The Matchmaker

kevin

I am what you may call an office gossip/wannabe-matchmaker. I have a coworker, let’s call him Tom, who is in desperate need of a girlfriend, and we are all super eager to find someone to fix him up with. I know, I know, we should mind our own business. Actually, my past experiences as a failed matchmaker should have taught me to mind my own business, but I guess I never learn.

There’s one particular experience that takes the cake. Picture this: about 5 years ago -almost exactly-, a fresh-faced MPug was living her first few months in the great U.S. of A. I had just found myself a pretty tight group of friends: a Spanish girl, a Spanish guy (my roommate), a Russian girl (let’s call her Natasha), and a Turkish guy (let’s call him Omar). The 5 of us were a happy little family, and we found solace in the fact of being all foreigners. We understood each other and helped one another overcome the difficulties of being in a new country.

Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

One beautiful September night, we all went out for drinks and some dancing. I had noticed some sort of chemistry between Natasha and Omar, and my roommate and I were determined to give them a little nudge. So, in the middle of the night, we left them alone in the bar. Okay, I have to admit it was a very immature way to deal with things, but we were young.

The next morning, Natasha calls me and invites me over for coffee and gossip. She tells me that Omar walked her home and they talked outside her apartment until 5am. She tells me all this with stars in her eyes, and adds that she really likes this guy. I go home and, as I was filling my roommate in, Omar texts me. He asks if I want to go to dinner that night, just us. I’m like YAY, this is my purpose in life, I get to talk to Natasha about Omar, and now I’m going to talk to Omar about Natasha, and as soon as I’m done playing matchmaker, they will live happily ever after and I will be their maid of honor AND their best man, omg omg omg. They might even name their first-born MPug.

andy

Yeah. Except that since you are not an idiot like me, you already know this is not how the cookie crumbles.

So, I show up to dinner. I’m SO focused on getting my 2 friends into a committed relationship that I ignore all the signs. I ignore the fact that Omar takes me to the best restaurant in town. I ignore the fact that he picks up the check. I ignore the drinks after dinner. I ignore the ‘I’ll walk you home’ initiative. I basically act like a naive little bitch.

So, he walks me home, and what do you know, before I could see it coming, he KISSES ME. I’m so dumbfounded that I don’t even stop him. I really should have, because he starts biting my lip pretty hard. So hard in fact, that when I walk back upstairs, my roommate asks me if I fell on the ground and busted my lip. Not only do I have a fat lip that would last a couple of days, but I also have an awkward situation on my hands. Instead of being a successful matchmaker, I have become a homewrecker. I have to mourn the idea of being their best man of honor. I can kiss godmother-of-all-their-kids goodbye. So long, little Russian-Turkish kid named MPug. But most importantly, I have to say something to Natasha.

I ask my roommate and my friend Elena for advice. They tell me to come clean asap, and without any sugarcoating. So, I ask Natasha if she wants to grab dinner the next day. I break the news to her, and she takes it in a very weird way. She is obviously upset, but won’t tell me that she is. As a defense mechanism, she refuses to acknowledge that she did, in fact, really like him, and that she is disappointed. Instead, she urges me to date him. But I really don’t want to date him, for a lot of reasons.

bad-kissThis is one of the reasons.

She assures me that she is not upset, but I know better. In fact, she stops speaking to me for a full month. Things got better eventually and we became friends again; but it was definitely the most awkward friendship moment ever.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: kids, be careful when playing matchmaker. You may wind up with a fat lip and a heavy heart.

 

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Fun facts (2)

I know this is a lazy way to write an article, but a few things are battling each other in my brain and I can’t seem to find a point of focus, so here’s a bunch of thoughts that could be deemed as fun facts.

  • Today in my Women and World Literature class, my professor asked us a question that not many people have been asking me lately: she wanted to know what our favorite book was. When you are a literature student, reading becomes your job, and everyone assumes that your favorite book is the one you are working on, which is not always true. Well, for a while, it was true for me. When I was studying American literature in France, my Masters thesis was on Accordion Crimes, by Annie Proulx -the woman who wrote Brokeback Mountain. I hadn’t talked about this book in a long time, so I got all excited when telling my professor and my classmates about it. It’s a novel, but it reads like a bunch of short stories. The link between all the different tales of immigrants in the USA throughout the 20th century is, as the title suggests it, an accordion.
acc-crimesFor what it’s worth, I really recommend it.
  • I realized something about my dad today. I text him almost every day, and he ALWAYS texts back the same thing. For some reason, when I got his text this morning, I scrolled up and realized he might as well have copied and pasted his text from yesterday, or from the day before, because they were completely identical.
philOh, Dad.
  • People have a lot more fun/weird stories when they are not in a relationship, because dating stories are the best. But when you’re in a serious relationship, it’s *kinda* bad taste to bring up your past dates in order to entertain people at parties. So I’m just gonna throw a couple of them out there for you guys: I used to date a guy who refused to eat anything before 5pm, for a very mysterious reason. I once caught another guy scratching his balls WITH A FORK. Another one, after we broke up, asked me to proofread his new girlfriend’s thesis for mistakes (you guessed it, it was the same guy who emailed me right after his wedding). Alright, enough for today, but I’m just saying, dating stories are the best.
soul_funk.pngActually, Samantha’s stories are the best.
  • When I was 10 years old, my dream was to be a writer. I proceeded to write a short story about a girl who drifted away in the the ocean on a floating device, and in an unexpected plot twist, her schoolteacher rescued her and revealed he was her long-lost father. I guess I’ve always had a knack for telenovelas -although my own stories were pretty bad.
Rogelio-jane-the-virgin-39001463-500-240.gifThis is one hell of a cliffhanger.

