Heads up: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is supposed to be a short story, but this topic is a little more relevant right now. Sorry! I’ll put the short story up next week.
Two days until I get to go home!
I’ve honestly been really enjoying the finals period this year, which sounds weird I’m sure, but I’m currently in the middle of a week-long break between my last two finals and I’ve been spending it relaxing. I started out with these grand plans of finishing my NaNoWriMo novel or the other writing project I’m working on, but I tried that and I can’t. I’m too burned out.
The whole Burned Out thing is something I’ve been suspecting but ignoring all semester. While I’ve been able to do the work for my creative writing class, and won NaNoWriMo, and have been doing a little writing on the side here and there, I’ve gotten to the point where I just can’t get anything to work quite right; I have ideas, but I can’t get them to come out properly on the page. All the pieces are there, but I can’t figure out the puzzle.
And I was really mad at myself all semester over this, because I took winter semester of this past year off from my creative writing class because I was feeling burned out then, so that should have helped me recharge. And I spend two months in freaking EUROPE over the summer, so THAT should have helped me recharge.
I’ve had so many adventures this year and I’m so happy with life right now.
And towards the beginning of this break between finals, as I was struggling to just make writing work already, I thought maybe it couldn’t because I was too happy. Like, too many things have been going right for me, you know? But then, also, I’ve been making myself miserable by stressing out over all this.
So, I gave up and decided to take this week off.
I’ve done a little writing here and there, and I’ve been thinking a lot about writing, but it’s nothing major. Mostly what I’ve been doing is sitting around and watching Netflix. I’ve been hanging out with friends and going out to eat. I’ve gotten back into the routine of working out every day and eating maybe a little better (but also letting myself eat junk food without feeling TOO guilty) and yesterday I spent a couple hours hiking in the Arb in the misty rain. Today I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to go see The Theory of Everything ten minutes before the movie started.
My sister stayed over last night after we went to an advance screening of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and he parked on the street, so I had to get up to put money in the meeter at five AM, and it was absolutely lovely to walk around Ann Arbor when it was dark and cold and not a single other person was awake.
And I’m realizing that I’m not burned out on writing because I’m too happy. (Which is a very obvious conclusion to reach, but I’m a sleep-deprived junior, so bear with me.) I’m burned out because even when I haven’t been writing all this time I was supposed to be recharging, I’ve been doing stuff.
When I took that semester off from creative writing class, I replaced it with a remote internship with a literary agent.
The month I had off between winter semester and leaving for Europe and study abroad at Oxford, I spent working a thousand hours a day planning and running Ch1Con 2014. (Like even while I was hopped up on Vicodin after getting my impacted wisdom teeth out. I slept off the rest of the day of the surgery, then the next morning I had to get back to work.)
Actually being in Europe, every day we were off on a new adventure.
I was exhausted when I got back to the States, but the very next day I was in the midst of moving into my apartment and fall classes began less than a week later. And this semester has been crazy.
I’ve had no rest in all of this. I keep getting sick, no matter how well I try to take care of myself, and I’ve been having trouble sleeping, and more than anything: I haven’t been able to write. Not like I should be able to.
In finally taking this week off to relax, I’ve realized how exhausted I truly am. I haven’t had a chance to just sit around and do nothing and not feel guilty about it in over a year.
And the dumb thing is that I’m scared. I’m scared that letting my momentum slow for a week will mean it’ll be harder to get started again than to keep going would have been if I’d never stopped, and that taking a week off that I could have spent finishing a project means that I’m falling behind and not good enough, and that people will look down on me for this decision.
I stood in a bookstore today, looking at the travel section, when a song came on in which, not kidding, the chorus basically just repeated, “Where are you going?” a thousand times. And at first I was sad, because I want to be going somewhere. I want to go to Australia and South Africa and Germany and everywhere else in the world. I want to experience absolutely everything. I want to do absolutely everything.
But it’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to take a break.
If I want to be able to keep having and appreciating adventures, I need to recharge.
Wherever I’m going, I’ll find out later. Right now I’m drinking vanilla chai, curled up in my desk chair, and I’m about to start the next episode of Gilmore Girls. I can still taste butter on my lips from the movie theatre popcorn and my plans for tomorrow involve a little studying and packing but mostly doing Whatever I Freaking Feel Like.
This week, I am going absolutely nowhere. And I’m realizing: it’s okay.
The stories will wait.
