Real Talk Time

Real talk time: I’m not in a super happy place right now.

No, there’s nothing wrong. Nothing I can point to and say “this is why I feel the way I do”. No obvious trauma or event that would leave me blue. Things are going well for me…and yet yesterday I found myself crying in the shower for no particular reason at all.

I could tally all the insults, slight or otherwise, that I think are combining to make me sad right now: I’m stressed about finding a job, I’m spending a lot of the day by myself with not much interaction, it’s the holiday season and for various reasons at the moment my extended family is more upsetting than not. My country elected a reality TV charlatan as its president and every time I turn on the TV the new administration looks more autocratic. I’m getting frustrated with the novel again; it’s not going well. I’m behind on some other things that are ‘optional’ but important to me. And the little voice in my head which I am coming to understand is my old friend Anxiety seizes on those little insults and blows them all out of proportion. Continue reading

A Bit of Housekeeping

Hi everyone. Remember me?

Probably not, given that it’s been a month since I published my last post. Apologies, but the truth is I was too upset to blog. Leaving Cambridge was hard, and my time since then has either been totally occupied with medical school interviews or so unstructured that I just can’t bring myself to shape thoughts to put on the page.

And I miss my friends, and I miss my college, and I miss my cows.

But anyway.

I think I’m at a place now where I can come back to this – NaNo is giving me a nice kick in the pants – NO NOT THOSE KINDS OF PANTS – so it’s time to resume shouting my thoughts into the void.

Which is to say: look out for more posts coming your way very soon.

Across the Pond: A Valediction

When I was graduating high school a lot of very well meaning adults said to me some variation on the following: “College will be the best four years of your life.”

It was with that expectation that I started at Columbia. I was skeptical, to be sure — is college really that different from everything that came before? — but I was ready to be convinced.

I was not.

Please don’t mistake me. There are a lot of things I liked, even loved, about Columbia. It provided the capstone to my years at Brearley, putting the polish on the rock-solid educational foundation I have been so privileged to receive. The Core Curriculum is a beautiful, beautiful thing — without it I might never have read Crime and Punishment or Plato’s Symposium, never studied the works of Mozart and Michelangelo, never immersed myself in the works that make up the underpinning of Western culture and society. And then there was my department, my wonderful fellow primates of EBHS, who became like my second family. I value equally our passionate debates on the humanity of Neandertals and your snarky comments on Bad Movie Night. I had wonderful experiences at Columbia, made wonderful friends. But the best years of my life? I disagreed. I still do.

But now — ah, now I understand what they meant when they said it, because this year at Cambridge has been the best year of my life.

It won’t stay that way. I look forward to many “better” years in my future; life is about growing and changing, and there’s no value in the stagnation required to believe your best is thirty years behind you. But I will always remember this year as special — it is, and always will be, a hugely pivotal moment in my life.

For that, I want to thank you, Cambridge. I want to thank your academics for their passion, your students for their drive, your buildings steeped in history for the way they evoke in me such a desire to know more.  And Pembroke, I will always remember your courts fondly, in particular the beautiful and badly insulated New Court.

But it’s the people who have truly made this year special: My fellow BioAnth MPhils, braving the wilds of a brilliant-but-scatterbrained department to produce exceptional works of academic achievement (I’m so proud); The greater Pembroke GP community, who welcomed me and the other freshers from the very first day — I shall miss you all terribly;  New Court United, the best staircase neighbors a girl could have.

And my friends.

From 8:10 breakfast to Mill Pond picnics to late nights playing Cards Against Humanity, you have lightened my days (and possibly corrupted my soul). Either way, I am forever changed by knowing you. Thank you for listening me prattle on about my writing, or indulging my love of cows; I’ll treasure that book forever, you know. Thank you, too, for the heavier stuff — turns out being twenty-three and far from home can be pretty tough sometimes. I appreciated the shoulders to cry on.

You’ve taught me so much, from the ridiculous (did you know that Edinburgh Castle is built on the basalt core of an extinct volcano?) to the profound — how to listen, how to be compassionate, how to be brilliant and fierce and confident even in the face of uncertainty. I know you will all go on to do amazing things.

It’s time for me to go home now. I don’t know exactly where the next years will take me, what new obstacles life will put in my way. I don’t know when I’ll see you (England, Cambridge, Pembroke, my dear friends) again. Honestly, that scares me a little.

