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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Scenes from a graduation, part 1: getting there

This is the first in a series of posts chronicling my whirlwind second half of May -- there was too much to put in a single post, and the trip generated much for me to think about, so here's the compromise: a story in parts. For the entire series, please click here.

My suitcase gapes at me from the bedroom floor and I wonder if the zipper will close. Nine days of clothing for three different cities with three different climates and three different kinds of celebration -- this is what I have to pack within the confines of a single carry-on.

My first stop on this trip is Almost Dr. Sis's graduation from medical school, which promises to be cold and rainy. Very rainy. Here in Seattle, we're used to mist and drizzle, but in the Midwestern town where she's lived for half a decade now, there are thunderheads gathering and a long sweep of heavy gray downpour following behind.

On this Friday afternoon, I've just tucked a pair of wool slacks into place -- it promises to reach the mid-40s in the evening, though we're in the latter half of spring -- when the phone rings. It's my mother. "Our connecting flight was canceled and we're driving from Chicago," she says, with irritation. "Can you look up directions for us?"

I can hear my father at the wheel in the background naming interstates. "Do I want 290? 294? Ask her which one, which way -- " His agitation rises with what I'm guessing is each passing road sign. They are on the arteries that skirt O'Hare, circling blindly.

My mother tries to address my father's question before I've even had a chance to grab my laptop from the bed. He doesn't trust her answer; they bicker. I fumble at the keyboard, calling up maps, the hair on the back of my neck beginning to stand on end. The memory of previous car trips from childhood: my mother misreading directions, their ensuing fights, my sister and me shrinking small and silent in the back seat with our younger sister, still a baby, between us. My hands work faster now as their voices escalate.

"Here," I say. They're too busy arguing to notice. "Mom. Mom." No answer. In my own home, two thousand miles away, their presence is suddenly too loud, too close. "WILL YOU BOTH SHUT UP ALREADY?"

Silence.

I wince, expecting even now, as an adult, a sharp reprimand from my father for my tone of voice, but maybe only my mother has heard me clearly -- she is the one holding the phone. I plunge ahead before either of them can say anything, offering exit numbers and mileage estimates in lieu of an apology. "It's about seven hours," I note.

"We'll make it in less time," my mother assures me. "You know how Dad drives. By the way, he wants to know which flight you're on tomorrow."

I suppress a sigh, knowing my father is worried that I'll end up in the same predicament -- except with the graduation ceremonies scheduled for Sunday morning, I'll have much less of a window to get from Chicago to my final destination. It matters. My father, a doctor himself, will be the one to place the doctoral hood on my sister, a moment that, to me, feels somehow essential to witness in person, though there will be professional photographers and videographers to capture it all. And I wonder, suddenly face to face with that truth, why it should be so. Of course I am proud of her. But it is more than just being present to let my sister know, more than sitting in the same room with her for this long-anticipated, hard-won induction into the professional circle my father has been a part of for many decades. What is it? I ask myself. And -- with even more curiosity, as I suspect it is for different reasons -- what is it that makes my presence so important to him?

There isn't time in this afternoon to muse, only to finish packing. "Can she take the red-eye tonight?" I hear my father ask.

"No, but I'll look into bus options for tomorrow afternoon, just in case," I promise.

*

On the jet bridge the next morning, I check my seat assignment: 10A, on a window. When I can, I pick seats with a view; it helps with the tendency toward motion sickness both my sister and I have inherited from my father.

As I step into my row, however, I'm greeted by a solid wall. No porthole, not even half of one like some seats get when they happen to fall between windows. Just a beige expanse of siding. I peer at 10F on the opposite side of the aisle; the oval pane there throws light back at me, ordinary as can be.

I feel, not surprisingly, closed in against this blank barricade. I check the status of my next flight on my phone; still on time. But this flight, the captain suddenly tells us over the intercom, will be delayed. Chicago's still having weather.

D has my flight information and instructions to be near his phone around the time I'm supposed to land at O'Hare, in case he has to make a quick bus ticket purchase for me online. Will I be able to make my connection? Will there be a connection to make? I turn my frown to the wall to my left. I can't see what's on the other side, can't see what's to come.