Mamas & Papas

cool-mom

I realize that I have talked about my boyfriend’s parents a bunch, but I rarely mentioned my own. Now thankfully, they are not as *cool* as Amy Poehler in Mean Girls, but I must say, I have pretty cool parents. I mean, my dad rides a motorcycle, so if he’s not cool, I don’t know who is.

As you know, I am an only child, so I was quite close to my parents growing up. Not necessarily because we had a ton in common, but more by default: after all, there was no one else to talk to in my house.

The heart of the matter is, I don’t have a lot of things in common with my parents at all. I’m not saying I don’t resemble them personality-wise, because I do, but our interests are very different. Although over the years, I managed to bond with both of them on a deeper level by finding common hobbies or topics of conversation, I used to feel slightly out of place in my family when I was a kid/teenager.

Reading was a huge part of my childhood, and it obviously is a huge part of my adult life as wel -really, it’s my job-, but my parents don’t really read. I have no idea where this passion of mine came from, because we were not the kind of house with a huge bookshelf. The biggest bookshelf at home was mine. When I started to talk about literature at home, my parents were mostly like ‘ummmm what?’. My dad mostly reads motorcycle magazines, and my mom picks up the occasional novel, but they are mostly what one might call ‘low literature’, i.e. what you find in train stations.

50shadesofgreyAnd no, I’m not referring to this one, you little pervs.

Now hold up for a second. I am not saying that my parents are not cultured. They are simply not literature people, and their jobs don’t have anything to do with academia at all. They also don’t speak any other languages than French, and they don’t have a real interest in traveling. For the longest time, they just didn’t understand why I was spending so much time in college, and they were simply devastated when I decided to study abroad. Of course, part of it was because they would miss me, but I’m convinced half of the issue was that they didn’t see the point of my life. Sure, they celebrated my first Masters with me gleefully, but halfway through the second one, I could sense they were losing interest.

But then, things shifted. After starting my third Masters, I myself started to doubt my decisions. One day, I had a heart-to-heart with my mom, and I told her I wasn’t sure I made the right career decision (we all have our moments of doubt, especially when neck-deep in research papers, amirite?). Instead of being her usual self and guilt-tripping me, she got real with me and asked: ‘What else would you like to do? Do you think any other type of career would make you happy? Don’t you think you’re made for this?’ This was what I needed to hear. I knew she was skeptical of my career path at first, so it made it all the more valuable when she told me I should toughen up and realize that the career I chose was right, albeit difficult at times. My dad is just not as vocal, but I can tell that he gets more and more on board as the result gets closer (the result being getting my PhD *at last*).

My parents have always been affectionate. I remember being in college and discussing parent-child relationships with my friend Fanny, who had trouble connecting with her dad. She pointed out that my dad, although pretty quiet in real life, is a softie when it comes to me and doesn’t hesitate to write me heartfelt letters for special occasions, like my birthday for instance. When I got my third Masters a few months ago, I received a very touching letter from both my parents, stating how proud they are of me and my accomplishments. Sometimes I feel bad for them; all their friends get to parade wedding pictures and grandbabies around as a token of their parental success. All I give my parents for gloating are diplomas, and let’s face it, diplomas aren’t as cute as babies. But once in a while, I’m reminded of how proud they are of their daughter: it could be through a letter, or through the fact that all my graduation pictures are displayed in their living room. They’re pretty ugly pictures -I look like I’m wearing a garbage bag in all of them- and they feature people I’m no longer friends with, but I like the sentiment.

tumblr_nn6mrqkenz1rm2uk7o1_500Proud parents: such a cute annoyance.

Arm Candy

arm-candy

Last Friday, I had my own version of Leslie Knope’s banquet: my department’s yearly reception. I usually keep my private life and my personal life separate; with the exception of my advisor, my professors had never met my boyfriend. I talk about him, occasionally, but never much more. Last year, I had gone to that reception solo, because the BF had just started a new job and could not ask for a few hours off to drive to me and be my plus-one. The fact that he lives 3.5 hours away definitely contributes to the compartmentalization of my life.

But this year, I feel much more comfortable at work, and for some reason, I felt like it was time to come to the reception with my significant other. So, I made a bold move and RSVPed for 2. He took the day off and came to me the night before. The head of the department was hosting, so I was feeling extra pressure. Not that I don’t trust him in public; you will recall that he comes from a very fortunate socio-economic background and is very comfortable with any kind of official party. No, what was stressing me out is that the academic world is very incestuous, and it is very rare when a significant other is not in the same ‘industry’. So sure, my boyfriend has just started an MBA program, so he is technically a grad student as well. But business and literature are two worlds apart, and his job couldn’t be any further away from our department’s interests. I guess on some level, I was afraid he might not find anything to talk about with anyone.

