Monday, May 12, 2014

some real talk

We'll start this post off with a nice little pep-talk that I got last night from my Yogi Tea bag as it was steeping and as dumb as it sounds, it was nice to read because I really needed to hear it. Interestingly, the inspo-tea (as it were) wasn't telling me that life has to be amazing every single moment of every single day - instead it says to enjoy every moment. A moment doesn't become enjoyable necessarily because something great is happening, you can find ways to make yourself shift your perspective in order to find a way to enjoy a moment...even if they are not great.

I'm just about done with my Master's degree and while I am so glad that I was able to have the opportunity (not only to go to graduate school but also to go to such an amazing institution) I will be real with you and say that a good chunk of this year - especially the last two terms - have sucked.The program is great, but what they attempt to make us do in a year is insane especially at the level of the University of Chicago where you (as a MA student) have to do more work than the PhD students. To put it in perspective, PhD students take 5 classes per year and are fully funded + given a stipend for the first 5 years. Thus, the majority of the PhDs I spoke to here do not do teaching nor do they have a significant job on the side. Plus, they can put off their term papers indefinitely, so I know a few PhD students who still have papers left over from there first year here. 

On the flip side, the people in my program take 9 classes per year, while writing their thesis on top of their usual class load (most courses in English lit have 20 page papers due at the end of each term so 20pgs x 3 classes per term + your 30+ page thesis + 100+ pages of readings per week = a lot of stuff) and most of us have a job in order to make ends meet, because we have zero funding.

All that was to say that it has been rigorous and although I do not regret coming here at all, I now know that there is no way I could ever do a PhD here - mostly because the average PhD takes 7+ years to complete at UChicago. Imagining being in this environment for 7+ years makes me cringe. But if I hadn't done this program, I would never know what type of environment I would like or need to survive, I wouldn't know for sure if I even wanted to go to grad school, and I wouldn't have the language through which to talk about my field in a way that makes me sound like I actually know stuff. That is how I'm forcing myself to enjoy my last moments here, even though I have literally been counting down the days until I graduate. 

Another amazing blessing that came out of this program, on a non-academic level, are three phenomenal girls who became some of my best friends. If I hadn't done this I would never have met them and I honestly can't imagine not having them in my life (how did I survive before??). They have been there for me when I needed to gripe about how ridiculous the systems are at UChicago but they also were there to celebrate how beautiful Chicago is (FRIDAY FUNDAYS!).

So at the end of the day, it's really about perspective and I have been noticing myself inching more towards being a downer, which is something I'm not usually. So I got a nice slap in the face from my Yogi Tea and decided to change my act.

This post was not sponsored by Yogi Tea ;P

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

what's in my: mini makeup bag

Like I said in my travel makeup bag post, I really enjoy these types of "what's in my" posts for some reason - maybe because I'm secretly really nosy? - so I decided to make another quick one with what I keep with me everyday. I use the same little makeup bag (it's actually a pencil case but I use it for makeup) everyday and move it between bags depending on what I'm doing.

The bag I currently use is a little Rilakkuma case that I bought a few years ago when I was back in Japan. I really like this character because a) relaxing is something I forget to do, b) it's a cute little bear!, and c) the motifs are usually somewhat subdued so you can get away with being mid-twenties and having a cute little bear bag with fewer people judging you ;) 

Here's a little peek inside - the bag has sweet little phrases and such on the lining and as you can see, it has quite a bit of long as you don't over pack! And also, another Rilakkuma item.

Here is everything laid out neatly. This is all I ever bring with me for the day unless I think I might need something extra for some reason or other.

-Refresh Contacts contact solution: I wear contacts and they tend to get dry and itchy after about 9 hrs so I bring this along to make sure I won't be caught with scary red eyes.

-Burt's Bees Lip Balm: everyone needs some Burt's Bees!

-Rilakkuma mirror: my mother bought me this as a gift one year when she was back in Japan - she said she didn't want to buy worthless cute things but she would buy cute useful things :) She'll be happy to know that this little guy has come in handy both for myself and for some of my friends.

-Bobby pins

-Julep Lipgloss in Charming: looks more magenta in this light but it's actually a nice pinky-nude color that is easy to toss on when you're in a hurry but still want to seem like you are really put-together.

-Real Purity Lipstick in Passion: my daily color - I'll be doing a post on this brand because the only lipsticks I own (three!) are from them and I have been really happy with the product. Plus it's organic!

-Bird Pill Box: for medicine on the go.

-Bandaid sleeve: because I always get blisters on my feet!

Not too many exciting things, but this is what I always have with me when I'm out and about. I like to keep it simple so I am able to move this little pouch from my big work/school bag to a small going-out bag without having to take anything out or anything, it's really convenient!

Monday, May 5, 2014

weekend fun: natsume soseki 夏目漱石 conference

A few weeks ago a friend and I made a split decision to attend a conference on Natsume Soseki - we both wanted to go really badly but for some reason the bus/train tickets for that particular weekend were so expensive! There was no way I was paying $80 for a bus ride that was only 4 hours. However, my boyfriend saw how disappointed I was that I couldn't go so he offered to pick my friend and I up and drive us back with him to the conference (which was luckily being held where he is studying). So thankful for such a sweet boyfriend! Entirely because of that single act of sweetness, my friend and I could attend the conference.

Alan Tansman of UC Berkley in the corner!

The conference itself was only over a single weekend but they managed to pack in so many panels during that time. It was a great learning experience because a lot of the big names in Japan studies were present, but also because there were a few panels that included graduate students. It was interesting to see how they structured their talks and to see what they are researching. The key themes over this weekend was a huge focus on 「心」(Kokoro) - which I wasn't too surprised about - but also on his more journalistic writing, especially 「満韓ところどころ」(Mankan tokorodokoro). I wasn't expecting there to be as much of a focus on the second piece but I believe that much of Japanese literature studies (focusing around the time of Soseki and through WWII) have to acknowledge Manchuria/Manchyuko, so a lot of scholarship is being done on that.

Another highlight of the conference was having Yoko Tawada (多和田葉子) as one of the keynote speakers - her talk was titled漱石ってどんな石?自分ではないものになる方法」and it was an amazing talk. She is such a talented speaker and although I think some of her fiction writing is a little too surreal for me, I love her poetry. So glad I was able to hear her speak! Another speaker-highlight was of course seeing one of my very own professors present a paper and I continue to be amazed at how amazingly intelligent some people are in this world.

Otherwise, I was able to spend quite a bit of time with my friend and we had a few great heart-to-hearts :) I'm so glad I could attend the conference, even though I wasn't able to spend much time with my boyfriend since he was busy finishing up his work for graduation (which happened a few days ago!) and I was at the conference. 


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