PS. GUESS WHAT TOMORROW IS. That’s right. My third blogiversary. (You totally guessed that, I know.) Be on the look out for a post!
The course guide for winter semester 2015 is up. Backpacking is open.
Normally I would have picked out my dream schedule for the semester, along with backup classes should those not work out, by, like, yesterday. But this time I picked out my classes, and a couple backups, then realized the semester I’m planning is my third to last.
I only have winter semester 2015 then two semesters senior year left. Then I’m done. HOW IS IT POSSIBLE I AM THAT CLOSE TO GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE?
So then, of course, I started looking into all the different types of classes I’d like to take before I graduate.
I’ve always wanted to do photography. I want to try film criticism and screenwriting and maybe another social science class. I want to take as many courses as possible on children’s and genre literature, and then there’s also songwriting and foreign languages (I’d love to learn ASL and French) (don’t look at me like that, Language War participants; I obviously just want to prove Spanish is better) and so many other literature and film and theatre and art and race/ethnicity and science and everything classes.
I know the learning doesn’t end when I graduate. I know life keeps going when I’m no longer allowed to live off classes.
But I am Hermione Granger. I want to learn as much as possible in life. I want to understand as much as possible. And I don’t know what I’m going to do after college, where I’m going to go. Get an MFA? Do some other sort of grad school? Get a job?
I DO NOT KNOW.
I hate endings. But I guess more than this part of my life ending, I’m scared because I don’t know what will begin next.
So, here I go planning my last three semesters. I will never be able to take all the classes I want, but when do you ever get to do everything you want? Now it’s a matter of figuring out what’s most important, instead. And learning to let go of some things so I can go after others. And facing the fact that as much as I hate endings, this one is going to happen.
So I might as well love everything that leads to it.
Goal for today: 1,000 + yesterday’s leftover 1,500.
Sorry this is coming to you technically on Thursday! I completely spaced. (First week of fall semester and all that.)
So far, my classes are awesome. My film classes are kind of freaking me out, because it’s the first time I’ve formally studied film stuff and I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it yet, but also I love movies and I’m really excited to learn more about their history and how they’re made. So fingers crossed this goes well.
Choir is as lovely as ever. Creative writing starts next week and I am READY to dive back into the weekly short stories (who would have ever thought I’d say that). Whoever decided U of M should offer a YA lit class is my hero. MY HERO.
This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin. As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.
I’m not sure who I expect to find standing on our stoop, but it is certainly not Dr. O’Brien and his partner from the Recruitment Assembly.
“Hello, Miss Dylan.” The woman dips her head. Her ears appear even more prominent this close up. Her features are youthful and pixieish, from her wide eyes to her small, pointed chin. “My name is Doctor Lindsey Reede. You’ve already met my associate, Doctor O’Brien. Your family reported you missing when you did not return home yesterday after school.”
I squint against the sunlight behind them. “How did you know I was back?” I raise my left hand to shield my eyes.
“Your Identiband.” Dr. Reede trains her eyes on it. I glance up at it and a jolt of fear runs through me. It’s flipped colors again.
“What?” I try to make it sound like I don’t know what she’s talking about.
Dr. Reede frowns. “We knew you were back because we were monitoring your Identiband. It showed that you had entered your residence.”
“Right.” I lower my arm. Of course she didn’t see the other color, not when what’s causing the problem is obviously my eyes. “Sorry.” I look at her and Dr. O’Brien, the way they stand stoic but uneasy outside my house. I close my eyes for one, long second. “Hold on. You knew I was home because my Identiband told you so. Right. So that means you know where I’ve been for the past twenty four hours as well, correct? What happened to me?”
“We unfortunately don’t know,” Doctor O’Brien says.
“How is that possible?”
Dr. Reede bristles like I’ve accused the Clinic of something. “Someone hacked your Identiband. They looped the information from what we assume was Monday—the last day you walked home normally from school—and the loop didn’t end until you entered your house. We wouldn’t have had any way of knowing that anything was wrong if it weren’t for your family messaging the police.”
I run a hand over my eyes. “I didn’t even know that was possible.”
“Only the very skilled and very well-connected are able to perform such crimes.” Dr. Reede glances around me into the house. “Is your father home?”
For some reason I look behind myself too, although I know he isn’t there. Calvin has barely had enough time to contact him as it is. “No, but my brother is.”
Dr. Reede stares. “How old is your brother?”
“Why does that matter?”