What difference would it have made? It’s not like I need validation for my relationship; we have been together over 3 years and I am more than sure about him and about us. I suppose I just wanted my professors to like him, simple as that.

My boyfriend is very likeable. I don’t know why I was worried.

The other thing about him, and it’s a thing I often forget, because he is a lot more than this to me, is that he is EXTREMELY handsome.

When he walked into the room with me, I was later told by a friend that my supervisor let out a very inspired ‘Daaaaaamn’. Also, one of my coworkers made a point of telling me how handsome my man was -that was uncomfortable, albeit flattering.

Or was it? I should probably have been offended. When this coworker said ‘Wow MPug, you didn’t tell me he was so handsome…Well done!’, I could have thought ‘Oh great, she thinks I’m not hot enough to land a sexy man like that’. And I mean, on some level that’s what went through my head. But if we’re being honest here, he DOES look strikingly good, and I don’t exactly look like Sofia Vergara -except for the boobs. So, I quietly accepted the fact that he was my arm candy for the night.

Like I said though, he is a LOT more than a pretty face. All night long, he talked to my professors, my professors’ significant others, my coworkers, and wowed everyone. He was effortlessly charming, and I felt terrible for slightly doubting his abilities.

The best part is, he said a lot of extremely positive things about me to my professors and friends. He apparently said that I was a wonderful woman and that he owes me his present success, because he couldn’t have done it without me. He said repeatedly that he was proud of me.

The best part, really, is that I didn’t even tell him to say that.

damn-it-feels-good

 

The bitch is back

elton_john-the_bitch_is_back_s_8.jpg

(Don’t you just love the Spanish translation?)

I’ve been awful at keeping up with the Kardashians lately. (No really, I haven’t watched the show in WEEKS. What is happening to my life?) Ever since my semester started, which was already 2 whole weeks ago, I haven’t had time to myself. I barely responded to non-professional emails, let alone open WordPress. But I’m trying.

The end of the summer is always a sad time for me, because as a grad student, summers are kind of my salvation. It’s the one time in the year when I can look at normal people with normal jobs and taunt them for having such a sucky life, while I am lounging all day every day, writing and reading on my own terms. The rest of the year however, is the time for normal people to make fun of me for my terrible life choices.

I was having coffee with a friend earlier today, and we were -as always- bitching about the grad life. So sure, ONE DAY our amazing salary will make up for all these years of misery (or will it?), but as of now, the reality of things is pretty stressful. The hardest part of the ‘job’ is probably the juggling. Teaching, writing, reading, thinking about projects, applying for grants, going to conferences, PUBLISHING (jk, I haven’t published. But I should.), getting professors to like you… Just writing this right now gives me a rash. So we all agree that the juggling is horribly stressful. But something else is bothering me right now: I have to come up with a very precise dissertation topic, all the while having zero self-confidence. I have been a grad student since 2009 (yup, I know, MOVE ON, right?), and for all this time, I have been hiding behind other people’s words and theories, but now I have to be assertive and talk about my own point of view. Obviously, I have a bad case of impostor syndrome, and I am constantly under the impression that my opinions don’t matter because I am simply an insignificant piece of shit. And that is sugarcoating it.

Anyways, I’ve been battling with myself in the past couple of weeks, reading more and more theory on my future topic, building my knowledge of it and getting more comfortable with it. Today, I had a meeting with my advisor, a professor who is barely older than me but is already on a tenure track. Our relationship has improved over the past few months and I thought I was more comfortable with him, as well as with my topic, so I went in with a false sense of confidence that I thought would be enough. Lo and behold, the person I wanted to appear to be in front of him completely disappeared and I became this meek, silent little thing who could not articulate an adequate definition of a concept I have been reading about for months. All I could do was stutter my way to a semi-decent sentence and nod along to everything he said.

So, I was telling my friend about my pathetic meeting, and she was very comforting and encouraging. The truth is, she and I are very similar in that sense; objectively, we have interesting things to say, and we realize that sometimes, in the privacy of our own office. But when we are facing an academic who intimidates us, the semi-confident grad student in us morphs into a puddle of sweat and tears. Maybe it’s the curse of the aspiring academic, maybe it’s our French formation. It is well known in the academic world that French professors are typically very stern and tough, and take pleasure in undermining their poor grad students. I told you guys about my miserable defense back in 2011, and how I cried as soon as I exited the room. Well, my experience is not an isolated instance.

My friend and I came to the conclusion that being a grad student is a unique experience. When I talk about my school-rooted anxiety with my non-academic friends, or my boyfriend, they are alarmed by the state of stress that we are all under. Sure, the stakes don’t seem high; none of us are going to single-handedly change the world, and we are not moving huge amounts of money around. But it’s a very raw, personal and emotional process. It involves YOU and your intellectual capacities, which is something that can easily crush your confidence.

