Fort Brag.

Hey! Everyone! No, EVERYONE. Gather around, because I have big news.

This is an iron that’s been in the fire for some time now, and is probably one of the major reasons my face rebelled against me recently. (Did you know that stress causes break outs? DID YOU???) It’s an opportunity that presented itself literally 24 hours after I landed in the UK, so I’ve been working to try to make it happen since my very first full day here.

Drumroll, please:

I’ve been accepted into and have been offered full funding (plus an annual stipend) for a PhD here in England! I start this fall, which is perfect timing because I will have just completed the contract on the job I currently have.

This is MAJOR, on many different levels, considering last spring, I was fully convinced I would never finish my MA and would just languish in grad school purgatory for the rest of time.

I have had the most traumatic, terrifying, embarrassing, and stressful year of my life, a year of reevaluating and admitting defeat and taking ownership of my life in ways I’ve always avoided, and yet in the midst of all of it, I’ve managed to scrape together the trappings of a pretty awesome future.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again (and again and again and again, until no one wants to talk to me anymore): anything is possible. Any. Thing. The vast majority of the time, the only person in your way is you.

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Field School Revelations!

In a few days, I’m heading to Spike Island, County Cork, Ireland, to spend five weeks living in an abandoned (and reportedly haunted!) island prison complex with a few dozen total strangers. It’s a bioarchaeology field school, meaning we’ll be excavating the prison cemetery in use during the 1840s and 1850s, when the Potato Famine (or Great Hunger) in Ireland caused such massive increases in criminality (with people sentenced to seven to fourteen years hard labor for stealing food to feed their starving families) that Spike Island, a former naval base, was converted into a prison in order to house the huge new waves of “criminals.”

Spike Island sits in center of Cork Harbour, which is now used by the Irish Navy, various cruise ships and lots of industry. In the mid-1800s, all those who emigrated out of Ireland during the Famine, including my Irish ancestors, left the country through Cork Harbour, making it a sort of reverse Ellis Island. Incidentally, this harbor was also the last port of call for the Titanic. (Twelve-year-old me is going to love the large Titanic museum in Cobh.)

I’ve spent the last few weeks reading books about the Famine and the prison and have watched a bunch of videos about the supposed ghosts. Ghost Hunters International did a spot on Spike Island, and as usual, found absolutely nothing. (I’m not hating on the paranormal – I did my fair share of Ouija boarding with my aunt while I was growing up. However, it pleases me that nothing horrifying has been found on the burnt-out, cemeteries-old prison I’m about to live in for the entire month of July.) My favorite of all my prep, however, is this terrifying video I found on YouTube, which proves that a haunting soundtrack really is all you need:

I’m planning on blogging the entire experience, with the help of a pay-as-I-go mobile wireless router. However, I’m assuming my technological prowess, compounded by my being in a foreign country, may result in less-than-daily posts. I’ll probably be better at posting on my Facebook page and/or Twitter feed, so if you’re at all interested, follow me there!

Jealosaur.

I used to be a really good friend.  In college, if someone needed a pregnancy test and was too embarrassed to buy one, I would walk right into the tiny convenience store on campus near the dorms and purchase it, making sure I looked directly into the eyes of the person behind the counter, for maximum awkwardness.  If a friend needed housesitting or animal sitting or a ride across the country or money or food or several visits or a kidney, I was all about it.  I gave and gave and gave to the people around me and I was happy (and maybe a little proud) to do it.  My friends were my life, and I gave of my life according.

However, as time has kept marching mercilessly forward, and I’ve gotten consumed with the really important and super stressful workings of my adulthood, I haven’t had the time or the energy or the life force to really give to my friends that way I used to.  I struggled with that for a long time – what does it say about me as a person that I can’t, with any regularity at all, return the phone calls of the people I adore?  I have weekends free – why can’t I visit them?  They need a kidney, Sarah – get on it.

There are people in Los Angeles County, who live a grand total of ten miles from where I live/work, who I haven’t seen for nearly a year.  The way I feel about them hasn’t changed at all – the simple truth is that I am tired.  I am tired and old and after work I like to come home and drink a glass of wine while sitting in the very center of my couch (where the cushions bow in, under the weight of many such nights), watching whatever TV show I missed the night before, when I fell asleep at 9 pm.

