Tag Archives: Grad School

All Out

Last summer I bought bulk size bottles of shampoo and conditioner. During that same summer, I decided it was time to start researching grad schools. I remember skyping with Spoonbill and telling her, “I want to move to Europe for grad school one year from now. The timing is good because by then I will have probably used up these huge bottles of shampoo and conditioner I just bought.”

Spoonbill replied, “That’s as good a reason as any to do a Masters degree.”

And here we are, one year later. My flight is booked, my bags are packed, my apartment is empty and I’ll be moving in with two complete strangers on Sunday. And I’m all out of shampoo and conditioner.

I’m going to Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Aptly named, it is located in the town of Wageningen, about 1.5 hrs southeast of Amsterdam by train/bus. I say train/bus because there is no train station in this town. I read somewhere that there is a joke about Wageningen in which they were offered either a train station or a university, and they chose the university. I’m not sure if there’s supposed to be a punchline to this joke but I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.

My emotions are all over the map now. This is exactly what I wanted and planned for, but I’m devastated to leave Edmonton. I’ve moved around a lot, but this city feels like my home. Not simply by virtue of having lived here the longest (4 + 2 + 6 + 1 = 13 years spread out over 26, aka half of my life). I didn’t really start to love Edmonton until I moved downtown, got involved with a fantastic volunteer group, started working for a small consultancy company that really supports their people, and met some people who have completely changed my life for the better. It’s been a big year. A great year.

I had a dream last night that a boy and I were walking down my street, completely surrounded by pink bubbles. And I was just really happy. The boy in the dream is David. Spoonbill introduced us back in November and we became friends. It took me a little while to realize and admit that I really liked him, and then we finally, finally kissed a few weeks ago, after months of non-dates that were the best and funnest dates I’ve ever been on. I haven’t blogged about him before because it does not feel right to publish anything about this guy without his knowledge. Even if it is anonymously with aliases. He’s just really wonderful. That’s all I’m going to say about David. Except that I’m going to miss him.

But the dream really symbolized what this last year has felt like. There’s been ups and downs like there always are in life, but at the end of the day it has felt exactly like I was walking through a city filled with pink bubbles, surrounded by loving friends. And even while I was floating through the bubbles, I was making a plan to leave it all behind. It’s hard not to feel like a fool for willfully giving up the best time of your life. Like getting a divorce when everything in your marriage is wonderful.

Actually that’s another great analogy to make about my feelings for Edmonton. Shortly after moving back here last summer, I broke up with a guy that just wasn’t right for me. I also haven’t blogged about him before because there was nothing to say except Good Riddance. A few months ago I was skyping with Spoonbill and I speculated that perhaps I developed such strong feelings for Edmonton because I was on the rebound and instead of falling for another guy, I fell for a city. Spoonbill shares the same love and passion for this city as me, so she was able to wisely advise me that Edmonton is no rebound relationship. She told me, “Edmonton is your marriage. The Netherlands will just be a fling.”

So goodbye for now Edmonton. I promise to come back. I know you’ll forgive me for stepping out on you for awhile because you’ve already accepted me once, despite all my flaws. And I think what we have now is real, unconditional love.

And I promise to recycle the shampoo bottles before I go.

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White People and Jesus

The title of this post suggests that I’m about to go off on a racist or religious rant. Spoiler alert: I’m not.

In this instance, “White People and Jesus” actually refers to a strange yet compelling dream I had a few days ago. In the dream, my big sister and I were lesbians. No, not together. That would suggest way more subconscious trauma than I would ever unpack on the internet. Think Tegan and Sara: sisters, lesbians, Canadians. Got it?

Ok so my sister and I were artists and we had this great big work studio where we built mixed media sculptures and installations. In the dream I was working on three pieces. The first was a piece of wood about the size of a door, and I painted it with black matte paint using a small rollerbrush. Then I hammered in short nails all around the edge of the door and made patterns across the door by tying neon coloured string to the nails.

The second piece was a trench coat that I was painting black using the same small rollerbrush that I used for the door. I was running out of paint at this point and I remember feeling stressed about what else I could put on the jacket to make it cool. As I was painting it, a guy wearing a long black coat (think Neo from The Matrix, but scrawnier with bad skin and long hair) came by and told me, “That’s a sexy jacket.” In the dream I wanted to kiss him.

The third piece was also constructed out of a door. This one was covered in a heavy canvas. Across the door I hung bunting made from small square glass panels and square neon green flags. I arranged the bunting in two triangular shapes – each pointing towards the centre of the door. I remember it being really difficult to hang the lower triangle. And I remember naming the piece, “White People and Jesus.”

What does that mean? I have no idea. Feel free to brainstorm at your leisure.

What happened next was a lady walked into the studio and started exclaiming over the pieces I was working on. She wanted to be my agent and set up a show for me. Then she suddenly asked, “Wait! Are you the same girl who writes as Ibis in the blog Ibis and Spoonbill?” I told her I was and she began gushing, “You are an incredible writer! I love everything you write!” In the dream, I was excited and indescribably happy. But also anxious because I didn’t know how to tell this lady that she couldn’t be my agent because I was going back to school in a few weeks and I wouldn’t have time to be an artist or a writer anymore. And it made me sad and second-guess my decision to become a student again.

And then I woke up.

(Brief aside, I got my Mo on and applied to grad schools and that’s actually happening now! But that deserves a whole post of it’s own. Stay tuned.)

If you’re the kind of person who ascribes meaning to dreams, it’s not too hard to figure out what this dream would be telling me. It’s telling me: “Ibis, you are a bubble head! You don’t want to get your Masters in City Planning or any other graduate studies! You want to create! You want to write! Turn back! Turn back!”

If my subconscious was a real person, I like to imagine her as a concerned best friend. She knows me better than anyone, she shares my tendency to overanalyze all the things all the time, and she is worried about me. She loves me and wants me to be happy. I would take my subconscious out for a nice glass of wine and I would tell her not to worry about me. I am a complex individual with more than one passion in life. I would ask her to trust me to make the right decisions for my life. And as the night went on and we got closer to the bottom of the wine bottle, I would confess my fears. Maybe grad school is a mistake! Maybe  what I should really do with the money I’ve aggressively saved for the past year to support myself through graduate studies is find a cabin in the woods, hide out for a year (a la Bon Iver) and dedicate myself to writing. Bad poetry might become beautiful free verse. Rambling blog posts might become sophisticated prose. Half-formed ideas might become a draft of a novel. But then, spilling wine all over the table as I pour the last of the bottle into our glasses, I would remind my subconscious of one of our favourite quotes from our undergrad. While filling out course evaluation forms at the end of a semester, someone sitting in front of us said, “I hate this question – I increased my knowledge of the subject matter during this course. Like, no. Strongly disagree! I got dumber!” And no one else overheard him but we busted a gut laughing. After all, sometimes nothing is funnier than the truth. No education is ever wasted. My decision to apply to grad schools was well-informed and driven by another one of my passions in life. I would say to my subconscious, I appreciate your concern because I know it comes from a good place, but please be excited for me. Your doubts and fears are really dragging me down.

And finally, as I tip the last mouthful of cab sauv into my mouth, I would tell my subconscious: if all else fails, living overseas for a couple of years should give me plenty of new writing material!


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