Let me end on a positive note, just to show you that evolution is possible, even if it materializes in very small forms. I told you about my inability to say no, right? Well, right before the semester started, life threw us a curveball. My department was under a lot of stress because one of my coworkers hadn’t given any news and hadn’t shown up to the pre-semester meetings. We were very worried that he might not show up to the first day of class, because frankly, he had given us no sign that he would. So, the night before our first day, my supervisor emailed me asking if I would mind covering for his classes all semester, in the event that he might not show up. I tortured myself for a few minutes, but I realized that saying yes would mean spreading myself too thin, and saying goodbye to the somewhat comfortable research plan I had prepared with my advisor. It would mean having less time to do the job that I am expected to do. It would mean reproducing the failure of my first year. So, I said no. I offered an alternative: sharing the course with a colleague, but I specifically said that I could NOT cover the whole class by myself. I was terrified, of course. Stepping up in such a situation would have scored me mad points with the department, but it would probably mean that I would disappoint them afterwards.

My supervisor was relieved when I said no. She told me that she was glad I could put my own work first, and said that this is a valuable skill in the life we chose. Spreading oneself too thin is a real problem, and I’m glad I could see it coming. Because a year ago, I probably would have felt pressured to say yes, despite my instincts. Ultimately, the guy showed up, and the problem ceased to exist. But I’m happy I stood up for myself.

Crybaby

cameron.gif

I like to think of myself as a strong woman. I mean, it’s not just that I *like* to think that, but when we look at the facts, I have proven to be pretty strong in my life. I’m rather independent and, even if I’ve been extremely fortunate in my existence, I believe that I have always done a good job at overcoming adversity.

But I never said I did all that with a lot of dignity. The truth is, much like Cameron in his adorable snowman sweater, I feel too much, and I am constantly crying. It can be tears of joy, sadness, cuteness, heartbreak, anger, frustration, I could go on for hours.

The reason why I decided to write about this today is that my boyfriend just left for a week of vacation with his family, and I couldn’t join them because I have to get back to work this week. This morning, I dropped him off at his parents’ so they could all depart together, and after I drove away, I cried for the whole ride home. Why? It’s pretty silly when you think about it. My boyfriend and I have spent the whole summer together, and I knew it would come to an end at some point. Mama’s gotta bring home the bacon. I mean, sure, I would have loved to join them on vacation, or even stay here with my man for my last few days of freedom for the year. But it’s not a huge deal, and any outsider would have thought I was a lunatic if they saw me this morning, sobbing uncontrollably in my car, just because I will be apart from my boyfriend for a little week. Plus, he and I are apart every work week during the semester, so it shouldn’t be a foreign feeling for me. But if I’m being completely honest here, I still cry every time I leave his apartment to go to work. I know it makes me come off as needy and silly, but I just can’t help it. When I’m upset, that’s my coping mechanism: I cry. By now, my boyfriend is used to it and knows how to deal with me when I’m being a huge baby. I’m also pretty accustomed to letting the tears drop and hoping they stop soon. But there are so many things that induce my crying that I can’t exactly avoid it.

  • Good news. Yup. Good news make me cry. When my advisor told me I passed my exam and could move on to the PhD program, I cried. When I found out that my boyfriend was accepted into an MBA program a couple weeks ago, I cried again. (Yeah, all my examples involve graduate programs, it’s pretty lame, but that’s all I could think about right now.)
  • Puppies. Or any cute animal, really, but puppies hold a special place in my heart. Show me a video of swarming puppies and you will make my face drip (I know, sexy expression). Come to think of it, it was probably a mistake to move in next to a dog park.
  • Cute father/son moments. Last night, we watched an episode of Modern Family and there was an amazing moment between Jay and his son Mitchell. Next thing I knew, BOOM. Waterworks.
  • Weddings. Well, I haven’t been to many real-life weddings, because my friends are, like me, grad students who need to be called ‘Doctor’ before they can make any huge life commitment. But weddings in TV shows, OH BOY. I believe I told you about my tears when Michael delivered his vows to Jane in Spanish.
  • Thinking about the day I saw my dad cry. I mean, no explanation needed here.
  • Thinking about my little dog. Oh man, I’m getting misty already. I might tell you about this adorable angel some other day, but long story short, I got a little dog when I was 5 years old, and she lived until I was 21. She was my companion, my partner in crime, and I am still not over her passing away (even if she had an amazing, long life). OMG I really didn’t want this post to take this sad turn, but I should have seen it coming. (By the way, I’m crying as I’m typing this. This shows you how serious the situation is.)
  • Thinking about the good ol’ times. For instance, thinking about my first day in Delaware. Or my last day in Delaware. Or the day I met my boyfriend. (I need to stop writing.)
  • Unfair situations/injustice. Again, no explanation needed. Frustration over someone else’s (or my own) tragedy always leads to tears.
  • Little kids hugging their stuffed animals. Okay, okay, I know I’m not supposed to be a kid person, but this particular cute situation gets me every time. I once teared up at Trader Joes because I saw a tiny little boy hugging his stuffed hedgehog like there was no tomorrow.
  • When my boyfriend writes me letters. Yeah, this is taking a really cheesy turn.
  • When someone is saying hurtful things to my face. Alright, this is probably the most childish thing EVER, and it’s a big problem. Here’s an example: during my defense for my 1st Masters, in France, things got rough. French university is extremely demanding, and it is not easy to get good grades. And even when you do, professors LOVE to break your spirit; it’s their favorite sport. So, after dedicating months and months of my life to my thesis, I had to go to my defense. My committee was composed of my advisor, and one of my professors, who was usually always on my side. Well, what do you know, they both decided to be super hurtful that day. They both ganged up on me and kept saying that I had conducted ‘sloppy research’ (which was *probably* true, but still hurtful, and I wasn’t given a heads-up on the whole thing, since everyone had told me I was good to go). It took everything I had not to burst in tears in the middle of their little spiel. There was a huge knot in my throat and it was very difficult to speak, because I feared that I would just cry. The funny thing is that they still gave me a good grade and I passed, but the whole ordeal made me so emotional that I let it all out as soon as I exited the room. I cursed myself for being so sensitive, and hoped that I would grow wiser and more mature soon (surprise surprise, I didn’t). That’s why -among other reasons- I am frightened every time I have to talk to my advisor: what if he says something awful about my work, and I feel like crying? Grad students are subjected to so much scrutiny that you gotta have thick skin. And I mean, I can handle it, and criticism makes me work harder. But the very moment of the criticism is tough, because my tear ducts have a mind of their own.
JessDirtyDancingRight there with you, Jess.