So, most of the time I’m still the nice, giving person I once was, just burdened by responsibility like every other schmuck in the world.  Until, of course, May and June roll around, and everyone starts posting photos of their graduations from all their insane law school or med school or grad school programs, while I sit here and rot in my graduate school prison, still unable to graduate until I can convince the people around me that I am worthy of an email reply.  I feel like grad school, for me, has been one bureaucratic or personal or financial nightmare after another, and I’m not above admitting that I am overwhelmingly jealous of people who have positive experiences – so, the end of school year can be a cruel mistress.

Basically: I’m sorry for being such a shitty friend, everyone.  But that’s pretty much all on you guys, for being inconvenient and not living in my house, and for graduating from programs that are going to actually benefit your life.

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Submitted as proof that I have graduated from a university once. You know, just in case I never graduate again.  

 

Top Ten Things I Learned As A Forensic Anthropology Grad Student.

Being the trendspotter that I am, I’ve noticed that two things are fairly popular these days: Top Ten lists and forensics. Luckily for all of you, I can both count to ten and relay some interesting forensic facts. Behold!

The Top Ten Things I Learned As A Forensic Anthropology Grad Student:

10) The only forensic anthropologist dressing like Emily Deschanel on Bones is Emily Deschanel on Bones.

9) Commotio Cordis is a fatal disruption of the heart beat that occurs when the chest is hit by a high-velocity flying object like a baseball. Have fun enjoying baseball!

8) If you are in the habit of taking off your pants when you get home and hanging out in your underwear, you will probably die in your bathroom. No one dies at home fully clothed.

7) The worst place in the universe for there to be a problem with the air conditioning is the basement of a Coroner Department. Trust.

6) Acromegaly. Age of onset: ANYTIME.

5) If you die at home alone, your cats will start to eat you pretty much as soon as they realize you’re not asleep. Your dogs wait a few days. Out of respect, probably.

4) Blood splatter analysis began when an interested party bludgeoned rabbits with axes on white sheets. Dexter is not the first murderer at that rodeo.

3) If you have breast implants, you will never be unidentified.

2) You cannot contract AIDS from skeletal material, even if it scratches you. Crisis averted.

1) If you want to cheat death, don’t ever: drive your car; swim in pools; walk on the street; go to bars; attend hockey games; go splunking; be outside; eat food; drink water; play baseball.

Quarterlife Crisis.

I think it’s safe to say that thus far, I’ve spent my twenties in total abject panic about my life.  As an overachieving teenager, I made “graduating from UCLA” my number one goal, and so myopic was my focus that I didn’t ever contemplate what would come after college.  Ever.  Like, not even once.  What kind of job did I want?  One that required a blazer!  What company did I want to work for?  One that appreciated that I graduated with two BAs from UCLA, obviously!  Where did I see myself in ten years?  Married with kids and a job, I guess?

I achieved my life goal at 21, and as I strode confidently across the graduation stage on Kerckhoff Patio, I was blissfully unaware that the world was not going to figure out my path for me – I was going to have to do that myself.  And, as scary and upsetting and, at times, humiliating as it has been, I am now nearly five years out of college and, on good days, fairly impressed with where this exploration has taken me.  I have been an editorial assistant, sorting through, reading, and ultimately rejecting, manuscripts at a literary agency; I have worked as an osteologist and archaeologist on a cemetery excavation in downtown Los Angeles, becoming part of LA history (for better or worse) and making my father proud; I have taught countless adorable children to love learning and they have taught me to love teaching; I have met and married the love of my life; I’ve interned at places I used to dream about someday only visiting; and all I have between me and my (first) Master’s degree is a thesis of my own (genius) design and a month-long trip to Ireland this summer.

That’s not so terrible, in terms of life experience (it helps to list it out like that).  On the good days, when I’m proud of myself, I feel like this:

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Which is to say: cool, calm, and full of sass.

However, on bad days, like today, when I’ve had entirely too much time to think about what a huge failure I am (thanks, spring chest cold – you bastard), all I see is a resume that’s all over the place and my status as young, flighty ingenue slipping into the wind.  It’s cute not to know what you want to commit yourself to when you’re 21 – having the same reservations at 26 makes you look like a tool.

On days like today, even though I may just be going to work or napping on the couch or Instagramming photos of cats or otherwise acting like a normal human, what I really feel like is this:

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Which is to say: not good.

Developments.

