We are closing in on two years passing since the four of us met in the wonderful city of Edinburgh. Since then, we have naturally stayed in contact but even so it is difficult to keep everyone up to date with everything that has happened and how it further has affected our lives. Therefore, we thought it appropriate to take some time out of out busy shedules to sit down and contemplate for a minute or two just how much our lives have altered in the past two years; and this is what came of our pondering.
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Two years after the SUISS program, Nicole (nlmora01) is hanging out in southeast Asia. She somehow found herself a U.S. Fulbright ETA and is teaching secondary school English in a tiny kampong in rural Malaysia. She loves it. She blogs about her experiences, but unfortunately not very often, as she’s mostly busy with making lesson plans, killing bugs, and buying plane tickets. Since studying in Edinburgh and graduating from university in May 2011, she’s found herself in Turkey, Thailand, and Cambodia (with plans to visit Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Burma, and Laos later in the year), and currently lives in Pahang state, Malaysia. She’s not writing as much as she should but she has every intention of making it back to Scotland in the near future. The novel that she started at SUISS is still a work in progress, with more fight scenes and slightly fewer creepy clergymen.
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Two years since our first encounter in Edinburgh and I, Michelle, have trouble listing everything that has happened in my life in the years since. Though it has only been two years, so much seems to have happened to me. I suppose the most obvious to begin with is to do with writing, be it creative or academic, being as creative writing was what brought the four of us together. As far as academic writing I passed my BA degree last year and am currently in the process of my Masters degree in English. As a part of my Masters degree I spent the first five months of 2012 in London at Westminster University, another study abroad experience I would not have given up. It provided me with plenty of great experiences, including a return trip to the wonderful city of Edinburgh. In the area of creative writing I am sad to report that I have not achieved nearly as much writing as I would have done. My first novel is still very much a work in progress, although I have made slight progress as far as new material goes. There is a perfectly good reason for why I have had less time to concentrate on my writing; I have found something else to devote my attention to.
Last year my life took a turn in the positive direction as I met the person I have just moved in with. After having been together for nearly a year, we decided we wanted to live together and found a flat much faster than we had anticipated and are now in the progress of unpacking and finding a place for everything else. This is quite a struggle with twice as much to find a place for, but I’m very happy over the moon with the situation. I believe that is the most influential thing that has happened to me over the past two years. To return to the writing aspect, I have been more active with my personal blog since the beginning of the year, almost as my personal diary to keep track of the adventures I had in London and I hope to keep it up even though I am now home again, I’m sure I will still have some fun adventures to post about in the future.
Part of those adventures will most definitely be finishing my Masters degree within the next year, a frightening prospect as I will then have to be a real grown-up. A thing I postpone facing until the time comes. In the mean time I try my best to put some energy into my novel, which has evolved nicely and it is almost as if my characters have come to life without me.
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On Becoming a Mother and Being an Aspiring Writer
Starbuck88 aka Kristin aka me has had a lot of changes in my life for the past two years. If I were to go through all of them it would cover too many pages to suit this purpose so I’ll focus on the most important one, namely the birth of my daughter Maia. I’m sure all mothers claim their children to the prettiest, brightest and all together most charming ones, so you’ll probably just roll you’re eyes and shake your head when I put forth this statement: Maia is the cutest, most amazing and heart-melting child that has ever been. She also happens to be incredibly patient and easygoing. Considering whom her parents and relatives are, I have absolutely no idea where this comes from. Apparently she must have skipped the gene pool that makes some of us short-tempered and with less patience than a woman in labor. Trust me that’s very little. I won’t go into the details of childbirth, suffice to say it’s both bloody and bloody painful. It’s not for me to criticize the Man Upstairs, but I still maintain it isn’t one of His best designs. That being said, I can (grudgingly) admit that it went very well as far as childbirths go. Not that I have any previous experience, but in comparison to other horrible labor stories circulating out there I can’t complain.
