Beautiful Complications and other stories

Sometimes, in between trying to decide which class to prioritize on any given day and pestering grad student teaching assistants for assignment details, I really miss blogging.

You may have missed the cat pictures.
Maia hasn't changed much.
There's more going on in my head and heart and life at any given moment these days than I can possibly settle into neat blog posts. It's good, stressful, beautiful, exhausting, painful, necessary, and it sometimes results—when I do manage to post—in dreadful vaguebooking. Sorry about that. Some of it is that all too often when I feel like I have things to say now, I can't scrape together the right words, and it isn't my voice that needs to be heard.

I do have to say, though, I love school. Going by distance is hard. Going while working is hard. Going with a largely uniform student body, so that it's often me and perhaps one other person in the class who are different, is hard. But my professors are fantastic. The teachers and advisers and administration are accessible and helpful. As for the classes, so far they always teach me something that helps bring light and warmth into the great aching vacuum in my chest that's trying to fill itself with understanding.

I went on a road trip this spring and got this close to campus.
This is just outside of Ogden; USU is in Logan.
Someday I'll make it all the way there; I hear their ice cream's great.
In the meantime, I'm rocking an Aggie sweatshirt.

* * *

My friend Bekah gave me the gift of a meet-and-greet with Pentatonix this summer in Seattle:

In case you can't tell from the smiles, I was excited,
and they rock.
The concert was pretty incredible. I yelled and cheered like a twelve-year-old. Also, like a thirty-seven-year-old: they were touring with Kelly Clarkson, and I knew all her early music and none of the new stuff. As it turns out, age has not made me too dignified to stand up and dance and sing along.

* * *

You guys. I got to MEET them.

Also, they're pretty incredible. Even filmed amid screaming fans on somebody's iPhone. I'd just give you their official "Aha!" video, which is awesome if you can handle a little zombie, but I really love the Renaissance bit they do at the front when they sing it live.

* * *

As mentioned, every class has taught me something I've needed to know. Highlights follow.

English 2010: Rogerian argument. It doesn't guarantee success, but at least it makes you feel like you're trying.

Horticulture 1800: How to prune different kinds of bushes and trees, and that my houseplants don't get nearly enough light. Now I just need to figure out how to fix that. They also get way too much cat, but cats unfortunately weren't covered in the module on horticultural pests.

American Institutions 1300: I learned so much from this class' lectures, readings, and discussions on wars, manifest destiny and imperialism, and the history and effectiveness of protests. Also, the professor told me I "need to go on to grad school for sure." I confess I glowed.

Statistics 1040: Considering that statistics can be manipulated to say almost anything, it meant a lot to learn the basics of how to read a study to see whether the claims being made off it are solid or suspicious. This was—rather unexpectedly—my favorite class so far.

Science and Society 1360*: What pseudoscience is, and the warning signs thereof; also, the natural limits of science and religion in relation to each other. Some of that I'd never heard before (well, I'd heard all the pseudoscience ... I do have Facebook. :P)

When I took swiftwater rescue some years back, my teacher said, "We're trying to drownproof you." Statistics and science together felt like being given the skills to help proof myself against drowning in misinformation.

Spanish 101: It's teaching me Spanish, which is awesome. It'd be cool to master vesre, but I'm still concentrating on memorizing the words with the syllables in the right order for now.

* * *

Bekah and I chalked our hair for the Pentatonix concert; she knew I'd been eyeing all the pretty colors everybody's dyeing their hair nowadays. Chalk washes out, so it was just one day of purple, but it was fun to go happy-go-lucky colorful for a day.

