – there are always going to be those people who skate by, put in the bare minimum effort, and spend the rest of their time partying or watching reality tv. But for those who put in the time and really wanted to get something out of it, college was really, really hard. Most of us worked at least one job, had internships, and took five classes, not to mention extra curriculars like student government or clubs. Was it fun? Yes, of course, it was the best time of my life thus far. But was it easy? No, absolutely not. And one of the hardest parts about it is the instability: I have lived in four different places in my four years here, not to mention the move back to my parents’ house for the summer months after my first year, and that takes its toll. And now, after only four years in this place that I have grown to love so much, I will be moving again, and this time far, far away. It feels like a loss, a death, a grief that knows no words.

I am incredibly excited for the journey that lies ahead, and I know that with Brandon by my side it will be an adventure. He brought the ferrets with him to Rachel’s that night when he came to pick me up around 2:00am, and I watched him play with them and chat while I avoided getting ready to go. It felt like a mini version of what was to come: he and Skippy and Boots gently helping me pack up my things and get me bundled into the car to take me away, take me home. I tried not to get emotional as I left (the beer wasn’t helping), and I was glad that it was Brandon I was leaving with. Next Saturday, as we all walk across that stage and accept our diplomas, we can take them knowing that we worked our butts off to get them, and that we made some lifelong friends along the way.

I love you all so much, and it has been – and will continue to be – an honor being your friend.

Some favorite college memories, in no particular order:

Wii Just Dance in Rachel’s living room

Ugly sweater party

Hannah and Andy

Rachel, me and Liz in Dublin

Andy and I playing music in a pub in Doolin, Ireland

Patrick, Sam and I at the Giant’s Causeway, in Ireland

Brandon and I on a horse-drawn carriage ride, Montreal

The birth of my nephew

My cousin’s wedding

My sister’s wedding

Me and Brandon at my sister’s wedding

My sister’s graduation

Building a computer with Ian and Liz at the Boston
Science Museum

Bowling with Liz and co.

Hiking to a Lake Champlain sunset with Ian, Liz
and Patrick

Bankus spirit

Bankus haunted house

Cliff-jumping at Bolton Falls

Swimming in Lake Champlain

The Bankus Mocktail with Ian and Liz

Bankus shenanigans

Conquering a Vermonster with the gang

Spring Fling with Ian and Liz

Bankus Thanksgiving

‘Camping in’ in my dorm room with Ian and Liz

Bankus Halloween

My sister’s wedding

Ultimate frisbee

Meeting this guy

Moose Pond with the family

Emma’s graduation again

Holidays with the fam

Frisbee – in Ireland

Platform 9 3/4

The south of France

London

Meeting the Lord Mayor of Belfast with Allyson

The Weasley sweater I knitted for Liz

The Quidditch World Cup in Middlebury

Bankus snowman

Working with these folks

Buckingham Palace/seeing the
Queen of England

Getting Skipper and Boots

Freshmen class photo

Senior class photo

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Filed under college, Graduation, Last Day, Memories, Thoughts

Observations On Management

Senior Show, the event where we will showcase our final game (my huge Capstone project), is happening Friday. Everything is a complete mess, half of our game is broken with no hope of repair, and the question “will we be done in time” is still up in the air. My team has collectively put in over 3,000 hours on this project over the last eight months, all while taking four other classes, working at jobs or internships, and trying to figure out what our lives will be after college. We have been trying to create something beautiful, meaningful, and functional out of nothing, all while trying to create the same out of ourselves. Will employers want us? Are we ready? Are we going into the right field? Will we be happy? These and a thousand other questions swirl around in our brains as we beat our heads against the computer screen, trying not to freak out and scream “why won’t it just WORK?!”As the producer, there is only so much I can do to help. I am the manager, not the creator, and so when we realize that Player 2 can only move objects two feet before they snap back to their original position, all I can do is encourage, pat a back and say “just keep trying, I know we’ll find a solution soon.” The inability to ACT and do something constructive that can directly assuage the problems we are having makes me want to tear my hair out. All I can do is wait, and watch, direct, and pray.

I always thought that being a manager sounded like a pretty sweet job. When it comes down to it, what do you actually DO? Well, I’ll tell you. You stress. A lot. And you inwardly panic but have to outwardly appear calm, cool and collected. You have everything riding on other peoples’ work – something I find extremely difficult – and you have to trust that they are going to deliver something awesome, on time. Believe me, this doesn’t always happen. You have to keep the team together through setbacks, burnout, exhaustion, sickness and disagreements. You have to keep an eye on dozens of moving parts all at once, all while trying to figure out why so-and-so is working on Thing B, when you asked him to do Thing A two days ago and now he’s saying “oh, I just thought this was more important.” Deep breaths.

