Monday, October 25, 2010

Music Speaks to the Soul

Began 10/25/10:
Most of you are fully aware that life has taken me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, a ride that has lasted much longer than I anticipated. While this ride will probably last long into the future, I do hope that I develop better coping mechanisms, preferably sooner rather than later.

A few weeks ago I realized that it had been a while since I really connected with a song on the radio. Even though I'm not very in-tuned with music and all things related, I really enjoy country music and I feel as though it has some weird way of reaching deep down into my soul and connecting with both the "really awesome" and the "really tough" parts of life. [Maybe I can blame Rascal Flatts' lack of new material for all this introspection, ha.] But really, I've been aching and searching for a song with which I could really connect.

Flashing forward a bit, it looks like this week is shaping up to be a tough one emotionally...less for me and more for my friends, but still. Two of my really good friends here in Raleigh are going through a very tough time right now. It's strange how much I, too, am hurt by their pain. I'm not really sure why this is, but something about their situations is really weighing on my heart right now.

As usual, there are the ups and downs that come along with "birthing" a thesis, too. I am so thankful for the support we all have for each other in our little office/class cohort. The "rock collector" parable (have I talked about that here yet?) really has stuck with us, just as we stick with each other through all of the challenges that we seem to face on a daily basis. (At this point, I'm beginning to think that in order to get a Master's degree, your computer has to die at least once, you have to lose at least one data set or document/file, and you've got to think your capstone project is absolutely worthless at some point...just to earn that darn piece of paper.)

Continued 10/31/10:
I say all of this because in my search for "the" song of the moment, I realized it would be difficult to find something that really applied to me, and even more specificially, to the things going on in mine and my friends' lives. It's not every day you find songs about grad school, losing a child, making a tough decision, shattering your dreams, etc. I mean, sure, talk to T-Swift about heartbreak, and Good Ole Kenny can help ya with daydreaming about life on the beach, but those other things...they just don't sound so eloquent in a country song.

Last week, one of my co-workers/classmates (rock ladies, if you will) came into the office bursting at the seams wanting to play a song for us. As it turned out, the song was Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," and she was so right when she said it fit our group quite well. Really the parts that apply to us are...
//We gotta hold on to what we've got
It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not
We got each other and that's a lot...
//...Oh, we're half way there
Oh oh, livin' on a prayer
Take my hand, we'll make it I swear
Oh oh, Livin' on a prayer!
In our case, we DO have each other, and that IS a lot. We ARE (more than) half way there. Together, we WILL make it. And really, we are lucky, blessed even, to have what we do. I truly believe that I would never make it through this challenge that is grad school without the support, encouragement, and understanding from those around me. And I know I can speak for all of us when saying, we really are "livin' on a prayer."

Only one day earlier than our little "Livin' on a Prayer" moment, the lovely Mrs. Pandora presented with me with my own version of "the song," yes, the exact song I had been waiting for all along. While I really hate to make this blog even longer than it is, most of you are well aware that I tend to post lengthy entries, and I don't think it would do the song justice to not include the lyrics, so please bear with me. Here it is:

One Day You Will - Lady Antebellum
(Click the link to watch a lyric video on YouTube.)
You feel like you're falling backwards
Like you're slippin' through the cracks
Like no one would even notice
If you left this town and never came back
You walk outside and all you see is rain
You look inside and all you feel is pain
And you can't see it now

But down the road the sun is shining
In every cloud there's a silver lining
Just keep holding on (just keep holding on)
And every heartache makes you stronger
But it won't be much longer
You'll find love, you'll find peace
And the you you're meant to be
I know right now that's not the way you feel
But one day you will

You wake up every morning and ask yourself
What am I doing here anyway
With the weight of all those disappointments
Whispering in your ear
You're just barely hanging by a thread
You wanna scream but you're down to your last breath
And you don't know it yet

[Repeat Chorus]

Find the strength to rise above
You will
Find just what you're made of, you're made of

[Repeat Chorus]

One day you will
Oh one day you will

Honestly, I don't really even know where to begin discussing this song. The Lovely Lady A somehow put out a song that reaches down into the depths of my heart and puts into words every bit of what I have felt, feel, and (probably) will feel. It's no secret that graduate school has been a struggle for me, and while I don't mean to sound depressed here, they really just say it quite perfectly. The beauty about this song, though, is not even about how I relate to it in my own life, but rather its universality.

