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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.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Scenes from a graduation, part 3: projection

In the auditorium of a local hotel, finally done traveling for the day, I slip into a cushy ergonomic chair that rotates. This isn't theater seating; it's conference hall seating. An enormous projection screen dominates the front wall, and the School of Medicine's glossy logo has been carefully applied to the wooden podium beneath it (removable decals, I'm guessing). Individual ethernet jacks and power outlets, built into the console table stretching across each row, make me feel like I ought to fire up my laptop to take notes. But we -- Troubadour Mom and Dad, my youngest sister and I -- pull out cameras instead.

Of course, we're not here for a lecture. This gathering of parents, siblings, children, other relatives, and friends is like Class Day from our undergraduate commencement festivities, a smaller celebration before the next day's all-graduate ceremonies with the lawyers, the engineers, the MBAs, and so forth. Tonight, a class-chosen faculty speaker will bestow light words of wisdom, a classmate will offer humorous reflections on these last few years of training, there will be a few awards, and then we'll all disperse for heavy hors d'oeuvres. My sisters and I share the same alma mater; I wonder if they also feel a certain déjà vu as we wait for the proceedings to begin. But maybe the conference room setting is too different to them. Class Day, so many years ago, was an outdoor folding-chair affair that, in Almost Dr. Sis's case, took place in a downpour.

I have to laugh a little at myself, always seeking the structure of things, the bones of each new experience. Is it just my way of handling the unfamiliar? Perhaps -- the parallels underneath, analogous armatures, ground me. But it is also a way of remembering, better to secure the details. For our family, there will be no other sister who passes through this medical program or any other. One chance, then, to enjoy these moments for what they are.

The soon-to-be graduates process in, the men in suits, most of the women in dresses. Academic regalia is reserved for the next day. I have not yet seen Almost Dr. Sis since arriving -- does she see us? No time for her to look up, but we follow her with both eyes and camera lenses.

I don't snap any shots, though. The pictures I might get would be blurry, I realize -- the camera on my phone isn't the best for subjects in motion -- and I'm happier without the filter of a viewfinder limiting what I can see. I lean forward, watching my sister in a soft white frock, glossy like meringue, cross into her assigned row.

It turns out that she is in charge of presenting the class gift this evening. As she steps toward the podium, the screen behind her suddenly lights up -- the audiovisual crew working this event has zoomed in, and my sister's head, now ten feet tall, smiles back at us in startling digital glory.

And I can't focus on her, the small woman in the flesh at the microphone. Her slight movements -- a nod, a turn, a tilt of the chin -- become giant ones on the screen. I'm reminded for a moment of Dorothy's audience with the Wizard of Oz. Of course, my sister and her video image are identical, unlike the thundering puppet head and its master, but the projection is still a bit disturbing. So dramatically magnified, it draws the eye away from the real person below.

But isn't that the point of it? I think. To help us see better, to allow us an enhanced point of view?

Maybe. I feel like I'm losing something, though, if I ignore the woman standing right in front of me in favor of the bobbing on-screen head. I can't watch both. I try to anyway.

*

The hors d'oeuvres at the reception are, indeed, heavy. Fortunately, to save me from eating too much, there are scores of my sister's friends to be introduced to. Some I recognize from my last visit a little over a year ago. Others are mentors I've heard of only by name.

There is one woman whose face gives me a double-take. The wire-frame glasses, the slightly upturned nose, the sandy curls, front teeth that peek out below a thin upper lip with a bit of mustache, and that raspy voice with a New York accent -- she is the doppelganger of a professor who has sat on my thesis committee for two years. The woman at Little U. is the sort of person who invited my research methods class, which she also taught, over to her house for potluck on the last night of the semester, just before I moved back to Seattle.

