Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year in Review: 2016

2016 was an eventful year, with a lot of personal highs and a lot of international lows.


Winter Quarter 2016 was probably the hardest quarter I've had, academically, in my college career. But I think I handled it a lot better than Winter Quarter 2015. I was taking German 3, mechanics of materials, writing, and a host of smaller things: an engineering project class, beginning BIM, and a unit of research. I was also head of construction for my project team and wow did that take a lot of time, as well as participating in a sustainability club (not too time consuming, though).

The biggest aspect of that quarter for me was my emotional growth. I had a lot of good and meaningful conversations with people, about race and gender and class and future anxiety and even religion/spirituality. I learned more about what it takes to be a good friend, which is more than just caring. I was really stressed and tired all the time but there were some bright spots.


Over Spring Break I finished writing Übermädchen, which clocked in at exactly 500 pages in the Word document.


Spring saw me arrive in Berlin. Academically, it was an easy quarter. I took intermediate German, German theater, materials science, and a field trip class. My German language skills increased a lot, in great part thanks to my lovely and delightful host parents. Berlin secured its place in my heart as my favorite city. I miss it a lot and very often, in large part because being there, international issues became much more prominent in my daily life. I cannot claim to be particularly wise or worldly but being in Germany for six months did help me (begin to) break out of my US-centric mindset.

I traveled a lot. Within Germany, I only went to Hamburg and Essen (in the industrial Ruhrgebiet). Internationally, I went to Hungary with the entire study abroad program, to Stockholm and Uppsala in Sweden to visit Lieutenant Sarcasm, and to Paris, France with some other friends who were studying abroad. Mostly, I explored Berlin.


Over the summer I worked in Hamburg as an architecture intern. My sister and mom came to Germany and we visited Köln and Heidelberg together; they traveled through the south of Germany and into Austria during my first week of work.

My job was enjoyable, although sometimes repetitive. I really, really liked living independently, even though it could get a little lonely. My flatmates were friendly and vegan, so I cooked vegetarian for myself all summer.

I traveled even more in the summer than I had in the spring: to Lübeck, to Salzburg, to Sankt-Peter-Ording (for my twentieth birthday), to Rome, back to Berlin, to Skåne and Copenhagen. And back to Berlin for one last weekend, wrapping up loose ends and saying goodbye to Berlin and to Europe. I enjoyed going to each individual place, have already written a monster of a post about why Roma meant the world to me, enjoyed too the freedom, the peculiar delight of being on my way, of being someplace new, of having a budget and a map and navigating someplace new in the language of the place (except for the Sweden/Denmark weekend, where I let my Swedish friend do the talking).

In my life I hope to be able to go back to Europe at some point, and probably with friends or family. I am sure I will enjoy it. But I feel extremely lucky to have been able to go alone to so many places while young and unfettered.*

*I'm planning to think through this bit about travel and education more thoroughly in a separate post.


Then I came back. Autumn 2016 was probably...okay, looking back on it, maybe this was the most challenging quarter ever? I took four CEE classes: geotech, fluid mechanics, structural analysis, and steel design (+ a seminar about smart cities, but that was one unit). The workload was intense and through a combination of factors I found myself withdrawing a lot more from my friends. I spent a lot of time with my competition team and they're moving into actual friend territory, though.

I also spent a lot of time inhabiting a professional mask, one in which I have to pretend not to be such an introvert and also to be a cis woman. It was uncomfortable as hell, will continue to be as uncomfortable as hell, but I think I can live with it. Or I'm repressing my dysphoria the way I did all throughout middle and high school; who knows?

For the first time ever, I have a job for the summer lined up before the end of winter quarter--heck, before the beginning of winter quarter. Thank goodness for avoiding the horrible job anxiety of years past. Maybe this professional mask is working.


But what happened in the world?

The two political events that stand out the most for me are Brexit and the US election. Brexit happened when I was in Germany and Germans were not happy. The election happened once I'd gotten back and...I am not happy. Most people I know are not happy. Many people I know are in fact terrified about what Trump's election means for them and the people they love.

Other events: the Pulse shooting. The Oakland fire. Syrian rebels being massacred in Aleppo by Assad's forces. Various terror attacks throughout Europe, as well as in other places where mainstream news makes less of a fuss. Merkel's crumbling popularity as right-wing nationalists use the refugee crisis as an excuse for their fascism. Standing Rock and the fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Police violence, police murders of innocent black Americans. The evil and good of Stanford swimmers: the Brock Turner case vs. Simone Manuel winning four medals at the Rio Olympics and making history. Oh, right--the Olympics. The UEFA championships. On November 8th, the electoral college system picked Donald Trump, but the US popular vote picked Hillary Clinton and California picked Kamala Harris. Solar and wind are becoming ever cheaper. Good news is hard to remember.


Creation: I finished writing Ubermadchen. Graz and Vienna and epilogue. I took a few months to write a short story about Marilla and some ghosts by the seaside. Since then, I've gotten a few thousand words down in various stories, but I'm starting to own up to the fact that my idea of blithely churning out short stories in a variety of styles is probably not going to work, because what gets me about writing is characters and all the characters who mean something to me live in worlds that I have to research, are involved in plots I have to think through. Trying to write without doing research, worldbuilding, or plotting is just not working for me.

I wrote a respectable quantity of poetry, but the quality is lacking.


Best posts:
Real World Issues

  • Väter und Söhne - original book by Ivan Turgenev, script prepared for the Deutsches Theater by Brian Friel
  • Tschick - Wolfgang Herrndorf
  • Die Weiße Rose - Inge Scholl
  • Ever Since Darwin - Stephen Jay Gould
  • Stand Still Stay Silent - Minna Sundberg (cheating because this is a running webcomic, but there is a book)
  • A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn (cheating because I'm not actually done yet)

*I'm going to write a post reviewing films I've seen recently, more on these there.

  • Blue Neighborhood trilogy - Troye Sivan
  • Oft Gefragt - AnnenMayKantereit
  • Ai se eu te pego - Michel Telo
  • Regenbogen - Wincent Weiss
  • Wir sind groß - Mark Forster (UEFA song!)
  • I Found - Amber Run
  • Bailar - Deorro ft. Elvis Crespo
  • Unsteady - The X Ambassadors
  • I Want to Change the World - Jetta
  • Monster - Starset
  • Rocketfuel - Thomston
  • How Far I'll Go - Auli'i Cravalho

After a Christmas lunch which was...bad, I stayed up late for my much-needed strategy summit with myself. That clarified my way forward. I'm still going all in on civil engineering, but I'm also going to get my advisor's input on grad school and my post-undergrad plans in general. I need to have more conversations with my friends, particularly the ones I didn't see much of last quarter, about real topics. I need to write stories that provide hope and happiness in the face of trying times--and this will be one of my selection criteria when I evaluate what story I am going to write next, because with a Trump presidency on the horizon, we're all going to need to find happiness and hope somewhere else.

No comments:

Post a Comment