The Flu and Finals

By Allison.

I spent the weeks leading up to finals with one fervent prayer: could I not, just this once, be entirely stressed out during finals week? Could I take these tests in peace and keep them in perspective, could I please remember that they’re just tests and that they’re going to come and go?

I shared this with my boyfriend, who nodded his head in understanding. Being nineteen is just like that, he had said. There’s something about the hormones and the stress, but things will change over the next few years. Hang in there. 

I’m not sure why finals week was so bad in the past, why I couldn’t seem to just get through it like a rational human. But something about the flurry of too hard exams and too close grades teetering between minus and plus signs threatening to ruin my GPA just created the perfect storm.

And so I prepared to hunker down for another end of semester typhoon: struggling under hours of studying, spending more time rolling around in bed thinking about failing all of my classes and trying to recall calculus theorems than actually sleeping, and dragging my body to the library instead of the dining hall each morning.

But then on the first dead day, the beginning of a two day hiatus in which the university gifts students a full 48 hours to study before the onslaught, I woke up with the flu. At 8 am I staggered out of bed, telling my roommate I felt a little funny, but passed it off as nerves. At 9 am, I opened my online homework and tried to study. By 11, I was shivering uncontrollably. I think I’m gunna go back to bed. I staggered back to my dorm room and slithered under a pile of blankets. I woke up a few hours later considerably worse. My head was spinning and I was sure I was running a temperature. I tried to open up my calculus textbook, but I spent five minutes staring at the page before I accepted reality: I was in no position to study. I was too weak to feel guilty- normally I would feel a twinge of embarrassment over my apparently weak work ethic. A better student would be able to study through the pain. But when my roommate returned to the room that night and told me that I just needed to tell myself I wasn’t sick, I knew this was more than just the common cold that I could power through. I slept through the next two days, waking up to take the maximum recommended daily dose of acetamenophin, falling asleep, and waking back up to throw up the aforementioned medication.

By Thursday night, I revived myself from my fugue state long enough to compose coherent emails to my professors. “I’m not well enough to take your final, how do I handle this situation?”

Their replies were overwhelmingly unsatisfactory: It turns out handling having the flu during finals week means taking finals with the flu.

So I took exams, half shaking, half coughing, sitting in the classroom until I could circle an answer for every question on the test, leaving as soon as my Scantron had fifty penciled in bubbles. I was the first to leave the room. When I made it back to my dorm, I crawled into my bed and fell into uneasy sleep.

By Monday, I made it onto my flight home to New York in some semblance of order. My symptoms had largely dissipated other than an unrelenting, hacking cough. I had taken all of my finals but one, which had been pushed off until January by a merciful professor. And with vague feelings of uneasiness about the probability of the flu having just ruined grades which I had been working hard all semester to maintain, I realized with a weird feeling of satisfaction that during this whole ordeal, I hadn’t succumbed to unsurmountable anxiety. In fact, I had felt almost none.

I spent the week in bed, sweating and crying, and I hadn’t had the energy to really care about finals. I took my exams without studying, I did what I could, and I moved forward, because it was really the only option. So here I was, sitting on a plane, waiting to finally be back home, but feeling oddly satisfied, because, after all, we don’t get to choose how God answers prayer, but He will answer, and sometimes, in the weirdest of ways, getting the flu can feel like an answered prayer.


The Brief Entanglement of State Lines

By Allison, your hamburger consumer and story telling enthusiast.

In class this week, our professor had each student share their major and hometown. After students listed off seemingly every city in Texas, I resigned myself to the fact that the only out of state students would come from somewhere near Illinois or California. I’d been quickly finding that the Northeast is always underrepresented in the Baylor student body. I had yet to find someone from New York City; a girl from Long Island spoke to me briefly at the beginning of the year, but I soon lost touch with her. So I sat, listening to each student name their small, unknown hometown, following their introduction with a hurried “it’s near Dallas,” as is the Texan way of introducing oneself. Everything is near Dallas.

Yet, finally, miraculously, a voice announced they were from New Jersey.

When I’m home, New Jersey is somewhat of a rival, a disdained second cousin which one would rather not be related; yet I was willing to make concessions under dire circumstances. New Jersey downright feels like home when Flower Mound, Texas is the next best option. So I turned around to find the speaker’s face somewhere in the back of the classroom. Immediately, her red lipstick and strikingly black hair made me comfortable; it was clear she wasn’t from here, in the same way that my septum piercing and messily dyed hair scream that I’m anything but Texan.

