Periodically, when faced with an overflowing to-do list for a variety of projects I tell myself that I’m in Finals Period. You know, like in college. I find this helpful, I guess, because it gives me a way of framing a workload that otherwise would just be crushing and provoke the kind of existential questions like “do I work to live or live to work or live to werq or werq to work?” and “what if I just stopped doing everything and opened a small greeting card store in one of those adorable towns from a Lifetime movie?” and “is fame a prison?” And to be honest I never took Philosophy in college so I do not know the answer to any of those questions.
I’m not really sure why I use Finals as my way of motivating my adult self to complete all the tasks that I need to complete in a short amount of time. It has been a coon’s age since I was in school and—I think we’re safely far enough away from my college years for me to admit this—when I was in school, I was very not good at Finals. Despite the fact that every college semester followed the exact same pattern and despite the fact that everything that was going to happen in a given semester was listed on a syllabus, Finals always rose up like a terrible surprise at the end of the term. I’d be like “Finals?! In this economy? I’m afraid I can’t make it. Send my regards!”
Had I done the reading? Perhaps! Did I know the material? Depends on what you mean by “know” and “material”. In many classes, particularly in the sciences, I would take copious notes on the random asides the professors would make and precious few notes on the actual subject. I can still tell you all about astronomer Tycho Brahe’s sister Sophia, whose astronomical discoveries are often overlooked by history, but I cannot tell you for certain what a “star” is or if “space” exists. I took Astronomy—I am still mad about this—because I wanted to hear interesting stories about astronomers with old-timey telescopes and weird theories about the turtle that lives under the Earth. They gave me so little of that and so much “knowing physics” and it’s, honestly, the greatest outrage of my life. They wanted me to do calculations on the Astronomy Final. I didn’t come to college to do math about the moon! The moon doesn’t even exist!
So… sometimes Finals Period was a bit of a trainwreck. But other times it actually turned out well. I remember in the spring of my freshman year, my friend Rajib and I were studying for Finals together and it was deathly hot in both of our dorms, particularly his, so we opted to sit in the student center for a while and then moved outside to a gazebo in the middle of a courtyard. There’s something about spring in New York City that makes it seem like everything is possible and everything is beginning and those unseasonably warm days, even now, make you feel a little bit more alive and a little freer. And I felt all of that in the gazebo where we sat reading and talking intermittently. Rajib was a much better student than I (he did math about the moon very well) and so all my chaotic self-destructive desires to procrastinate were chastened in the face of my friend who was actually reading and taking notes and such. Like a normal person.
That night I was reading 100 Years of Solitude for the first time because I had a paper due on it the next morning. This is not a good way to live your life, I understand, but it is the way I chose to live my life because I am literarily chaotic. Or, at least, I was. The plan was to read enough of the book to get an idea for a paper, write the paper, and go to bed. I was never a SparkNotes person because I really did (and do, obviously) enjoy reading and writing (how ironic would my career be if I didn’t). I wanted to write the paper based on my own thoughts and ideas. I just wanted to do it on my own time, which was “whenever.” I was really busy writing short plays about Sophia Brahe and trying to make Rajib be friends with me, so Gabriel Garcia Marquez had to take a number and wait.
The former tasks accomplished, I decided I should turn my attention to my studies. The thing I hadn’t counted on was loving 100 Years of Solitude. I couldn’t put it down, even as the night stretched into the wee small hours of the morning and Rajib went to bed. I read the whole novel, sitting in that gazebo, like a Bookstagram Influencer on vacation. I was smitten! It remains one of my most treasured reading memories despite the fact that I finally finished at around 6 am, ran inside, dashed off a surely deranged paper that, knowing me, was riddled with typos, and marched into class at 10 am to take the Final. Was this what college was supposed to be? Well, it didn’t seem like what it wasn’t supposed to be. As I recall, I got an A, so while it may seem like I didn’t learned my lesson, I did, at least, learn a lesson.