On a slightly different note, there are many clichés concerning becoming a mother. People ask me repeatedly how it feels to become one, undoubtedly expecting me to repeat one of these said clichés. Let me once and for all get this straight: For me, trying to cram the event of becoming a mother into one or two sentences is about as easy as trying to explain what’s beyond the end of the universe as we know it. It’s just not done. Having gotten that out of the way let me say this: It’s amazingly wonderful and at the same time excruciatingly terrifying. It’s amazing to see Maia’s deep brown (with a hint of blue) eyes light up when she sees me in a way I doubt anyone ever have or ever will look at me. I’m her everything and the feeling is mutual. Her laughter is the most wonderful sound in the world, and the feeling of having her soft chubby arms find their way into my hair when I’m the only one who can truly comfort her is indescribable. The excruciatingly terrifying part is simply loving someone like this. The enormous responsibility churn in my gut, not mention how the world is spinning faster out of control for every passing day. The headlines announcing there are psychos on every street corner do nothing to placate my fears. But all of this can never eclipse the joy Maia brings. I will therefore repeat one cliché about motherhood, because sometimes clichés are all we have to describe the indescribable: Maia is the best thing that has ever happened to me and no one or nothing will ever change that.
I find it easier to talk, or write, about what it’s like having a daughter, than being a mother. The latter is about me, while the first is about Maia, and the world doesn’t revolve around yours truly anymore. In my case it revolves around Maia and always will. At the same time I’m still me. I’m terribly bad at interacting with other mothers, I find myself feeling like Sheldon in “The Big Bang Theory” having to guess at the correct social etiquette. I still devour books and watch too many movies and TV series. (I retract that, it’s not possible to watch too many movies and TV series). I nearly jumped up and down on the sofa when I read that one of the people who wrote the script for Battlestar Galactica is reputedly co-writing the script for the TV version (HBO thank you very much) of the Dark Tower books by my all-time hero Stephen King. OMG indeed. I still enjoy red wine, though I haven’t had any for over a year. My chocolate addiction is still a hungry monkey with a sweet tooth on my back and I still, to put it plainly, turn into quite a bitch when I’m hungry. But I will do my best for Maia to quell some of my less than charming ways. To quote Star Wars, there’s only do or don’t, there is no try.
The final proof that I’m still me is that I still write. It’s been some time coming, it turns out that sleep is a very critical condition where writing, or anything else, is concerned. For the past four months sleep has been nothing but a long forgotten myth enjoyed by others and longed for by me, but lately Maia has stopped waking me up every three hours during the night (she is the only one who can do that without me chucking her out the window). Trying to write long epic sagas when you can’t even remember that a spoon is called a spoon is a bad idea, and so I’ve found it best to put the writing on hold until I could rightly name all my kitchen utensils. Also, finishing my exams while having the short-term memory of a demented eighty year old lady and having a newborn daughter has taken up pretty much of my time, but I figure if I can do that I can do just about anything.
So I have picked up my writing and I’m taking it seriously. After all, how can I expect any one else to take it seriously if I don’t? At the same time, I’m keeping in mind the saying that you shouldn’t take life to seriously, it’s not like you’re getting out alive. And the number one reason why I write is simple enough. I write because I love to write and it makes me very happy. Even if I never become a published writer, I’ll always keep writing because, like Phoebe, that’s when I feel the most like myself. To use a pop-psychological term, that’s when I truly feel a sense of flow in my life. But if I don’t become a published writer it’s not for lack of trying. I’m more stubborn than a mule and even if that might not always be a favorable trait, as I writer I might put it to good use. I have many bad habits, but I’m disciplined enough to fit in the army when I really want something. Besides, I want to teach Maia to have faith in herself and her dreams, and the best way to do that, I guess, is to set a good example.
Being a writer isn’t easy, being a mother isn’t easy, love isn’t easy, in short, none of the good things in life are. Yet most of us keep shuffling along anyway, maybe because wonderful things can happen if we do. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but neither are good writers or good mothers or lasting love. We might aspire to all of the above and have the necessary qualities and desire, but it takes practice (and not to mention a fair share of mistakes we’ll hopefully learn from) to be the best you can be. But I believe that if we never give up, but keep on going, we’ll get there in the end.