Me, keeping calm like a boss.

Being a manager means being ‘on’ 24/7. I remember things while I’m at work and covertly text a question about that hugely important thing that I haven’t checked in on in three days, all while my heart is beating fast at the thought that I’ve ruined the entire project with my ineptitude. I jump out of the shower with shampoo still in my hair to write down the idea I just had about the trailer. I go to the school dance and boogie down the whole night with my phone in my hand, in case there is a criss. I carefully balance shielding the team from the executive producers and letting them know of our struggles so they can help us.

The mental strain of managing is something that I never expected. I didn’t expect to become so invested in this project and these people. To care so deeply about their joys and sorrows, their pains and triumphs. I didn’t expect to feel like I was on tenterhooks, lying awake at night, unable to turn off my overly stressed and underly sleeped brain. I didn’t expect to be up until four am only to get up at eight am night after night, desperately trying to fix problem after problem with no time and the words of my executive producer “effort is not rewarded, only results are” ringing over and over in my head.

Here’s a picture of an adorable ferret
to make it all seem less dire.

This has been, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. I have spent almost 200 hours on this project this semester, in addition to my other classes and my job. It’s all coming down to one night next week, when I will have to walk out onto a stage in front of hundreds of people, with hundreds more watching on their computers at home, and try to make our game sound as good as I can. There will be nine industry recruiters watching me, judging my every move, and deciding whether they should circle my name on their ballot to indicate that they would like to interview me. My parents and Brandon’s parents will be there, expecting I will make them proud, believing that I will be awesome. The pressure is crushing, the stress all-consuming. I hardly know what I will do with myself after this project is over, indeed I find it difficult to imagine a time when I will not be thinking about this, worrying about it.

But at the end of the day, I have my team around me. I know they have worked their hearts out, and I know that they have come together in ways they never thought they could. They have faced problem after problem, faced getting cut multiple times, and some days realized at midnight that the game as we know it is not going to work when we needed x, y, and z done by 9:30am. They always found a way around these problems. They discovered fixes that have never been done before, pushed the technology farther than it was designed to go, and now are able to present what they’ve learned to the gaming community at large. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of people, and I couldn’t be more honored to have worked beside them. For better or worse, we will hand in that build on Wednesday at noon, give the best presentation we can on Friday, and finally be able to look back on our memories of this project with fondness and relief.

Some teasers of the epic game that is to come:

Gemini XIII

Solar Panel

Hydroponics

The Common Room

Our game poster. Not going to lie, I get a
little thrill when I see my name on it.

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Filed under college, Gemini XIII, Management, Senior Team, Stress, The Game, Thoughts

In The Middle

I am familiar with being in the middle. Born the middle of three daughters, I am of the opinion that the middle is a great place to be. At the very time that I was driving my older sister crazy, I knew exactly how she felt because my little sister was doing the same to me. When I was a jerk to my little sister, I knew what she was going through because my older sister had treated me the same way. This has given me a unique perspective on life, and I feel it has made me better able to see different points of view, and has made me a more compassionate person. However. Being in the middle is not always the best thing.

Anyone who has ever undertaken a lengthy project can attest to this: the middle sucks. You’ve already figured out how to accomplish what you need to, and now you’ve lost interest completely. You’ve already put hours/days/weeks/months of work into it, with the same or more left yet to do. What once was exciting and new is now boring as hell, and the idea of stabbing yourself in the eye with a spoon is preferable to spending one more minute on this stupid godforsaken project that you never wanted to start in the first place.

I have now been working on my Capstone project for two months, and we have two months left to go. And it shows. Morale is low, motivation is even lower, and the stress and craziness of finishing school and finding a job is sucking up all the time and energy we have, leaving none behind to work on our project. As producer, I am tasked with getting my team out of this bog, while I’m drowning in it right alongside them. I’m in it so deep it’s hard to see the way out, and harder still to drum up the motivation to start the long, hard slog. So what’s a girl to do? As with most things in life, I turn to knitting.