Dr. O’Brien steps around Dr. Reede. “We need to bring you in for questioning. Everything that has happened over the course of the past several days dealing with you is too much of a coincidence. We must know why these events are occurring. In order to legally escort you to the Clinic, we need permission from a family member over the age of eighteen.”
“My brother is twenty one.” I turn towards the kitchen. “Calvin?”
“Yes?” His head pops around the doorway. Dr. Reede raises her eyebrows at his bushy, curly hair. My brother smirks.
“Hello, Mr. Dylan,” Dr. O’Brien says. “We are from the Clinic.”
Calvin’s smirk widens as he takes in their uniforms. “I can see that.” He shifts his gaze to me. “They want you to go with them, I’m guessing?”
I nod. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back in no time.”
“Fine, go ahead. I’ll let Dad know.” He disappears back into the kitchen.
Dr. Reede nods. The movement is robotic, perfected. “After us, Miss Dylan.”
They do not take me to office suite 4581 as I expect. Instead they lead me from the lobby to a long, narrow hallway that ends in a flight of stairs leading down.
“Why aren’t we going to your office, Doctor O’Brien?” I grip the handrail as I descend the steep stairs behind the two recruiting officers. Dr. Reede walks with even steps that are so rigid they seem almost painful, while Dr. O’Brien follows behind her a little bit looser, with his arms swinging at his sides.
“My office?” He looks back. “Oh, the room I met you in yesterday was not my office, Miss Dylan. It was just one of the many multi-use spaces available throughout the building for employees to use in meetings and such. I was only assigned to it for yesterday.”
We exit the stairwell for another hallway, this one lined with unmarked doors. They walk side by side now, leaving little space for me to get near them.
I walk a good several feet back—it’s evident they don’t want to talk to me right now—but the question itches against my tongue anyway. “Why weren’t you there yesterday, Doctor Reede?”
She throws the answer over her shoulder: “My job during your meeting with Doctor O’Brien was to monitor everything behind the scenes, to ensure that safety procedures were maintained at all times and that we obtained the information needed to properly analyze the situation at hand.”
“You were behind the cameras the entire time I was in the building yesterday?”
She doesn’t break stride as she speaks—just keeps moving as if my questions are not distracting in the least. “Yes.”
“So you were the one watching my conversation with Ramsey, not Doctor O’Brien?”
At this, she glances back and nods.
I fold my arms. “Why didn’t you let me out?”
She faces forward again. “We still needed more information.”
I scowl. “And did you get what you needed?”
Her tone is plainspoken, emotionless. “Yes.”
While it would have been nice to have some assistance with Ramsey, they were just doing their job.
I force a smile into my voice. “Good.”
Dr. O’Brien stops at a door that looks absolutely identical to all the others and holds his Identiband to the scanner, then pricks his thumb. The scanner beeps, followed by a click from the door as its lock disengages.
The room they’ve brought me to is long and low, with a mahogany conference table centered beneath a sparkling glass chandelier and wood paneling along the walls.
Amelia would love this place. It’s even nicer than the formal dining room in which her mother holds biyearly dinner parties for the intercontinental representatives of the different branches of the Clinic. For all the times I have visited Amelia’s house since May, we have never once been allowed to set foot in that room.
My dirty school uniform and the braid I have not redone since yesterday morning make me feel like I should not be allowed to breathe the air in this conference room, let alone touch the table or sit in one of the plush leather-upholstered chairs. The recruiting officers do not notice my discomfort as they stride straight to the nearest chairs and sit down on the same side of the table. I swallow and take the chair opposite.
“Tell us exactly what happened yesterday after you left the Clinic.”
I tuck my feet under the chair and fold my hands in my lap. I still feel like I should not be allowed in this room. I explain about staying at New Capital High for an hour after school let out, and making small-talk with the stranger in the subway station who knew my name. My cheeks warm as I tell them about getting off the train one stop early, and they cool when I describe running, only for the man to catch me.
The entire time, the recruiting officers don’t take their eyes off me. They don’t blink, don’t write anything down, and I know they must have cameras in this room to record everything I say, but it is still disconcerting to be able to watch them try to figure it out right before me, rather than on tablets, where they wouldn’t feel the need to look so closely at my face.
When I finish, Dr. O’Brien leans back in his chair. “You weren’t aware at all that time had passed between the man drugging you and you waking up?”