Later, I found her in the cafeteria and approached her.

“I heard you were from Jersey. I’m from New York, and there aren’t that many of us, so I just wanted to say hi.”

She glided onto the hamburger line with me and asked me where in I lived in New York. We began trading stories, strangers made friends through our common geographical displacement. The thin state line on a map separating New York and New Jersey suddenly tied us together.

“How did you end up in Texas?” She asked me as though it was not equally surprising that she herself was here. Everyone wants to know how a New Yorker ends up in Texas; I’ve realized that I, too, am still wondering.

I do not always have a sufficient answer to this innocuous question. Saying I came for a scholarship sounds shallow, neglecting my complete infatuation with Baylor. Saying God brought me here sounds arrestingly spiritual and can be a disarming explanation to offer someone who just learned my name. So I rambled to her about how I fell in love with Baylor, how I loved the honors program, how the community here is unlike any other university I had visited. My answer was messy though it was true, but it failed to convey my full story; a story I am still trying to figure out myself.

I asked her why she was here.

“Coming to Baylor saved my life.”

I paused, unsure of what to say, but she continued. “You know how living up there can be,” she said, knowingly, an expression perhaps only two Northerners suddenly caught in the calmness of Southern culture can fully appreciate.

I smiled, wondering what she would say if I pushed her to share more, yet knowing exactly what she meant, knowing that I could’ve begun my own explanation with the same sentence. So as the conversation turned to lunch and hamburgers, we moved on, a tentative friendship formed in the closeness of state lines, but I wondered how much my life would’ve sounded like hers if we were to share our stories, our real stories. I wondered who we are, under all of these half told narratives of identity and self that we offer to others, the stories that are convenient to share on a line waiting for a hamburger. I wondered what she would’ve liked to tell me about herself. I wondered what stories I ought to be telling about myself but neglect under the pressure of convenience and simplicity; I wondered how much is lost that ought to be told.

Grams per Mole, And Other Things I’ve Learned

Allison here, your future chemist.

Every Friday in chemistry, my professor gives the class a quiz. The questions are often much more complicated than anything we’ve covered in class and most students walk away with discouragingly low grades. We complain collectively at the torture of Friday quizzes, fifteen evil questions standing between us and a promising Friday afternoon. I have taken to frantically studying on Thursday nights, trying to make sense of the messy handwritten notes we receive each week in lieu of a power point presentation or even references to chapters in our seemingly helpful textbook. (Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be capable of knowing how helpful the textbook actually is, as I haven’t be assigned any reading from it, nor do any of our chemistry lessons correspond to sections in the book. But it does seem like it’s glossy pages and colored diagrams could be of assistance.) So ultimately, I am on my own to make sense of what little I can. I cram as many equations into my frazzled mind as I can handle but, quite simply, the quizzes are always harder than anything I’m prepared to take.

Two weeks ago, I begrudgingly made my way to Friday’s chemistry class, knowing a quiz that I couldn’t possibly score an A on awaited me. However, as I made my way through each question, I found that I knew many of the answers. I left class pleasantly surprised at how well I felt I had done; I let myself feel a moment of joy, believing that my hard studying might finally be paying off. The next Monday I strode into class, searching for my name on one of the quiz papers that the professor had laid out on a desk. I pulled mine from the pile, the gleam of an A written in red pen across the top of my paper already forming in my mind. But a B was the only thing staring back at me.

I frantically scanned through the questions. How could I have gotten anything wrong? The first question was marked with red pen. I was startled. It was by far the easiest question on the quiz. The red pen, however, was not marked through my own writing, but the typed question on the page. The professor had written the units for a given number incorrectly in the question. The pen marked the units incorrect, striking a red line through his own mistake. My work was counted incorrect because I, too, had used those units.

I was indignant. I had done all the work correctly, I had simply copied the mistake the professor had printed.

I looked to the girl next to me, asking her if she had gotten the question wrong as well. She also has a red mark struck through the question itself, but the professor hadn’t take off points. I laugh and show her my paper; she shakes her head in frustration. Another day in chemistry. I approach my professor after class, expecting a reasonable answer for this absurdity. Surely randomly marking some of the students incorrect for his own work doesn’t make for a fair grading system.