 

 

 

Work bitch

lawyer sandwich

These past few days, successful people have been sharing their first 7 jobs, in order to inspire little people like me. Well, mission accomplished, here I am writing a post about it. I haven’t had very many jobs in my life, in fact I’m gonna have to stretch some job descriptions in order to reach 6. I don’t want to write 7, because the list is not over, and I am not what one might call successful. But I will list my dream job as number 7, the one I aspire to have in a few years. Let the games begin!

1. English tutor

As a teenager, I never had an interest for babysitting (if you recall, I am allergic to children), so I didn’t really have any odd jobs until I was 16-17. My mom knew this lady whose daughter was terrible at English, and asked me if I would mind tutoring her for a measly 10€ an hour. I said yes, and thus began my professional life. It was miserable, because the kid was a BRAT. But the advantage is that the mom was very satisfied with me and talked about me to all her friends, and soon enough I gained a few ‘customers’ around town. (This makes me sound like a prostitute, I promise I’m talking about  tutoring!)

I remained an English tutor until I left for the US, and my last kid was a 13-year-old boy who had such a wandering eye that I decided to wear scarves every time I tutored him. Which was in the early summer. Yay.

2. Hotel receptionist

For my first ‘serious’ summer job, I was originally not very picky. I just wanted to make some money. So, I printed a bunch of resumes (which were more like post-its at the time) and headed to town (read: the Norman countryside) to distribute them everywhere: bakeries, stores, hotels. I started with the one-star hotels, but they all turned me down. Then, I became cocky and decided to enter the building of the fanciest hotel around: a 3-star (a big deal for France) which included a very renowned restaurant in the area. Before going in, I called my mom, who told me not to bother, because they probably just hired professionals, not just college students (first time ever that my mom didn’t believe in me at all). I disregarded her, mostly because I wanted to get rid of my resumes, and I went in anyways. I was greeted at the door by a cranky old woman -the owner-, who took my resume and asked me to say a couple sentences in English. She nodded and sent me on my way.

miranda priestlyThis was her in a nutshell.

She called me back the same day, and I went in for a trial run the next weekend. I ended up working for her for two summers/spring seasons. It was demanding and I complained a lot. I signed up for a receptionist job, but as it turned out, I was more of an everything-bitch. I was a receptionist, a bell-boy, a hostess, and a bartender. I complained relentlessly to my friends and family, mostly because I was tired. I was on my feet all day, in heels and a pantsuit that was way too warm -the boss lady hated anything that didn’t look professional- and I had to run everywhere and clean up all the messes. But the truth is, I liked that job. I felt very useful, I made good money, and my boss actually liked me. When I graduated from college that first summer, she was so thrilled that she opened a bottle of champagne for the two of us, and we drank in a corner of the reception while the waiters were doing my job. After my 2 summers working for her, her main receptionist resigned, because she was having another baby and moving away, so she offered me a full-time job. I was finishing up my first Masters and was planning on moving to the US the next year, so I had to decline. But I’ve always wondered what life would be like if I had taken the offer.

