November 17, 2010 § 4 Comments
Defeat might be wafting in the air, but when victories come however small – it is important to celebrate them equally. Today (finally) my case study group and I received our feedback for our presentation and report. You may remember me having mentioned this… we were given a chunk of some international qualitative data on chocolate and were asked to write a report of our findings and then present to “management” in the form of our professor, 35 classmates and Why5 Qual Research expert Tom Meere. When we were given the assignment, I remember specifically thinking this is probably my only chance to prove something if anything about why I’m here… having at least done this before. If I couldn’t do this then well, it was time to go home.
Our group consisted of 6 people and like I had mentioned before, there was a bit tension surrounding everything… and of course, being somewhat buttheaded as I am, I really tried to push for things to be done my way – no matter how much resistance I seemed to get. I fought for a better model, a better way… my way, made all the slides and eventually was handed over the presentation portion of things. I presented in front of the class with another girl and the rest of the crew focused on writing up the report. Of course there quite a few errors scattered throughout, but I figured as long as it follows my general preso structure, it’ll do… i made sure it did.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came to grading – I figured most everyone will get a pretty good score. It was only on the way to our consultation today that I was informed that a 14/20 would be an expected good score in Belgium and that no one gets anywhere close to 100% here as that’s not how it’s taught. A part of me was still hoping for having achieved some of what I thought I could back then… but I’m totally disoriented by now by how different everything is here so my only consolation was that whatever happens happens to 6 of us – somehow that feels better than getting an independent outcome.
When we walked into the classroom, the professor asked us to sit down and began to question us about how we thought we did. He says – so… there were 6 groups presenting that day, how do you think you compare to them all? First of all, can we just pause for a sec to discuss what a strange question that is… I mean yes, we all want to be mindful and better than the next guy, but I can’t remember the last time it was ok to say that out-loud. “Maybe, in the middle – one of the Belgians says”.. ‘oh, I don’t think so’… says the professor… ‘Number one, I would say” he adds.
And, what’s more… and of course not to let this get to my head, but right now, i’ll take a self-esteem boost in any way shape or form… … all of the things that he mentioned that won us this title had been in large part due to me (presentation, model, health built into model – (which they so fought me on, and I added it last minute anyway), brand position from a consumers point of view, even Q&A… and the few negatives mentioned had nothing to do with me – nice.
Another weird thing about how things are done here, the paper was not yet graded… the professor stopped talking after a while, opened the report, looked up at us and said… this is really excellent work he says as he jots down 16/20 … he must have seen my face afterward, because as he looked up he began to explain that in Belgium this is considered to be an exceptional score… he then paused for a second, crossed out the 16 and wrote 17 instead. ‘yes, perhaps this demonstrates that even better’ he says… ‘now go’.
And so there it is. 17/20 – best preso out of 6 – setting the curve, you could say… for old times sake. This will be a very short lived victory indeed, but you gotta admit it’s a little badass.
Dear Market Research, it may indeed be that we’re meant to spend our lives together. Someday.
November 13, 2010 § 1 Comment
omg. I’m back… talk about a hiatus. That was the longest that I had gone without writing since I got to Ghent. Won’t happen again.
First of all I have to say thank you to everyone for being so amazingly thoughtful… the messages, the emails, the everything… were just what I needed to put life in perspective. …although I must admit, I was starting to lose my bearings there for a bit… No worries though – with a little help from you, my new friends, a few nights of a heavy drinking – not to mention, a spontaneous sprint across the borders for a bit of Parisian soul searching in the form of fuck-me-boots, just the boots so far, and I’m back on track.
But in order to tell you how I got here, I suppose I should start from the very beginning… that is, the day I wrote my last post. It was the day of our SQL exam, and lets just say a lot of people, not excluding myself, were in a bit of a shock. So much so, that we couldn’t bare the thought of studying for anything else… let alone our SAS exam which was swiftly approaching. So, instead we took our dazed minds out for a drink.