He put a shaky hand on my shoulder and told me he expected that I would know the correct units for molar mass, even when it wasn’t written correctly on the test. I do not tell him that I, in fact, also expected him to know the correct units for molar mass, considering his PhD in chemistry and some fifty years of teaching experience. But instead I smile. Of course.

And he’s right, I do know the correct units for molar mass. And I suppose next time, I’ll write down the correct units, even when my test paper is littered with typos, and even when my professor tells me the units include Joules instead of moles.

College has been difficult, filled with challenging essays assigned with vague prompts and math problems that force me to take the 80th derivative of some obscure equation. I know, regardless of how difficult my assignments become or how impossible my workload seems, I can give my all and will continue to find success. But, of course, I will always have the absurdities of chemistry professors and their interesting grading choices to keep me humble.

Tex-Yes (Again)

Allison here. 

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 1.27.58 AM

Somehow, against all odds, I’m going to college in the fall. An actual, accredited institution read my application, saw my SAT scores, reviewed my resume, and, for some reason, concluded I would be a proper addition to their university. I’m not saying an admission officer made a mistake, I’m just saying a few people may have been highly delusional when selecting me out of thousands of applicants. One of my essays mentioned that I mailed a potato to Erica but apparently that didn’t raise any red flags.

Since the concentration of goat populations was a main priority for me when choosing this aforementioned university, I dare say this graph makes it fairly obvious what state I’ll living in come this August.

I don’t really know how I stumbled upon Baylor University. I’ve always been aware of the existence of the school, the way everyone is seemingly born with inherent knowledge that ice cream is delicious and spray tans look bad. I knew about Baylor, but I wasn’t considering it as a real option; after all, who spends their days thinking about how orange a fake tan will make them look when they’re busy with other time consuming hobbies like making flower crowns and baking black bean brownies? Baylor, much like the spray tan, was a back up plan. No one really wants to make themselves look like an Oompa Loompa. But I digress.

I first talked about Baylor University with my brother, Austen. I was pacing the living room while chatting over the phone with him, telling him about the colleges I had recently spent time researching. I babbled on about Baylor’s unique honors program, amazing football team, and, of course, my eligibility for a full tuition scholarship. I was excited about the school, but this was the same brother who told me I could go to an Ivy League if I wanted; we both knew Baylor was a far cry from the type college I planned on attending. So as my list of college applications grew, Baylor sat contentedly at the bottom of the list, along with state schools and other fall back options.

That conversation with my brother occurred sometime in the summer, but then November rolled by and Baylor was one of only two schools I was still considering. Somewhere between a junior year filled with life changes and a senior year of finding my own sense of contentment, I realized my desire to attend an Ivy League was shallowly rooted in a desire to appear successful to others. So when leaves started falling off the trees and application deadlines rolled by, I decided I didn’t have much of a desire to “Aim High” like all of those Applying to College 101 books told me I should. I was sick of sacrificing my happiness for the appearance of great success. I decided maybe Aiming High meant being able to put aside my own pride long enough to choose a school that would help me grow as a person more than just make me look good on the outside.

So I applied to Baylor. And then I was accepted to Baylor. And then I visited Baylor. And then I fell in love with Baylor. So here I am, entirely done with my senior year of high school (editor’s note: YASSS), ready to ship myself across the country to a state that has a bad habit of flying the confederate flag.

I’ve slowly fallen in love with everything about the school. Besides the violent heat, which scares me because of my aversion to summer clothing, I’ve become enamored with everything about Baylor. The student body is kind and passionate, my academic program is flexible, the campus is beautiful, and my future roommate is amazing. Little by little, Baylor University has become everything I’ve been spending the past four years dreaming about: it’s become The Perfect College™.

The entire Erica-is-also-going-to-a-college-in-Texas thing is coincidental, but it does give us major street cred for top notch Best Friend Goals. While Erica attends school in Austin, I’ll be 101 miles north of her in Waco, Texas. Google maps informed me it would take a mere 36 hours to walk to the University of Texas, so I’m sure you’ll catch me on the shoulder of Interstate 35 on some holiday weekends.

Your two favorite bloggers will still be posting at terribly infrequent intervals and inconvenient times, but now we’ll be doing so from the Lone Star State. Keep your eyes peeled.