3. Hotel Cinderella

Alright, this is the stretch I was talking about. After I declined the offer from my first boss, I still had to look for work for the summer. Since I had some experience with hotels, I applied to other places in the area. My first hit was a small hotel in the middle of nowhere, owned by the family of a girl I used to take piano lessons with. The owner was willing to match my hourly rate with my first job, so I took it. Worst idea ever. The hotel was extremely small and there was nothing much to do, so the boss asked me to do all sorts of things, including cleaning everything around, because she didn’t want to have to pay her cleaning ladies for too long. At first, I didn’t mind. Instead of being bored during my shift, I went to the laundry room, a tiny, old, stone building full of spiders, and I did the ironing. I am dead scared of spiders but I have a strong willpower, so I sucked it up. Then, the boss asked me to clean her own house, which was right next to the hotel. Since I’m very bad at saying no, I accepted, but very reluctantly. She figured I was just a spineless bitch, because soon enough, she was asking me to run her errands, and to stay overnight at the hotel for weeks at a time so she could go on vacation. The hotel was quite remote and scary, and I hated the experience. Maybe I would have overlooked the bad moments if the boss lady hadn’t been so condescending and awful. She literally acted like I was her little minion, and made me feel horrible about myself. I ended up not renewing the contract after the first couple of months. Needless to say, she was furious, even though I had made her no promises.

4. Harbor office receptionist

After the 2nd hotel debacle, I got another summer job. It was only for a month, but it was pretty fun.

im-on-a-boat-gif.gifOK, I was on an actual boat only twice that summer…but still!

I got hired to be a receptionist for the local harbor office. What I did wasn’t too overwhelming, I just had to learn a few things about boats, and boom, that was it. I took care of payment when guests were staying at the marina overnight, I provided information about the tides and the best times to come visit the harbor. But mostly, I was drinking limoncello with my coworkers in the break room. My boss was a former French Marine, in the submarine division, so you’d think he was a pretty stern guy. Well, he wasn’t. I guess after years of serving his country, he decided to become relaxed about everything and spend his pre-retirement days sipping liquor on a boat. It was a fun month.

5. Hostess at an aquarium/sea museum

That summer was eventful. In 2010, I worked at that shitty hotel, then at the harbor, and for the whole month of August I got a job at an aquarium, which I guess you could also describe as a sea museum, in my hometown. It was fun, mostly because I was surrounded by fun coworkers, but also because we got to pet the cute sea creatures whenever we wanted.

6. French teacher/graduate student

I mean, you already know a lot about this part of my life. I’m not gonna bug you with it today.

7. Dream job: French professor

That’s what I would like to succeed in. Hopefully, in a few years, I can re-share this list and make it complete. Not that I would consider myself a success story by any stretch of the imagination, but I just think it’s a nice source of inspiration to reflect on where you came from, and on where you want to go. Even when where you want to go is not CEO of Apple, but a simple teaching/research job, it’s important to stay inspired.

So, I know this is not a super exciting list, but it was fun to reminisce about my former jobs. I realize how fortunate I have been so far; even the ‘bad’ jobs were not so bad, and I always had the option to quit and find another if it got too intense. Mostly, those memories make me smile (or, well, roll my eyes), so I thought it would be nice sharing them. What about you? What were your first 7 jobs?

Stupid bitch

whatever

I don’t think anyone has ever called me stupid beside myself. I’ve always been very good at school and after I pursued an academic career, people just assumed I was smart and that’s that. However, I often make stupid decisions. It used to be just in my personal life, because I was always more than serious professionally speaking, always weighing the pros and the cons and making sure my decisions were sound.

Until two years ago, when I started my current program. The decision of joining the program was actually a good one, and I’m grateful I made it. But the stupid part was my attitude towards it for the first year.

I’ve told you before that it was difficult for me to leave Delaware, which was my first home in the US, and the place where I met most of my friends as well as my boyfriend. When I had to move 3.5 hours away from it all, I didn’t realize how hard it would be, because in the grand scheme of things, 3.5 hours is close to nothing. But the first time my boyfriend drove me to my school so I could visit apartments and get things straightened out, I was in shock. Ever since being accepted into the new program, I had been burying my head in the sand and pretending that everything was going to be ok. But for a while, it wasn’t.

About halfway there, I started bawling my eyes out. I had finally realized how far I was going to be from my boyfriend of a little over a year, and it dawned on me that it was probably going to be difficult to see each other very often. At the time, I didn’t have a car yet and had to rely on public transportation for over a semester.

I didn’t start on the right foot in my new department. I did the bare minimum when it came to attending orientation, and I did all I could to be back in Philadelphia with my boyfriend as early as possible. He came to visit me quite often, but it was almost like I had an aversion to my new town, and insisted on doing most of the visiting. I just needed to get out of there, and get back to my comfort zone.

The truth is, I was dead scared that we wouldn’t make it. We had ‘only’ been together for a little over a year, and I didn’t know if we were strong enough to handle the distance. I was reluctant to call this a ‘long-distance relationship’ and I still am, because 1) long-distance relationships are famous for not working out, and 2) we saw each other absolutely every weekend, whatever happened.

I focused so much on my relationship that I completely neglected my work. I had the teaching part under control, because this was completely within my comfort zone, but the classes I took were on the back burner. I barely participated, had a very blasé attitude, and avoided responsibilities. I also didn’t make a real effort to make friends. I mean, I was friendly to people, and no one thought I was particularly cold or distant, but I remained very closed up. It was like I refused to put down more roots. This was a very stupid attitude to have, especially in a PhD program. For the first time ever, I had very mediocre grades and my professors started expressing concerns about me. At the end of the schoolyear, in May, we all receive a ‘letter’ (more like an email) that lets us know how we have been doing all year long. Needless to say, mine wasn’t good. I didn’t expect it to be good, but I didn’t expect it to make me cry either.