I shake my head. “No. To be honest, I thought it was all a dream until Calvin told me I had been gone for so long. My only injury was from when I fell on the sidewalk.” I hold up my elbow to demonstrate. The blood has dried my sleeve to my skin, and I grit my teeth as I lower my arm. “They didn’t touch me.”
Dr. Reede turns to Dr. O’Brien like she thinks she is speaking only to him, although I can still clearly hear her. “If they did not want something from Miss Dylan’s body, then it must have been something in her mind.”
Dr. O’Brien shakes his head. “The girl does not know any vital information. She knows nothing the terrorist cell would go to that much trouble to learn.”
“Perhaps they were curious why we recruited her a year early?”
“No, they already know why. It had to have been for some other reason.”
“Perhaps they simply wanted to learn how much Miss Dylan knows of the situation at hand. After all, we now possess Miss Carp.”
“We’ve allowed them to retain access to Miss Carp’s Identiband as it is. They already know all that transpired yesterday. They—”
They speak in such a rapid fire it is difficult to keep up, but one part does stick out: “The terrorist cell.” Not a terrorist cell. The.
“You know who attacked me.”
They keep speaking, words nearly overlapping in their ferventness to be heard.
“Perhaps what they wanted was not from her mind at all, but her Identiband.”
“What would they gain by kidnapping her, then? They had already hacked the Identiband. They already had all the information stored in it at their fingertips. It’s—”
I raise my voice. “You. Know. Who attacked me.”
Dr. Reede turns so quickly her neck cracks. She does not even flinch. She levels her eyes at me. “Of course we do. Very few people exist not just in the Fifth Reality, but in the entirety of the Quantum, who could have committed such an act. Even fewer would have wanted to.”
“Then what are you doing in this room right now?” I throw a thumb at the door. “Why aren’t you out there tracking them down?”
“It’s… complicated.” Dr. O’Brien shifts in his seat. He pulls at his collar. “I’m afraid we have not been entirely frank with you until this point, Miss Dylan.”
His voice is so constricted, my mouth goes dry and my palms grow damp. My muscles clench. What little confidence I had before dissipates. “Meaning?”
He leans towards me and says the words gently. “We did indeed recruit you because of the actions of Miss Carp, but they weren’t the actions we led you to assume. We already were monitoring your old friend before the Recruitment Assembly. That is because, since May, she has been assisting an inter-reality terrorist cell known as the Second Origin.”
My Identiband changes color at the name. I glance at it and it flickers back to green.
Dr. O’Brien glances at Dr. Reede, who nods him onward. He swallows and takes a breath. “We have heard reports of the atrocities committed by the Second Origin for nearly a year now—first as rumors passing between realities, then as actual warnings. Brutal murders, citizens disappearing, break-ins at important buildings. The final warning came on May fourteenth, from the Clinic of the Fourth Reality, and you must understand, Miss Dylan: what they told us is confidential. No one outside a select few members of the Clinic of the Fifth Reality knows what we are about to say.”
He turns to Dr. Reede, who does not lose her nearly inhuman posture or tone as she says, “The final warning about the Second Origin came in the form of a message. A single word. One we thought to be impossible until the events of recent.”
Despite Dr. Reede’s stoic demeanor, when she opens her mouth, not a sound comes out.
It is Dr. O’Brien who, tears in his eyes, manages to choke out, “Collapse.”
If you’re a student (or a teacher or someone else involved in the school shenanigans), how’s the fall term going so far? Any fun stories or cool classes? Do tell.
Thank you SO MUCH to all the wonderful guest posters this summer. You guys are my favorites.
I’m (semi) moving back to college today, which means things will be getting back to normal soon, so prepare for lots of posts this semester!
This week’s Wordy Wednesday is song lyrics.
I know no one cares
At least not the way they should
But that’s okay, I’m just a number
Marching on, towards the greater good
It’s okay to be afraid,
It’s the way we were made
My friend you have changed
Since you were a different age
Since the rain came down with rage
And your life became a cage
And you, you, became
An actor on a stage
Built of broken promises
And you, you became an actor on a stage
Built of broken promises
And I want nothing more
Than to tell you you’re beautiful
But your ears stopped working
Miles and miles ago
So I write a letter
And let it blow down the road
And tell me where’s this ship sinking today?
You might find a bank if you lead it that way
But I can’t tell you anything, not when you’ve forgotten how to read
So now we’re just leading those who’ve forgotten how to lead
[Repeat CHORUS, 1.5x]
And you, you became
A number on the ledge
As you stepped off the edge
Of the world