The woman at this reception supervises a group of medical students who travel each summer to run a clinic in South America. I realize my sister introduced me to her on my last visit, at a coffee-shop planning pow-wow for one of those trips. The woman doesn't remember me -- and I don't expect her to -- but the memory of her warm hug from that first meeting comes back as I greet her now. She is effusive, pouring forth compliments about my sister, this class, how special they are to her. It's impossible for me not to remember my own professor's words from potluck night, the same sort of praise overflowing from her in uncannily similar tones.

I'm not looking for these parallels in this moment; they've somehow found me. But for once they aren't grounding. In fact, I realize, I wish not to see what I see this time because it's made me aware of the other comparisons I can't help making -- between the path I chose, to write, and the path I rejected, to become a doctor myself. At one point, that was what I truly believed I wanted to do.

The need to be present for this rite of passage, then, the importance of getting here. You wanted to see what could have been, a voice whispers in my ear, and I recoil.

Don't, I hiss back silently, guiltily. This isn't about you. I glance around the circle my family has made around my sister and the woman who continues to effervesce. Good -- they haven't noticed the extra head I've suddenly grown, or the conversation I'm having with it.

For more from this series, please click here.

5 comments:

BigLittleWolf said...

What an insightful and delicious piece of writing, CT.

Bravo.

(And wanting more...)

C. Troubadour said...

Thank you, BLW! I'd crank it out faster if reflection weren't such a slow process for me. This is why I'd never be able to make a living this way -- or at least solely so. But I have to remind myself that this is just that, an exercise for me, a luxury.

TKW said...

You rocked this! I was riveted!

Good Enough Woman said...

Wow, CT. This writing is Good. Very good. I love the way the end connects back to the whole digitized, blown up, Wizard of Oz bit. and my favorites words? "Glossy like meringue." Fantastic.

C. Troubadour said...

Thanks so much, GEW! I hadn't meant to connect the end to the giant head image when I was working my way through this piece, but it just happened as I got there. I went with it -- sometimes the writing brain tells you to do things you don't expect. I'm learning to listen to it more instead of imposing structure too rigidly from the beginning.

(It helps not to have a thesis to throw all my energy into -- I get to play here.)

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Scenes from a graduation, part 3: projection

In the auditorium of a local hotel, finally done traveling for the day, I slip into a cushy ergonomic chair that rotates. This isn't theater seating; it's conference hall seating. An enormous projection screen dominates the front wall, and the School of Medicine's glossy logo has been carefully applied to the wooden podium beneath it (removable decals, I'm guessing). Individual ethernet jacks and power outlets, built into the console table stretching across each row, make me feel like I ought to fire up my laptop to take notes. But we -- Troubadour Mom and Dad, my youngest sister and I -- pull out cameras instead.

Of course, we're not here for a lecture. This gathering of parents, siblings, children, other relatives, and friends is like Class Day from our undergraduate commencement festivities, a smaller celebration before the next day's all-graduate ceremonies with the lawyers, the engineers, the MBAs, and so forth. Tonight, a class-chosen faculty speaker will bestow light words of wisdom, a classmate will offer humorous reflections on these last few years of training, there will be a few awards, and then we'll all disperse for heavy hors d'oeuvres. My sisters and I share the same alma mater; I wonder if they also feel a certain déjà vu as we wait for the proceedings to begin. But maybe the conference room setting is too different to them. Class Day, so many years ago, was an outdoor folding-chair affair that, in Almost Dr. Sis's case, took place in a downpour.

I have to laugh a little at myself, always seeking the structure of things, the bones of each new experience. Is it just my way of handling the unfamiliar? Perhaps -- the parallels underneath, analogous armatures, ground me. But it is also a way of remembering, better to secure the details. For our family, there will be no other sister who passes through this medical program or any other. One chance, then, to enjoy these moments for what they are.

The soon-to-be graduates process in, the men in suits, most of the women in dresses. Academic regalia is reserved for the next day. I have not yet seen Almost Dr. Sis since arriving -- does she see us? No time for her to look up, but we follow her with both eyes and camera lenses.