What really blindsided me -even though it shouldn’t have- is that the letter mainly focused on my attitude. Yes, my grades were not stellar, but it didn’t seem to be their biggest concern. What alarmed them is that I seemed disengaged. They urged me to get more involved in the department and in my classes, ‘or else’ (not a direct quote, but it was the idea). Once again, I buried those thoughts in the sand all last summer, but in the back of my mind, I knew I would have to operate a change. This was confirmed when I met up with my advisor about a year ago. He made sure I knew that he supported me, but he was also very concerned about my future in the department.

This was a huge wake up call. For the first time in my life, my work wasn’t up to par and I was the ugly duckling of the bunch. I’m not saying I have always been *the best*, but I’ve always been a *good* student/employee/what-have-you.

From then on, I went the extra mile. I attended every department function, volunteered to substitute, volunteered to take on more responsibilities in the department, volunteered to pretty much everything I could think of. I stopped making excuses to miss stuff. I realized that it was taking a toll on me anyways. It is much easier to RSVP yes, than to come up with a made-up ‘thing’ that ‘just came up’, and wait anxiously for the ‘no problem’ email.

I participated constantly, even if it was to say something dumb. I made an effort. Halfway through the fall semester, my advisor stopped me on the street to tell me he had heard wonderful things about me from my professors. My relationship with him became more cordial, less tense. I started speaking up about my shitty year. By the end of the semester, everyone was so impressed by my complete turnaround that they offered me a really fun class to teach in the spring.

When I passed my exams in February, I cried. I was finally allowed to move on, and start the actual PhD program after earning 3 different Masters in 6 years. Maybe that’s what scared me, after all. Maybe that was part of my fear to get out of my comfort zone. I finally did my very first conference, after being invited to speak on one of my professors’ panel. I broke the ‘curse’ of the woman who was stuck in the same fear-ridden pattern.

I ran into one of my professors, who had me during my first, horrible year. She congratulated me on my exam, and on my improvement. I told her almost everything, how relieved I was to be doing better, how difficult it was for me to adapt, for some reason. She completely got it. She basically told me ‘you know, shit happens. The important thing is to know when to clean it up.’ And I completely agree. You can make mistakes, you can make stupid decisions, that’s all part of life. But what you really have to do is realize it before it’s too late. Don’t be stubborn, don’t let it drag for a whole year like I did. Look in the mirror and kick your own ass.

The best part is, my relationship didn’t suffer. As it turns out, it took more energy to have a bad attitude than it did to have a good one. I just did my best in every part of my life. I became proud of my accomplishments, proud to have overcome that shitty year, and also proud of my relationship.

So, kids, don’t be stupid. Don’t think you have to sacrifice one thing to have the other. You can have it all.

I still feel anxious a lot of the time. I am often crippled by anxiety. But something magical happened after opening up to my coworkers and classmates: I realized that EVERYONE is anxious. And when we start freaking out, we support each other. I also opened up to my boyfriend. Last year, I refused to talk to him about my problems at work, because I didn’t want him to feel guilty -I knew he would think that I wasn’t doing well because I was visiting him so much. Talking about those things reinforced us and made us closer.

Bottom line is: it’s not perfect, I am still very anxious about starting the semester. After a great summer of just teaching a little bit and hanging out with my guy, I feel a little stressed out over starting my routine again. But I know it is possible. It’s not gonna be easy, because academia never lets you get any rest, there’s always a new challenge. But you know, after kicking my own stupid ass, I feel like I can take on the world.

 

Team Michael

rogelio (1).gif

I was just painting my nails with a very Rogelio-inspired lavender nail polish when it dawned on me: I never wrote a post about Jane the Virgin. And yet, one might say that I am obsessed with it, for a lot of reasons.

  • First of all, I am really into soap operas and telenovelas, especially when the genre is somewhat subverted. And Jane the Virgin has a voiceover narrator who is absolutely delightful and extremely sarcastic. He constantly breaks the fourth wall and reminds the viewers that it is indeed a telenovela, full of crazy twists and evil twins.

 

  • This show is full of love. The Villanueva family is a beautiful example of a tight-knit and supportive family, and those women will make you tear up on more than one occasion.

 

  • Speaking of women: this show is all about empowerment and making your own decisions and not caring about what society dictates. So, Jane wants to remain a virgin until marriage. It doesn’t mean she is a prude, and it doesn’t mean she judges anyone for having pre-marital sex either. It is simply her decision and it doesn’t define her. Xiomara, on the other hand, has a very healthy sex life and has had many boyfriends, but doesn’t apologize for it.
xothehoShe also shouldn’t apologize about those dance moves!
  • All the characters have something loveable in them, and even Petra, the supposed villain, has her sweet moments and you can’t help but root for her. Rogelio, at first a self-involved telenovela star, turned out to be so much more -he just needed to be around people who gave him a reality check from time to time.