Kind of my favorite hair day EVER.
I also happen to have leftover chalk, so it may come back at some point. There's always Halloween. :D

* * *

I chose cultural anthropology for one of my fall classes, and it may be the wild card that surpasses Statistics for favorite class. After all, writers are anthropologists after a fashion—studying ourselves from a scientific distance, studying humanity intimately and up close, always questing for a better understanding of what it means to be human.
The anthropological perspective on the human condition is not easy to maintain. It forces us to question the commonsense assumptions with which we are most comfortable. It only increases the difficulty we encounter when faced with moral and political decisions. It does not allow us an easy retreat, for once we are exposed to the kinds of experience that the anthropological undertaking makes possible, we are changed. We cannot easily pretend that these new experiences never happened to us. There is no going back to ethnocentrism when the going gets rough, except in bad faith. So anthropology is guaranteed to complicate your life. Nevertheless, the anthropological perspective can give you a broader understanding of human nature and the wider world, of society, culture, and history, and thus help you construct more realistic and authentic ways of coping with those complications.**
Of course, the scientific context is not required to have those kinds of experiences. learn that world-opening perspective, and undergo that change. Neither is writing. Sometimes it just happens because you're human and surrounded by humans. I am still full of wonder that it has happened to me. It's a beautiful complication; I wouldn't trade it for anything the world could give me.

Happy fall!

* In other science class news, I got way too much joke mileage out of two weeks of researching and writing about hydraulic fracturing—as in, "I have to do my fracking homework." Blame that on all the sci-fi and fantasy swear-word substitutes that I've heard. Besides, burn me, but there was just so MUCH bloody gorram fracking homework. Merlin's pants! and mother's milk in a cup! I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle ... okay, I'll stop. :P

** Schultz, Emily A. and Robert H. Lavenda, Cultural Anthropology: A Perspective on the Human Condition, Ninth Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 37


  1. LOVED this!

    I think the science and statistics classes should be standard for anyone who signs up for Facebook. And cultural anthropology sounds uh-mazing. It was one of my many second-choice majors (after English, which was first and miles ahead of all the others :cough cough:).

  2. Also,

    "age has not made me too dignified to stand up and dance and sing along"

    if it ever does you will receive a sound talking-to from yours truly.

  3. P.S. I figured out the others, but what is "mother's milk in a cup" from?

    1. Haha! That one, along with "Burn me," is from the Wheel of Time series. Elayne is always saying it to shock her soldiers; supposedly it's extremely dirty, but she has no idea why, and neither do I. :P

      I would expect to receive that sound talking-to!

      You and I are so much alike! English was my leading major choice when I briefly considered school a decade ago. It only isn't now because--well, for example, I'm taking creative arts this semester, too, and I've honestly written so much analysis of art that the assignments really feel like "been there, done that" even when they're interesting topics. It's a good class, but it's teaching me a lot less that's new than anything else I've taken. And a creative writing class would probably drive me insane--after four years of writers' group, I can. not. face another writing prompt. So ... gotta take some different paths. :) USU strongly encourages their liberal arts majors to get a minor, and anthropology is definitely a top contender right now! I'm just fearful that I might have to actually talk to people, which is always awkward ... ;)

  4. Ooh Cultural Anthropology!!! I took that! And Seth majored in Antro..so hit us up for help if you need it! or book recommendations if you get to write a paper! Or just conversation! ..not that I'm focused enough to do anything right now!!!! I LOVE that you're blogging again!!! Do more! I need the motivation!

    1. Haha yay!! If I DO manage to blog more this semester, I'll almost certainly be including more thoughts from this class, or the textbook, or both. I'm in love with the textbook so far; about every third page I find something I want to write down and remember. Would always be glad for your thoughts, and Seth's! :)

  5. I miss your blogging voice, Jenna, but so glad that you love your courses! While I'm not reading blogs much these days, I think of you often. :o)

    Be well, Carrie-Ann

    1. I miss you, too, Carrie-Ann! It's fun to see you on FB every now and then. I'm not reading blogs all that much either, but I definitely miss being an active blogger and blog-reader.

      Be well, and best wishes!


All comments are currently moderated. Friendly comments are welcomed with fairy music, magic wishes, and possible unicorn sightings. Troll comments will be Transfigured into decent-looking rocks or Vanished. Spam comments will be shot down with blasters.