As I was walking over to our agreed upon meeting place, in the rain, in the dark… after having failed and then proceeded to not study all day for the next thing. I thought to myself, what on EARTH am I doing… I don’t even like drinking. And how relived I was to hear my friend say the same thing… only she says it more hilariously, in Russian, always pushing my vocabulary to its limits – “Kat’, Shto za chush – kuda yedish?’ she says. Seriously, shto za chush.
But, as anyone could have predicted, a few beers in (Roomer to be exact – a special Ghent drink made out of flowers that float magically at the bottom of the glass) and a few hours later… a much needed break and new, albeit temporary, leash on life.
The next few days after that were spent locked up in our computer lab trying to absorb as much SAS nonsense as possible. By Monday, a day before the test, I was on the verge of getting sick and knew that pushing myself even a bit more would only lead me to having to take the test lying down, brain off. So I spent the entire day and night sleeping, in hope of awakening with at least the slightest ability to concentrate and even half the information absorbed – i did lose 12 hours of studying time though, so that sucks. By Tuesday morning, I seemed to have slept it off and came to the test at least with my brain in tact. Four hours later, we handed in our exams and sighed deeply as we passed one another in the halls. No words required. Well, actually it went better than SQL… but that’s like saying death by hanging is preferable to the electric chair.
That day was also Amador’s birthday, so we all went out to celebrate and shake off the stooper. I didn’t get home until after 4, but managed to get myself up for class at 9.
Then we went out for chinese food and as I was sitting there thinking about what to do over the weekend… the first chunk of time I can remember having where there doesn’t seem to be an urgency to study… yes there’s a test in less than 2 weeks and hundreds of pages of reading… but no reason I thought, I couldn’t be doing this reading on a train, …or in coffee shop in Paris, eating a croissant perhaps … or tart?.. or french salad…? ( no worries, I had all three! 🙂
That night I had company at my place for the first time… tea and waffles, to be precise, so I didn’t get to sleep until very very late (or early depending on how you look at it), on top of which i woke up and realized… ah, I AM getting sick … but I wasn’t about to waste this precious weekend, being sick at home. Heck no. I packed nothing… just my backpack and a book, and headed to Paris on a one way ticket. Indefinitely.
Of course, I knew I was coming back.. i just didn’t know if waking up to a croissant would do it, or if I would want to stick around for a french dinner, or another morning – a walk to the eiffel tower perhaps, or a french haircut? Maybe a tattoo… I was keeping my options open. I needed this trip to cure everything and I just wasn’t sure what it would take… only that I needed to feel alive again, with a purpose… moving… thinking… feeling.
How long did it take you ask? It took 3 days and two nights… after-which I arrived back at St. Pieter’s station in Gent (after a few train mishaps) welcomed by none other than hundreds and hundreds of rowdy drunk college students standing in line for the city organized I<3TECHNO Tram 21 (I guess I won’t be taking that one home…) and dozens and dozens of police officers and their dogs guarding this howling mayhem… the slight but constant drizzle of Belgian rain, my feet tired from three days of non-stop trekking, the air warm but dark… buses re-scheduled again (where is the one I need??? i’m tired.), drunk drivers everywhere, there isn’t a weekend where this doesn’t happen – almost got knocked over within 5 minutes of getting back… when I finally made it onto a bus, safe and sound, I peeked outside the window and there it was… Saturday night, in my precious Ghent. I just wanted to give it a big big hug. I am home.
Oh, and I needed boots and an Umbrella. Having not ventured out of my apartment for a few weeks now, and never at night – it all of a sudden dawned on me on my way to our Chinese dinner that it’s almost friggin winter!!… like BRRR cold… and like… holy cow, wet and slippery. And how these Belgians and Russians love to make fun of Miss California girl who only owns sandals. So at least, I left for Paris with a mission… go to Paris, clear my head, buy boots – come back when you know what you’re coming back for.
I will probably write more about this later, as surly it will be on my mind for many days to come. But here’s a quick few things of what I learned in Paris.
Standing in front of the Eiffel is a good reminder of this…
The best lesson you can learn in life – one that came to me much too late, but which I welcomed open-arms on this trip – is that there’s only one thing, and one thing only, that you can be 100% sure of in this life – you – exist – ALWAYS. …regardless of where or how or what you’re doing. YOU, are the constant.