*

It is the first flight I'm taking from Seattle after finishing my thesis, and for a moment, when we finally leave the runway, I'm a little giddy. When the flight attendant announces that we may now use approved electronic devices, I will not need to wrestle my laptop from my backpack and attempt to write. The goal I've been working toward for four years is all but done; only Little U.'s approval of the document -- formatting compliance, verification of my committee's signatures endorsing the final submission -- is pending. Perhaps by Monday, I tell myself, the day my sisters and I will fly to Texas to spend the middle of the week at our parents' home.

But as I speed toward the thunderheads in Chicago, without a view and without the deadlines I've been so used to, I'm forced to sit with my new lack of purpose. It's only transient, I know. Still, I envy, just a little, my sister's waiting future. A residency at a prestigious hospital in Boston is the next step for her. What the experience will hold is certainly unknown, but it's better defined than the summer I have before me. The plans for whatever I choose to do next with my life still wait to be constructed.

The plane banks as the captain adjusts our trajectory. I turn automatically to the window I don't have and feel my stomach protest. A quick glance to the right, to the view I can steal from 10F. It's limited, but it's better than nothing.

5 comments:

TKW said...

It must feel a little odd not to have that 4-year monkey still on your back, but I hope you can enjoy your time in Chicago. xo

BigLittleWolf said...

What a beautifully written piece, CT. (I can hardly wait for Part 2.)

As you said to me last week - the energy and focus will return. The frustration of being at the end of something and consequently, at loose ends, is - for some of us - only a small ability to celebrate the win. And of course, an intense discomfort with the period before knowing what's next.

I imagine there are many comparisons to your sister - tacit or otherwise. That potentially (reading between the lines) makes things more challenging.

C. Troubadour said...

Kitch -- it's so WEIRD being free of the thesis. I did enjoy being with my sisters. Am still recovering from our adventures too! Fortunately, Seattle's warm and sunny and summer awaits, finally.

BLW -- intense discomfort! Yes! But I'm working on understanding that too, instead of running away from it. That's my hope for these next few weeks. I look forward to hearing your own musings as you make your way into new territory.

Good Enough Woman said...

I, too, am eager to hear the rest. did you make your connection? Did you witness the hooding? How did the family time go? What did you read on the plane-ride home?

Glad Seattle is sunny and warm!

C. Troubadour said...

I will tell you this, GEW: in-flight magazine crossword puzzles are not all made the same. And The Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik? Awesome.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Scenes from a graduation, part 1: getting there

This is the first in a series of posts chronicling my whirlwind second half of May -- there was too much to put in a single post, and the trip generated much for me to think about, so here's the compromise: a story in parts. For the entire series, please click here.

My suitcase gapes at me from the bedroom floor and I wonder if the zipper will close. Nine days of clothing for three different cities with three different climates and three different kinds of celebration -- this is what I have to pack within the confines of a single carry-on.

My first stop on this trip is Almost Dr. Sis's graduation from medical school, which promises to be cold and rainy. Very rainy. Here in Seattle, we're used to mist and drizzle, but in the Midwestern town where she's lived for half a decade now, there are thunderheads gathering and a long sweep of heavy gray downpour following behind.

On this Friday afternoon, I've just tucked a pair of wool slacks into place -- it promises to reach the mid-40s in the evening, though we're in the latter half of spring -- when the phone rings. It's my mother. "Our connecting flight was canceled and we're driving from Chicago," she says, with irritation. "Can you look up directions for us?"

I can hear my father at the wheel in the background naming interstates. "Do I want 290? 294? Ask her which one, which way -- " His agitation rises with what I'm guessing is each passing road sign. They are on the arteries that skirt O'Hare, circling blindly.

My mother tries to address my father's question before I've even had a chance to grab my laptop from the bed. He doesn't trust her answer; they bicker. I fumble at the keyboard, calling up maps, the hair on the back of my neck beginning to stand on end. The memory of previous car trips from childhood: my mother misreading directions, their ensuing fights, my sister and me shrinking small and silent in the back seat with our younger sister, still a baby, between us. My hands work faster now as their voices escalate.

"Here," I say. They're too busy arguing to notice. "Mom. Mom." No answer. In my own home, two thousand miles away, their presence is suddenly too loud, too close. "WILL YOU BOTH SHUT UP ALREADY?"

Silence.

I wince, expecting even now, as an adult, a sharp reprimand from my father for my tone of voice, but maybe only my mother has heard me clearly -- she is the one holding the phone. I plunge ahead before either of them can say anything, offering exit numbers and mileage estimates in lieu of an apology. "It's about seven hours," I note.