But I know I’ll be okay — “’cause through it all, she offers me protection, a lot of love and affection, whether I’m right or wrong”. And wherever life does take me, I’ll remember this year at Pembroke with equal love and affection, and treasure it always.


Cows of Cambridge

I’ve jokingly said, more than once, that what I most want to be remember for when I leave Cambridge is my love of cows. If, a year or two years from now, someone says “Hey, remember Faith?” and someone else says in response “Yeah, the girl who liked cows!” I would be pleased for that to be my legacy.

Yes, cows. I’ve long thought them cute — this dates from going to Vermont with my grandfather and bottle-feeding baby cows, who looked at me with their big, long-lashed eyes and wet pink noses and stole my heart.

I take a lot of photos of cows these days. A not insignificant percentage of my instagram and facebook photos are…well, of cows. And Cambridge has no shortage of potential subjects. I have my favorites (there’s one male with a particularly striking facial marking and no fear of cameras), but they’re all photogenic, to tell the truth.

Why cows? People have asked me, and I have different answers. They’re cute, as I’ve said. They’re novel, to a girl from the city where the wildlife isn’t much more than racoon-sized. But they’re something else, too, which is that they’re surprisingly expressive.

Even before the cows, a lot of my photos were of children and dogs. Not just because I find them cute — because young children and animals (dogs, cows, tigers at the zoo) share one quality in common, which is that they are entirely free of self-consciousness. They are genuine, engaged, and free of the adult demur that appears sometime around puberty. They don’t change their behavior when a camera appears; they continue being themselves.

It’s a quality I admire in them. Perhaps that’s why I like to capture it — to remind myself that there was a time when I was less shy, less reserved, less proud.

More like a cow.


Review: The Fringe Festival

So one of the advantages to going to Edinburgh in August is that the city becomes host to the Fringe Festival. And I do mean the entire city — half the parks are transformed into theaters, every surface is covered with flyers, and it seems like every little bar becomes a venue.

I managed to catch quite a lot while I was there (most of the shows are short), so I’ll give some brief selected reviews below.

Continue reading

ATP: Edinburgh

I’ve done a fair bit of traveling recently. Not as much as I would have liked to, but while Ryanair is a boon to poor students everywhere, traveling is still kinda expensive and I’m on a budget.

That said, I’ve gotten to see some interesting places. Florence, Athens, Istanbul; Dublin, Belfast, and soon Paris. But as much as I enjoyed seeing all those beautiful cities, there’s no place like home. However unfair it may be, deep down, I measure all those places against New York and find them a little bit wanting.

There’s only one city that’s managed to capture my heart in quite the same way, and that’s Edinburgh. Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 26

The continued adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye. (Part 25) (From the beginning)

“So.” Milagros set down her tea cup. “Your ghost is missing?”


Milagros said nothing. I picked up the teacup and sipped delicately.

I like tea. I didn’t used to, until I spent a year in England as an exchange student. There, tea is practically a religion. I didn’t like beer, so I had to do what I could to assimilate. English tea, though, is milky and mild and served with a biscuit. Milagros’s tea was bush tea, brewed strong from an assortment of herbs. I swallowed and immediately wished I hadn’t.

“And you want what?” Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 25

The continued adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye and college student. (Part 24) (From the beginning)

“What are you doing in my shop?”

I couldn’t help it; I took a step away from the anger radiating out from Milagros’ ample form. “I –”

“What, girl? You what? Your family has made it very clear what you think of anything that isn’t in your precious field notes. I didn’t think I’d catch you in here again.”

And that’s why I hadn’t wanted to come. Okay, deep breath. I braced for the coming storm. “I came because I need your help.”

Milagros jerked her chin pointedly toward the shattered glass and scattered coins on the floor. “You have a funny way of showing it, chica.

“There was a haunted coin in that jar.” Continue reading

10,000 Steps

Along with the (relatively) recent popularity of health/fitness trackers like Fitbit and Jawbone has come the general advice that one should try to walk 10,000 steps a day. (That’s about 5 miles, or 1 hr 30 mins of walking at my pace).

Given that I’m not taking ballet class regularly at the moment (during the year it was too expensive to take more than one class a week, when I was used to it being free, and now that the academic year is over the classes have stopped), I’ve been trying to work 10,000 steps into my daily routine.

Let me tell you: it’s been great. Continue reading