I know that seems like a silly thing to even mention, especially since most people mention this as a negative – as in, you can’t get away from yourself. But the truth is, it’s the best and most positive thing there is about our lives – the one thing that takes fear out of anything and defuses all pressure of any what-ifs. What if… you say? The answer is simple… you’re still there.
A lot of the time, when fear holds us back… from opportunities, from whatever… we find ourselves fearful of change, of not being able to ‘do it’ of having a hard time imagining our lives without something… or imaging our lives with something, or somewhere… like Paris … and then it happens, and we realize that in fact nothing is that big of a change… we are in both scenarios. we are the one constant – the one thing that doesn’t change – the one thing we can rely on and the one thing we won’t get away from. And what does this mean? It means, you need find yourself – understand yourself, love yourself and realize, in all seriousness, there is no life without you – so get that right, and everything else will follow… So whether you’re in Paris, or Belgium, or San Francisco, or Pakistan or someday- Africa. You, are still you – albeit with a two pairs of amazing Parisian fuck me boots and a parapluie from an ACTUAL umbrella store and a french hat… but of course.
And, what did this mean for me? It made me realize I don’t need to go all that far, to find something that’s actually inside me. Next time I go anywhere, it will be to find someone or something else. But I dearly thank Paris, for reminding me that what I love about traveling should never be confused with what I love about getting away. More on this another time.
Also – French men in black trench coats are scrumptiously dangerous and a VERY good reason not to live Paris. Serioulsly, it maybe confusing here to know where you need to speak which language… ( i spent the first few hours in Paris, kicking myself for speaking Dutch, then finally switching to Bounjours and Mercis … then back to Dutch, only to realize I was still in Wallonia.. f7ck, I mean Merci – Dank u… shit. Whatever, I’m American, it’s true.. HI.) But, French/Belgian border can be defined much more simply if you just look at the men.. just a quick glance and you’ll know what country you’re in. And if you’re me and staring a frechman in a black p-coat, no words come anyway… so no worries about the language barrier.
Ok, so mabye they’re not all so scrumptious… at least not the few I had the pleasure of being chatted up by – I am not that lucky. But this morning, I watched the most entertaining pick-up I’d ever seen in my entire life… here’s how it went down. I noticed the woman first… she was walking in front of me… her jacket bright blue, her sweater peeking from underneath it’s rim… yes, I was studying it closely as there was something about the way she walked that captured my attention. I didn’t see her face – her hood was on – only because I was watching her did I realize what was about to happen. An absoltely gorgeous young guy starts walking along side her – tilted towards her – and extends his hand… he is smiley, cheerful and charming… he asks her if she knows french and keeps up the pace… something about the weather and possibly where she’s going… I was right behind them and waiting for her to give him the boot – certainly I would have.
Of course, he was cute, but I wouldn’t have wanted him until I’d seen him from this angle… she wanted him. She took off her hood – she’s asian – and they walked giggling for about a minute, then he took her hand in his and clutched it warmly. Surly, I thought, she will tell him to go to hell now. But instead, she played along. If i didn’t know better, I would have thought they surly knew eachother…. they walked, hand in hand, rubbing shoulders… smiling… fast-paced – oh how I wanted to know how this story ends. But then they turned down a strange alley, and I thought maybe I don’t… But here’s the funny part. If it had happened to me, I surly would have been uninterested… I point blank declined an invitation just a day before that, and the one before that as well… But watching this girl enjoy his company (ok.. and also lets be honest, he was HAWT… but I really don’t know if that would have made a difference for me)… and not shooting him down off the bat, gave me something to think about… something to strive for, perhaps… assuming of course she wasn’t an asian hooker (shame on me!) I think it maybe time I soften around the edges a bit. Yes, Paris taught me that.
Paris taught me a lot more, but I think it’s time for bed… I will say this though, I really really loved it… it is everything that everyone says it is… beautiful, grand, so french… just gorgeous on every level … and damn, those men in black p-coats. Oy.
But who would have thought that I missed school and studying and my precious Ghent… dorky Belgian boys and all.