"We'll make it in less time," my mother assures me. "You know how Dad drives. By the way, he wants to know which flight you're on tomorrow."

I suppress a sigh, knowing my father is worried that I'll end up in the same predicament -- except with the graduation ceremonies scheduled for Sunday morning, I'll have much less of a window to get from Chicago to my final destination. It matters. My father, a doctor himself, will be the one to place the doctoral hood on my sister, a moment that, to me, feels somehow essential to witness in person, though there will be professional photographers and videographers to capture it all. And I wonder, suddenly face to face with that truth, why it should be so. Of course I am proud of her. But it is more than just being present to let my sister know, more than sitting in the same room with her for this long-anticipated, hard-won induction into the professional circle my father has been a part of for many decades. What is it? I ask myself. And -- with even more curiosity, as I suspect it is for different reasons -- what is it that makes my presence so important to him?

There isn't time in this afternoon to muse, only to finish packing. "Can she take the red-eye tonight?" I hear my father ask.

"No, but I'll look into bus options for tomorrow afternoon, just in case," I promise.

*

On the jet bridge the next morning, I check my seat assignment: 10A, on a window. When I can, I pick seats with a view; it helps with the tendency toward motion sickness both my sister and I have inherited from my father.

As I step into my row, however, I'm greeted by a solid wall. No porthole, not even half of one like some seats get when they happen to fall between windows. Just a beige expanse of siding. I peer at 10F on the opposite side of the aisle; the oval pane there throws light back at me, ordinary as can be.

I feel, not surprisingly, closed in against this blank barricade. I check the status of my next flight on my phone; still on time. But this flight, the captain suddenly tells us over the intercom, will be delayed. Chicago's still having weather.

D has my flight information and instructions to be near his phone around the time I'm supposed to land at O'Hare, in case he has to make a quick bus ticket purchase for me online. Will I be able to make my connection? Will there be a connection to make? I turn my frown to the wall to my left. I can't see what's on the other side, can't see what's to come.

*

It is the first flight I'm taking from Seattle after finishing my thesis, and for a moment, when we finally leave the runway, I'm a little giddy. When the flight attendant announces that we may now use approved electronic devices, I will not need to wrestle my laptop from my backpack and attempt to write. The goal I've been working toward for four years is all but done; only Little U.'s approval of the document -- formatting compliance, verification of my committee's signatures endorsing the final submission -- is pending. Perhaps by Monday, I tell myself, the day my sisters and I will fly to Texas to spend the middle of the week at our parents' home.

But as I speed toward the thunderheads in Chicago, without a view and without the deadlines I've been so used to, I'm forced to sit with my new lack of purpose. It's only transient, I know. Still, I envy, just a little, my sister's waiting future. A residency at a prestigious hospital in Boston is the next step for her. What the experience will hold is certainly unknown, but it's better defined than the summer I have before me. The plans for whatever I choose to do next with my life still wait to be constructed.

The plane banks as the captain adjusts our trajectory. I turn automatically to the window I don't have and feel my stomach protest. A quick glance to the right, to the view I can steal from 10F. It's limited, but it's better than nothing.

5 comments:

TKW said...

It must feel a little odd not to have that 4-year monkey still on your back, but I hope you can enjoy your time in Chicago. xo

BigLittleWolf said...

What a beautifully written piece, CT. (I can hardly wait for Part 2.)

As you said to me last week - the energy and focus will return. The frustration of being at the end of something and consequently, at loose ends, is - for some of us - only a small ability to celebrate the win. And of course, an intense discomfort with the period before knowing what's next.

I imagine there are many comparisons to your sister - tacit or otherwise. That potentially (reading between the lines) makes things more challenging.

C. Troubadour said...

Kitch -- it's so WEIRD being free of the thesis. I did enjoy being with my sisters. Am still recovering from our adventures too! Fortunately, Seattle's warm and sunny and summer awaits, finally.

BLW -- intense discomfort! Yes! But I'm working on understanding that too, instead of running away from it. That's my hope for these next few weeks. I look forward to hearing your own musings as you make your way into new territory.

Good Enough Woman said...

I, too, am eager to hear the rest. did you make your connection? Did you witness the hooding? How did the family time go? What did you read on the plane-ride home?

Glad Seattle is sunny and warm!

C. Troubadour said...

I will tell you this, GEW: in-flight magazine crossword puzzles are not all made the same. And The Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik? Awesome.