I don't snap any shots, though. The pictures I might get would be blurry, I realize -- the camera on my phone isn't the best for subjects in motion -- and I'm happier without the filter of a viewfinder limiting what I can see. I lean forward, watching my sister in a soft white frock, glossy like meringue, cross into her assigned row.

It turns out that she is in charge of presenting the class gift this evening. As she steps toward the podium, the screen behind her suddenly lights up -- the audiovisual crew working this event has zoomed in, and my sister's head, now ten feet tall, smiles back at us in startling digital glory.

And I can't focus on her, the small woman in the flesh at the microphone. Her slight movements -- a nod, a turn, a tilt of the chin -- become giant ones on the screen. I'm reminded for a moment of Dorothy's audience with the Wizard of Oz. Of course, my sister and her video image are identical, unlike the thundering puppet head and its master, but the projection is still a bit disturbing. So dramatically magnified, it draws the eye away from the real person below.

But isn't that the point of it? I think. To help us see better, to allow us an enhanced point of view?

Maybe. I feel like I'm losing something, though, if I ignore the woman standing right in front of me in favor of the bobbing on-screen head. I can't watch both. I try to anyway.

*

The hors d'oeuvres at the reception are, indeed, heavy. Fortunately, to save me from eating too much, there are scores of my sister's friends to be introduced to. Some I recognize from my last visit a little over a year ago. Others are mentors I've heard of only by name.

There is one woman whose face gives me a double-take. The wire-frame glasses, the slightly upturned nose, the sandy curls, front teeth that peek out below a thin upper lip with a bit of mustache, and that raspy voice with a New York accent -- she is the doppelganger of a professor who has sat on my thesis committee for two years. The woman at Little U. is the sort of person who invited my research methods class, which she also taught, over to her house for potluck on the last night of the semester, just before I moved back to Seattle.

The woman at this reception supervises a group of medical students who travel each summer to run a clinic in South America. I realize my sister introduced me to her on my last visit, at a coffee-shop planning pow-wow for one of those trips. The woman doesn't remember me -- and I don't expect her to -- but the memory of her warm hug from that first meeting comes back as I greet her now. She is effusive, pouring forth compliments about my sister, this class, how special they are to her. It's impossible for me not to remember my own professor's words from potluck night, the same sort of praise overflowing from her in uncannily similar tones.

I'm not looking for these parallels in this moment; they've somehow found me. But for once they aren't grounding. In fact, I realize, I wish not to see what I see this time because it's made me aware of the other comparisons I can't help making -- between the path I chose, to write, and the path I rejected, to become a doctor myself. At one point, that was what I truly believed I wanted to do.

The need to be present for this rite of passage, then, the importance of getting here. You wanted to see what could have been, a voice whispers in my ear, and I recoil.

Don't, I hiss back silently, guiltily. This isn't about you. I glance around the circle my family has made around my sister and the woman who continues to effervesce. Good -- they haven't noticed the extra head I've suddenly grown, or the conversation I'm having with it.

For more from this series, please click here.

5 comments:

BigLittleWolf said...

What an insightful and delicious piece of writing, CT.

Bravo.

(And wanting more...)

C. Troubadour said...

Thank you, BLW! I'd crank it out faster if reflection weren't such a slow process for me. This is why I'd never be able to make a living this way -- or at least solely so. But I have to remind myself that this is just that, an exercise for me, a luxury.

TKW said...

You rocked this! I was riveted!

Good Enough Woman said...

Wow, CT. This writing is Good. Very good. I love the way the end connects back to the whole digitized, blown up, Wizard of Oz bit. and my favorites words? "Glossy like meringue." Fantastic.

C. Troubadour said...

Thanks so much, GEW! I hadn't meant to connect the end to the giant head image when I was working my way through this piece, but it just happened as I got there. I went with it -- sometimes the writing brain tells you to do things you don't expect. I'm learning to listen to it more instead of imposing structure too rigidly from the beginning.

(It helps not to have a thesis to throw all my energy into -- I get to play here.)