October 29, 2010 § 1 Comment
Way back in the day, in college, while studying cognitive dissonance in one of our many psych classes, we were asked to analyze something pertaining to cognitive dissonance in our own lives and report back on our findings. I mention this, because while rather simple and probably trivial in essence, the paper became a very important turning point for me in my evolution into adulthood. I agonized for weeks about what to write … keep in mind, at that point I was merely 21 and had much fewer choices at hand. If I were to do this now for example, well hey… you could say there’s been quite an array of happenings in the last 7 years that could be explored. But, back then, I guess things were a little simpler, although when you don’t know better, things seem just as hard… *note to self, you don’t better… it most certainly only gets harder, enjoy while you can.
In particular, at 21 my life was mostly defined by three major factors:
The big move,
The not so big betrayal,
And The big split.
Amazing isn’t it, that your life can be boiled down to a just a few flag poles, that mark along their way those glaring forks in the road you left behind – you are here, go right.
I think the best thing about thinking of life in map-format is that you’ll never find yourself wishing for a different route… because, lets face it, the road you’re on is your road… it’s who. you. are. … and the fork is how you got here, … so, why on earth would you want to have traveled another way… only to not know yourself. Know yourself.
But, if you were to have a map like this, it would at least help point you in the next direction. *Here I veered left, perhaps now it’s time to head right… *
Seriously, I think charting a life map could come quite handy… in fact, I think I just created a whole new business concept… Life analyzed in visual form. Brilliant. Seriously, why is there not an app for this yet.
Anyway, so the short short version of all this (life until 21) is that The Big Move came with some academic challenges, and to compensate for lacking in all other capacities in a foreign country (specifically – socially, academically and financially), I plowed on with music. Until of course, the no so big betrayal that unfortunately cost me a friend but gained me an entire life… one that suddenly involved anything but music. And I was grateful.
But, the truth is, with leaving music behind came an entirely new challenge of figuring out who I was without it. I think it was similar to what retired people go through when they finally stop working ….and realize that all these years they’ve been a shitty partner to their loved one, a crappy parent to their children and no one at work misses them in the least. And, when someone asks them what they do or who they are, the only word that comes to mind is ‘retired’. For me, it was yet another new beginning. A move into the unknown – no violin as my crutch, no answer for my hobbies, no identity (or so it seemed) beyond my name.
As far as I was concerned, studying is what other people did – ya know, those people that go to school because they are there to learn, not because Ms. France told them to. I on the other hand was just starting to learn how to write and read… it was only a few short years before that, that I didn’t know how… so the idea of school being a place to learn, had somewhat of a foreign notion… I was just there to survive and oh yeah, music.
So when I finally quit, it was a big deal. It was my first real break up… one that has probably scarred me much more than any other break up has. If you follow the rule of two on how long it takes to get over a break up, well then I guess I’m about half way there. So, maybe this means (12 x 2) – 10 = in about 14 years I’ll be ready to start playing again… 🙂
But, why you ask, am I writing all this. The paper I wrote in college was called ‘The Girl That Didn’t Care Enough To Try’… it really was a revealing exercise, one that astutely pointed out to me the degree to which music had affected my life and the reasons behind my choice not to pursue it… and long before then… to despise it. I really saw it as something that stood in the way of everything else that I wanted… which was not to have to rely on it.
So, when I finally took the plunge and went to school for school, it took quite a while for me to figure out whether or not I could even do it – be that person that doesn’t have a crutch. That is just able to succeed all on their own. And so, little by little, I replaced my crutches… one by one, abandoning each in less than a timely fashion, but creatively none-the-less,
…until finally I dropped them all and found myself standing in the middle of St. Pietersplein Square, with my books in hand… me, myself and i – no crutches in sight. And, the feeling is of none other than having finally arrived. Not at a destination you see, but a place of solid ground. One where I am finally standing on my own two feet.
But of course, as I look at myself now, my life-map all the way up in the left hand corner there… so far from the original plan, I can’t help but see myself shortly sprinting in the opposite direction… maybe with a few crutches in tow. Hopefully, by the end of it all, having paved for myself a spectacular journey with some of the best ups and downs that life can bring.