At Semester’s End – A Year in Review

Recently I’ve had a few conversations that have really put in perspective how crazy this year has been for me. I’ve done a lot, and I don’t think it’s settled in how much. I thought, eh, why not go through the year month by month? It’s a long read but I’ll try to make it interesting.

Here’s a wrap-up:

Winter

In January I celebrated New Year’s Eve and then New Year’s Day by partying all night and getting home around 7am the next day. I’ve never been that successful at a night out.

Gabi and I cutting a rug

In February I got one of the worst flus I’ve ever felt. The bodyaches, my GOD! I also got a really great tattoo (or two).

One of my tattoos

It was also around this time that I took a long, hard look at my budget and realized that I was suuuuuper outta whack. Like, “Girl you tried it,” outta whack. Like, “Who do you think you are?” outta whack. Like, “You ain’t no trust fund baby!” outta whack. Like, “Remember when that shady-ass teacher said you came from a family of modest means? Yeah. That part.” outta whack. I then had to make some tough decisions regarding my future travel plans and my future spending habits. From then on out I had only enough money for my bills, the traditions I sorely needed (more on that later), and my grocery list mostly included Ramen noodles, quinoa, and eggs (no lie).

Things were dire. But I had months left to live in Spain, and I wanted to live ’em to the fullest.

And then I found out I was accepted into a PhD program.


Spring

In March Gabi and I started eating taiyaki ice cream something heavy. I went to London with Anisa, my sister in travel.

She’s still killing it over in Spain by the way. I also saw Jesus. I saw maybe three Jesuses. 


In April Gabi and I began what would become one of our greatest romances, La Mezcal Mexican Restaurant and J&J’s Books and Coffee. Taco Tuesdays  and Sunday Brunch became a religious pilgrimage for us. It was all we worked for. We ended up drinking a lot of mimosas, margaritas, Coronas, and milkshakes. Eating a lot of bagels, brownies, and tacos. And we also got new shiny holes in our bodies, both in our noses.


In May my sister came and we had one hellofa personal journey! Honestly, I’m super proud of her for making the trek.

She ended up hating Madrid, but she wasn’t the first to do so, and I highly doubt she’s going to be the last. Either or, we paddle-boated, we fought, we trivia-d, and we went to a crazy zoo where everyone was feeding the animals. Meanwhile, my senior students graduated and Gabi and I partied with them over wine and tapas. And we later ended the month in Italy stuffing our faces with pizza while on the beach and in Italian ruins.


June was my last hurrah abroad. It was a whirlwind of nights out, dinners with families, and packing. It was bittersweet. I literally had an entire life abroad. I had new friends, new ‘family,’ a new town to call my own, my own neighborhood, my own routine, my own language (YES I CLAIM SPANISH AS MY OWN), my own life.

I had to go back to what my parents called, “the real world,” but really I was just coming back to get right with the law and back to normal. Had I stayed in Spain my student loans would begin to require I pay on them, and I don’t know if you read about February, but ya girl ain’t got no money. I was accepted into a PhD program which would include deferment and so, I returned. Besides, as much as I loved my time in Spain, it never felt like home to me. Weird, after all I just said, right, but it felt like an extended vacation. I wasn’t really working towards anything (‘cept Spanish fluency I guess?). It felt like a detour. And as much as I sorely needed it, it gave me time to figure things out, I also wanted to go back to myself and my goals. I wanted to go back to thinking for a living. Being an academic.


Summer

Coming back home at first was weird. Everything is the same! You truly can’t go home again when everything, and I mean everything about you has changed. I really underestimated how hard the transition would be considering all I left behind. I came back home on the tail end of Summer. It was still crab season.

I lined up a job teaching English when I was in Spain so I came back with just a week or two of adjusting, moving back in with my sister, and then I was back at work.

Working in July was at once a blessing and a curse. Once more, I hadn’t given myself enough time to not only mourn the life I left behind, but to also absorb my old/new space in the United States with my brand new eyeballs. I worked part-time, in the evenings, and working with students (ESPECIALLY OLDER STUDENTS) was invigorating. I come back to it again and again.

At the same time, however, I had a lot of time on my hands in the mornings and afternoons to do some really effective self-loathing. What on Earth had I done to my perfect life abroad? What on Earth had I done to my finances? What on Earth was this new reality going to look like? Why didn’t I like myself?


August comes around, and I wrap up my work teaching English just in time to begin my new work on campus. I was awarded an assistantship, which means I work part-time on campus for a stipend. Being in an environment that’s familiar to me truly started to nourish my spirit a little bit. (UMBC and Morgan State University have a lot in common physically, they both relied on brutalist architecture for their social science buildings. The interiors look and feel the same, it’s so weird.) But I was still adrift, with life just happening to me. Despite my inner turmoil, I pulled off a speech to ring in the new academic year on Behalf of all graduate students


Fall

In September I turned 27. My birthday was a blast, and friends old and new joined me on it. That same day was my first day of classes. It all felt so new and familiar. It’s college, but not really. It’s work, but sorta kinda. And my friends are my friends, ‘cept even they are coming and going. 


In October, my friend Alesha and I go to some concerts, and I go to my first conference as a PhD student. Incredible. I’ve never felt so inspired and outmatched and overwhelmed. I don’t know if I’ve articulated how alienating it sometimes feels in academia. Maybe I’ll have to go into it at a certain point. But sometimes it feels like you’re the only one who understands and is experiecing this wacky-tacky world.

Here, writing is King, but Publishing is God. Assistantships are not Fellowships and scholarships are no longer a thing. Work is work but sometimes, but all the time, it interrupts schoolwork and don’t ever let work interrupt schoolwork but you also need to have a life for your sanity but you can’t afford life without money from work but hey, did you read those 32 pages last night? You have a report on that due tomorrow. You didn’t finish? What were you doing?


Winter

November was for family. We went to Ocean City, MD and had our annual family vacation. Thus our annual family arugments. Thus our annual family makeup breakfasts. We’re learning about ourselves every interaction, constantly changing and growing. We have to leave so much at the door when we interact so that we can fully see each other, it’s a lot. It’s practice. It’s love. Everything is love.


And here we are in December! I finished the year in good-standing with classes (as I write this I have one A and one grade pending, I’m not too worried but if it isn’t an A, I will be shocked and go into a small panic). I’m also ending the year with all of my preventative care back on schedule, from doctor to dentist, therapist to optometrist. Hopefully next year I can get some exercise or something, but we’ll cross that resolution bridge when we get there. This year has been challenging, chaotic, stimulating, and ugly, and beautiful. I’m excited for the next go around. Thanks for sticking in with me. You’re always welcome!

Best,

Kris'tina

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