Nowadays, when I tell myself it’s Finals Period, I actually attack my workload like the college student I never was. No one is more shocked than I that I am now a person who meets deadlines. I read the things I have to read at normal hours! I can’t be sitting up all night on a stone floor with no back support! My sciatica!
I’m in a Finals Period now with a bunch of stuff and my calendar is broken into organized blocks of time where I will do the things I have to do; I will proofread for typos; I will not get distracted by anecdotes about astronomy; and if I stay up all night it’s because the project demands it, not because I’m late as hell. This is, I suppose, a better way of living. But every once in a while, when the air is warm and full of possibility, I think back to the gazebo and my first time reading 100 Years of Solitude with an overflowing to-do list and the rest of my life in front of me.
Hello? Is this Jennifer Love Hewitt on 9-1-1? I just saw a photo of Representative Maxine Waters deconstructing Mark Zuckerberg at a molecular level using only an imperious gaze and, like Peter Parker in Infinity War, I'm not feeling so well. Please send help!
Jane Fonda has pledged to every Friday for the rest of the year, which is a commendable commitment to civic engagement, our planet, and my constant delight. Jane Fonda heard that we missed Summer Fridays and is serving us Civil Disobedience Fridays instead. I checked with my lawyer and it seems I have the right to stan.
Not only is she making good on a commitment to our planet, but she is having a blast doing it. Jane heard Felicity Huffman got let out of jail after 11 days today and was like, "Good, more room for me!"
Today, a bunch of attention-starved GOP congressman crashed a closed impeachment deposition like the cast of Rent descending upon the Life Café after Maureen's show, except in this production of Rent everyone is irredeemable and annoying and the American people are the waiter who sings "No, please, no. Not tonight; can't have a scene."
Mitt Romney, (unprompted!) told The Atlantic's McKay Coppins that he uses a secret Twitter account "to keep tabs on the political conversation." "What do they call me, a lurker?" he asked Coppins. Yikes! Then, like the guilty party at the climax of an Encyclopedia Brown book, he proceeded to pull out his iPad and rattle off identifying details of his secret alt. So many details, in fact, that Slate's Ashley Feinberg, the Encyclopedia Brown of online shenanigans, was able to find the alt and published her results yesterday. Romney has been lurking (YIKES, I SAY!) under the handle @qaws9876 (now set to private) and the name he gave his sneaky digital mask? Pierre Delecto.
Pierre Delecto sounds like the name that Kermit gives himself in a Muppet movie when he's going under cover.
The former Secretary of State has taken to delivering pithy retorts to Trump's tweets in recent weeks, apparently having studied hard in the Learning Annex "Resistance Tweeting for Fame and Faves" course but this latest burn is in a class by itself.
The fine folks at GoodReads are doing another giveaway of an advance copy of my book Here for It! What do you have to do? Just click on THIS LINK and then click on the Enter Giveaway button. (I think that’s all; there may be a robot test. Unsure. I can’t enter because what if I win? Or worse, what if I lose?!)
Also! The Library Journal gave the book a starred review! They write: “Alternately hilarious, touching, reflective, and insightful, this memoir will delight readers, who may find themselves reading sections of the book aloud to anyone within earshot.” You can read the rest here, if you want, or read it on a t-shirt that I’m getting printed with these very kind words on it. I will never take the shirt off.
Let’s hang out!
Monday, Nov. 4 - Hosting The Moth StorySlam at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia
Saturday, Nov. 16 - Hosting Freedom: An Evening of LGBTQ Storytelling, a benefit for FreeState Justice (come to this! I planned it! It’s going to be amazing!) at Baltimore Center Stage
Random thing on the internet
I really love the new podcast Office Ladies on which Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey (stars of The Office) do deep-dives into a different episode of the show every week. I didn’t expect to love it. I do. I love it! It’s so good.
The moon doesn’t even exist!