For the friend who knows what she wants, but is scared she won't get it, or for the friend who has no idea what's next. For the friend who hurt someone or the one who was hurt. For the friend who lost everything, and the friend who lost just one thing. ...One day you (we) will.

One day we will have insight and understanding. One day all of the pain will be gone. One day we will be blessed with exactly what it is that we need.

We will find love. We will find peace. We will find the us we're meant to be. Right now, that's not the way it feels, but one day we will.

Wow. All I can say is wow. No amount of words or reflection here can really do this song justice in my heart. I guess, I really just wanted to include it here because I feel like it's a really profound set of insight for those of us who have daily struggles (hey--doesn't everyone?). We have to remember that "down the road the sun is shining, and in every cloud there's a silver lining."

On a lighter note, I think we should compile a GSG (Grad School Girls) soundtrack. It should be complete with a collection of empowering, reflective, motivating tunes. And just like us, this "Tune Rock" will pull us through, because...

One day we will.


PS: I haven't forgotten about the promise I made in my tweet-blog, nor that I need to write about the LeBlanc-Richard wedding, among other more-thought provoking topics.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall-in' Upside Down

It seems as though I can never write a blog with one single topic, and tonight is no different. Usually, it takes me forever to write because either (a) I have too much going on, or, (b) there isn't anything interesting to write about. I figured my next post would be about this special week in October, but now I've got something else I really need to get off of my chest, so it seems that tonight is the night.

As I just alluded, this has been a very special week for me. Fall Break at NC State was last Thursday and Friday (Oct. 7 & 8), and if you absolutely anything about me, I'm sure it would come as no surprise for you to hear that Fall Break was the perfect excuse for a good excursion. (Heck--do I even NEED excuses to travel? Uh, not really.) It actually worked out quite perfectly because I needed to be in Louisiana for two weekends in a row (more about that in a second). So, why not go all out and make it an extended vacation? Now that sounds more like it!

[I would also like to note that this is the first time since before 2007 that I have not been in Idaho during this week in October. It's a sad day because of this.]

The reason I needed to be in Louisiana is because two of my very good, long-time friends are getting married tomorrow. Victoria LeBlanc and Seth Richard are finally tying the knot after six long years of dating. In fact, I still remember the day I returned from French immersion in Canada in 2004; Victoria called to tell me she'd gone on a date the night before...and the rest is history. Sorry, I digress. Anyway, they're getting married tomorrow, and I have graciously accepted the offer to serve as a bridesmaid for all of the festivities. Thankfully, Fall Break--literally--fell into place, with the rehersal, dinner, and bridal luncheon all planned for last weekend, and of course, the big day is tomorrow. This way, I was able to extend my vacation and take a whole week to be at home with my family in Louisiana. What a nice deal.

Also, another one of my dearest friends, Dawn, was asked to serve in the wedding, too. She (and another bridesmaid) are traveling back and forth from Texas for the festivities. Since Dawn was so gracious to spend 18 hours in a car with me last summer on one of my cross-country drives, I felt it was only fitting for me to offer a similar gift to her. With the extended holiday, I went ahead and flew to meet her in Austin, Texas on Wednesday night (Oct. 6). On Thursday morning, we visited a military museum at a local base, and did a little hiking at Mount Bonnabell. It was a good little half-day tourist experience. That afternoon, I was able to get some work done before bringing Dawn "dinner" at the hospital where she is doing her internship. She showed me around the beautiful facilities, and I did a little more work while she finished up for the evening. On Friday morning, we hit the road nice and early, making it to Abbeville in the early afternoon. (Dawn continued onto Baton Rouge, for she had a different wedding rehersal and dinner to attend to that evening.)

Fortunately, my early arrival allowed for a few hours worth of extra time to spend with a very cute, happy, and fun set of triplets! In fact, I got to play with not one, but TWO sets of triplets!! Laurie made friends with another triplet mom while in the hospital, and the two planned to have a play date Friday afternoon. It was so fun to see six babies all in one room! I'm gonna ressurect the Rosie O'Donnell here and say--cutie patooties!

Friday night, I was able to see yet another group of family members at my cousin Ross's high school football game. Ross is a senior quarterback for his team, which happened to be 5-0 up until then. Sadly, I had never received the opportunity to watch him play, so again, it worked out perfectly for me to be there. It really sucked that they lost the game, and Ross got hurt right at the end, but I am so grateful to have had the chance to be there, with our whole entire family, supporting him. I hope it meant as much to him as it did to me...