 

  • The love intrigue is, well intriguing. In case you’re not familiar with Jane the Virgin, let me catch you up (I am channeling my inner narrator!): Jane is a young woman who decided to remain a virgin until she gets married, and yet one day, her OB-GYN artificially inseminates her by mistake. As it turns out, the sperm sample belonged to Rafael, hot hotelier (‘hot-elier’, as he is nicknamed at some point in the show) whom Jane met -and kissed- 5 years ago. Jane decides to keep the baby all the while getting engaged to her boyfriend of two years, Michael.
jane and mchaelAdorbs.

SPOILER ALERT, after breaking up with Michael to start a relationship with Rafael, Jane has her baby -adorable little Mateo- and realizes Michael is the one. After a rough patch, they end up getting re-engaged, and their wedding happens on the last episode of Season 2. The audience is clearly divided into 2 groups: team Michael and team Rafael. I do like Rafael as a character, but not for Jane. I have always been team Michael, for tons of reasons: he is a detective -my dream profession-, he loves Jane AND Mateo, he is honest and non-judgemental, he has an amazing bromance with Rogelio, and many more reasons.

michael rogelioAgain, adorbs.

If those who haven’t seen the show are still hanging on and reading this, please don’t continue. I’m about to engage in some serious spoilers.

In the last episode of Season 2, we were lucky enough to witness Jane’s wedding to Michael. And then, right after, we found out that Susanna, Michael’s partner, was in fact Sin Rostro, and as soon as Michael found her out, she shot him in the heart. This was the most heartbreaking season finale -no pun intended-, as I was rooting so firmly for Jane and Michael. The truth is, it was a little obvious that something was gonna go wrong. In fact, Michael’s demise was foreshadowed more than once throughout the show, and the whole wedding was a little *too* perfect for the twisted telenovela world that we know and love. I mean, Rogelio and Jane had a gut-wrenching father-daughter moment before their dance, Michael delivered his vows in Spanish -excuse me, I have something in my eye-, and Bruno Mars even made an appearance. So, when only 1 minute was left, Michael and Jane were about to consumate their union, and Michael stupidly decided to go get some ICE FOR THE CHAMPAGNE BUCKET -I mean come on, your beautiful wife is ready to lose her virginity to you and you worry about ice???-, I knew something was very wrong.

But I can’t help but wonder -Carrie Bradshaw get out of my brain-, is it too simple? Is Michael really dead? I sincerely hope he’s not, it’s been torturing me all summer and I can’t wait to have an answer this fall. But what are the alternatives? He was shot right in the heart, can someone survive that? (I know, I know, I should have an answer for this, because I basically have an honorary degree in medicine after watching so much Grey’s Anatomy.) Will he follow the classic telenovela trope and be in a coma for a while? Will he follow the even-more-classic telenovela trope and have amnesia? I guess we’ll find out in Season 3.

 

Expert in nothing

greys anatomy

I am one of those obnoxious people who think they’re an expert in everything because they watch certain TV shows. I caught myself so many times trying to lecture someone about something medicine-related, on the sole ground that I used to watch Grey’s Anatomy religiously. I don’t even know anything about medicine in real life, and I freak out when I see blood. I can barely put on a band-aid (alright, I might be underestimating myself a tad, because I’m not a moron).

But boy do I like medicine shows. It all started when I was little and became obsessed with Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. It’s one of these American shows that most Americans have never heard of, but French people absolutely love. There were re-runs of this every single day. I loved seeing the titular Michaela Quinn live her best life as a doctor in 19th-century Colorado. I learned what trepanation was, and I found out that TB and influenza were really bad news. That’s about it.

doctorI wish.

There was also a heartbreaking episode about rabies and cute little Brian had to put down his dog.

Later in life, I got really into Nip/Tuck and thought I was a plastic surgery expert. Nowadays, my boyfriend and I love to watch Botched, the real-life and sex-free version of Nip/Tuck. I still firmly believe I know a lot about boob jobs and I throw the term ‘symmastia’ around a lot. (I am obnoxious.)

botchedI’m the dentist: ‘Yeah don’t worry, I got it; I’ve seen every episode of Nip/Tuck.’

Watching one of these shows with me must be a misery, because I turn into an insufferable know-it-all who makes comments about everything. Obviously, I know nothing about plastic surgery, just like I don’t know shit about regular surgery. I feel like this type of show was created for the sole purpose of turning people into monsters and alienate them from their family.

These days, my boyfriend and I have a new obsession: Chopped. At first, this show had the same effect as all the others: I morphed into an annoyance who couldn’t shut up about blanching and reductions and how this guy should have done the carrots julienne and blah blah blah. It should be noted that I am a very mediocre cook and that my specialty is noodles and butter (I used to make a great tiramisu but I became lazy with age and I think I forgot how).

And then, I discovered Chopped Junior. These kids are 10 or 12 years old, they still have a baby face, and yet they are wizards with a knife -I don’t mean that to sound creepy- and they are not afraid of the oven. I was afraid of the oven until I was about 24.

So, needless to say, I don’t feel smug anymore.

chopped