Looking around my apartment, I see a dozen projects that are waiting patiently for me to finish them after I put them down for ‘a short break’ during that boring middle section. Here’s my wall of shame:

The beginning of a sweater.
A scarf I started last week.
A scarf to match some fingertip-less gloves I made.
Detail
A lace scarf I started in high school.
A lace shawl started several years ago.
A lonely mitten.
A silk scarf for my mother.
Same scarf for my mother.
Musical gloves for my mother – sorry Mom!
The sleeve from the Sweater from Hell – look for this
again in an upcoming post!
Had to bring knitting to see Star Wars
Episode 1 in 3D, and this was it.
I only got this far because I ran out of yarn 😦

So clearly, I have been defeated by the dreaded middle a time or two in my day – this doesn’t even cover the projects sitting at my parent’s house! So, here are my three tips for getting over the hump and actually finishing projects, knitting and otherwise:

1. If you can afford to, give yourself a break from it; however, avoid giving yourself an open-ended break. Set a time or date when you will get back to it, and make sure you stick to it.

2. Try to remember the things that you loved about the project in the beginning – make yourself fall in love with it all over again. Staying enchanted can help you finish it!

3. Try looking at it from a different angle. Sick of that stupid cable running up the front of your sweater? Put that part on a stitch holder and get cracking on those sleeves you’ve been dying to try. Getting bogged down in paperwork? Switch to a more hands-on part of the project for a bit until you’re refreshed and ready for another go. When becoming bored and/or frustrated, working on a different part of the same project can help to keep you interested and sane.

How do you guys get over that hump in the middle of a big project? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Filed under Advice, college, Family, In the Middle, knitting, Management, projects, Senior Team, Thoughts, Unfinished Projects, yarn

The Point of Counted Cross Stitch

At first glance, counted cross stitch seems like kind of a silly pursuit. Explaining it to someone usually starts off enthusiastically, and then trails off towards the end once the incredulous stares of the listener have broken through my outer crafting haze.

“So, I’m going to look at hundreds of tiny little boxes with different symbols in them on a big piece of graph paper, find the color thread that corresponds with that symbol, and then create an exact replica of the graph paper, box for box, on a piece of cloth with tiny stitched ‘x’s!” Right…

There are times when I am working on a cross stitch piece that I am baffled. ‘Why exactly am I doing this?’ I ask myself, ‘and why is it so freaking fun?’ It doesn’t look, sound, or in any way remotely seem like it would be an enjoyable pursuit. This craft can cause pain in the wrists and hands and inflammation in tendons from repetitive movement. It strains the eyes and can cause back and neck pain from bending over the cloth. This is a craft of patience; larger pieces require hundreds of hours to complete and often go unfinished for years. It is not a craft for the faint of heart.

And yet… I have gone for weeks at a time happily cross stitching for 8-10 hours per day, every day. I have used up whole vacations on cross stitching, and I sometimes find myself staying up until 3:00 in the morning with a looming 7:30 wake-up call, zoned into my work completely. Its simplicity is addictive, its rhythm mesmerizing.

Unlike knitting, where the end of a row can easily be used as a good stopping point, calling for a break in cross stitch is much more arbitrary. It is easy to get into a mindset of “just one more stitch, just one more” or “I’ll go to bed after I finish this section, this flower, this color….” Before you know it, five hours have gone by – and your piece looks practically the same as it did that morning.

Finishing a big cross stitch project is like running a marathon: you feel completely relieved, proud of yourself, and like you probably won’t do something like that again for a long while. But, as with those addicted to the rush of a good run, we cross stitchers inevitably get the itch in our fingers, start taking down the pattern books and idly flipping through pages. We are driven by the promise of a good cross stitch pattern – a rewarding finish, and a fantastic journey.

Below are some pictures of my current cross stitch project – a medieval sampler by my favorite fantasy cross stitch designer, Teresa Wentzler, in her book, The Best of Teresa Wentzler: Fantasy Collection. It’s got everything I like in a pattern – a story, a lot of detail, and an eye-catching finished piece.

A portion of the pattern
What the finished product will look like
My progress so far
Detail

 

Fun Fact: The only cross stitch piece I’ve done that I still have (read ‘have not given away’) is a tiny image of Henry Vlll that I picked up at the Tower of London last spring; it hangs on the wall of my apartment. The one of Queen Anne, still in its wrapper, sits un-stitched on my bookshelf after my boyfriend’s mom pointed out that it would probably be some sort of bad karma to have those two hanging up side by side in our place of residence.

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Filed under Cross Stitch, projects, Thoughts, Unfinished Projects