Saturday was another full day; I spent the morning shopping for dresses to all the wedding events. The rehersal festivities began with 5 p.m. Mass in Delcambre, and then went straight into the practice. With a huge wedding party and 7 con-celebrants (priests), it will be quite a feat to orchestrate. Afterwards, we all gathered for a delicious homecooked meal--Cajun style, of course! There was seafood and chicken/sausage gumbo, potato salad, bread, and dessert. Yumm. Good food and good times.

Sunday, Hilary (bridesmaid attending grad school in Houston for dietetics) and her mom hosted a beautiful bridal luncheon. Again, the food was great, company was wonderful, and the cake pull was a blast! I pulled the engagement ring...we'll see how that works out. lol. Later, I spent the afternoon playing with my cousins again. Man, I really miss our Sunday really.

Since have been home all week, people are constantly asking what I am up to. I guess most people can't quite fathom what a girl would with her time while sitting at home alone all day. Don't worry, I have enjoyed it thoroughly. It is so nice to have the house to myself, to work at my own pace, and get things done. Because I set my alarm to be up at a decent time, and worked pretty consistently all day long, every day this week, I am completely content with my time this week. I feel very okay with the progress I have made, simply because I know that I gave it my all and I could not have fit anything else into my days of productivity. It would have been nice to have all of my thesis writing materials at my disposal, to have totally completed the work for my professor, or to have even done a little extra academic work, but I figure that since I used my time wisely and did make some progress, that I've just got to be okay with it. I also figured that since I never have the opportunity to just "be" with my family, when the parents came home, it was time to put the books away. There is nothing in life more important than the people you love, and my Master's degree can go to the hot place if it means spending the whole week with my nose in a computer instead of with them. Plus, I think they really do miss me, and loved to have me home for such an extended period of time.

Despite all of my contentness with the work I accomplished this week, tonight I received a fairly decent blow to the progress on my thesis. As of Saturday (two days from now?), my pilot study will have been out for 3 weeks. I was supposed to close it on Monday (the one that just passed), but because I only had about half of the responses I was aiming for, I had to leave it open a little longer. Still, we hoped to have the pilot data analyzed by mid-week, so that changes could be made to the instrument before I send it out to the actual sample sometime in the near future. However, I received the not-great news this afternoon, from a colleague at Texas A&M who is pseudo serving on my committee as the stats person.

He said that he won't even touch my data until I have at least 25-30 responses. How many do I have now? 13. You got it, I need 17 more before reliability tests would be anywhere near accurate. Since I've spent the last 3 weeks bugging people via e-mail, and all this week calling camps via phone, I can't for the life of me fathom how I will convince 17 more people to take part in my pilot study. Said committee person offered a few suggestions for how to proceed from here, but it really is quite discouraging to hear that I'm nowhere near completing the process of my pilot study. I'm pretty sure I'm already behind the schedule that my advisor laid out in August, so heaven knows what that means for the rest of our plans.

I guess the bottom line is that there is nothing I could have done differently to make things go a better way in this situation. I did everything that I was supposed to, and I have been on top of it all from the very beginning of the semester. I don't even want to know how I would feel right now if that were not the case. The work has to get done no matter what, and I'm pretty sure my advisor isn't going to let me drop out, so I suppose I have to pull it all together, wipe the tears, and move on. Thankfully, I will be taking the next few days off for the wedding (and recuperation, lol), so I'll revisit the situation when I get back to Raleigh on Monday. We'll fix it, we'll make it work, and I WILL graduate in May. (In fact, Justine noted tonight that we graduate in exactly 7 months. This first trimester has proved to be a challenge, so who knows what the next two will do to us. Regardless, we're "due" in only 7 months! There is a light...)

It's times like these I really wish we had our little grad school blog up and running. Kinks in the plan seem to be inevitable when it comes to grad school and thesis writing. While it's no walk in the park, I suppose it makes us better...somehow...and the rocks we collect along the way go far in building a strong foundation for our future.

In any case, despite this setback, I feel very blessed to have experienced this week at home. My anxiety level is way down, and I just feel so much comfort for being at home in the familiarity that is home. I am sorry that I have not been able to be there (both physically and emotionally) to those I left behind, but I hope they will understand that this is just something that I had to do. And, maybe they'll even consider coming along next time...Mardi Gras 2011 is around the corner, and you can bet that I'll be here to celebrate!

In fact, it's only fitting to end with this...
Laissez les bon temps rouler!