Today was huge – I spoke to an incredibly helpful person about my thesis research and he had positive things to say (as in, I may actually be able to do it, and soon), I submitted my proposal for faculty-wide approval, and I was told I can apply for graduation this quarter (the caveat being the graduation window I’m applying for runs until August 2013, so it’s not like I’d be escaping by March).  When viewed from the outside, I totally understand that these “accomplishments” seem ridiculous in their very tiny scale.  However, given the months and months I’ve felt like I was in a holding pattern, feeling at the mercy of things and people outside my control, having all that forward momentum happen in one day is cause for celebration.  I am in control, dammit.  Me!  I’m slowly knocking things off the to-do list and I’m (currently successfully) telling myself that each seemingly minuscule thing brings me one step closer to being a stable, marketable grown up.

Dear Clomid Failure September/October 2012: Thank you for kicking me into high gear with this Master’s degree.  As it turns out, banking the conception of one’s first child on the completion of one’s hellish grad school experience is a fairly good motivator.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, I just discovered that my twenty-pound cat Huck has figured out that doorknobs open doors, and all it took for me to make that discovery was a terrifying moment alone in the bathroom, when I heard the knob turning and knew it wasn’t my husband.  I’m both proud of his genius and also a little scared of him.

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This photo is kinda like a Magic Eye illusion, except instead of letting your eyeballs go slack in order to see a swimming shark or a lion on the savannah, you’re hoping to see what I look like upon waking up at 1:30 in the morning to find a cat head resting peacefully on my face.

One More.

Yesterday, I left work early in an effort to make it from the extreme west side of LA to the heart of downtown before 5:30pm on a Friday night, because I needed to run a grad school/thesis errand in person on campus.  I was stuck in traffic for an hour before I thought to call the department office and double check their hours, because I was worried I wouldn’t make it before 5.  This is when I learned that the department office closes at noon on Fridays* and that I had just battled 60 minutes in traffic in the complete opposite direction of my house at the worst time imaginable for no reason.  I had to turn around and sit in traffic for another hour to get home, empty handed, having accomplished nothing.  It was pretty awesome.  And all the way home, as I seethed and mourned the two hours of my life I will never get back, I thought about that Obama gun control photo and focused my crazy on it.  Therefore, I apologize to everyone who gave exactly no craps about that post.

However, it was a good release for me and now I’m going to subject you all to it one more time.  I’m basically just cribbing annoying things from my conservative cousin’s Facebook page.  I pinky swear this is the last one:

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Yes, because failing policies should never inspire thoughtful improvement.  They always demand complete policy abandonment (much like welfare and public school!).  Good plan, The Comical Conservative.

 

*How could I have attended that school for two years and not known the department office closes so early on Fridays?  How could I make such a mistake and still dare to call other people idiots?  My excuse: when I was completing my coursework, I only had classes on Monday and Tuesday nights and have legitimately never been on campus on a Friday.  Oops.

The Lucky Few.

On Monday night, I had a Masters thesis meltdown over a new tidbit of information I heard from a friend in the program and yesterday I stormed the anthropology lab on campus, a place I only go now if there’s something wrong, despite the fact that I used to practically live there.  I have such a reputation for insanity in the program now that when one of the other, younger grad students opened the door and saw me sitting inside, she burst into hysterical laughter and asked me what was enraging me.  Answer: thesis proposal approval stonewalling (or, rather, a complete lack of interest in approving my proposal, which has been complete since May).  That is no longer a problem, however, because I am the squeakiest of wheels and got everything I’d been trying to get accomplished all quarter accomplished in fifteen minutes last night simply by being a hugely obnoxious asshole.  Sarah: 1.  Grad school blackhole: 0.  Perhaps this is why people become hugely obnoxious assholes?

Before my fits of rage yesterday, I did some “no period for the rest of time” internet research and stumbled upon “post pill amenorrhea,” which I assume is the grown-up way to say “no period for the rest of time.”  Apparently, to be officially suffering from post pill amenorrhea, you must have no periods for six months after stopping hormonal birth control.  I finished my last birth control foil packet the last week of April and it is now almost December, so I am going to assume I fit quite nicely into the “PPA” diagnosis.  (Yes, I just diagnosed myself using information I gleaned from fitbottomedmamas.com.  I’m a doctor now.  Didn’t you know?)  I know I technically had two periods in those seven months, but they were both products of progesterone, which is supposed to jump-start regularity anyway, and we all now how well that worked out.

Less than 1% of women experience PPA (which is an acronym I think I just made up).  The lucky few, eh?