Ode To Babies

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Before I get carried away writing this, I need to establish that I am not a baby person. Being near babies freaks me out. If baby anxiety is a real thing, then I definitely have it. If I hold or touch a baby, it will immediately start fussing or crying – I call myself the anti-baby whisperer – and it terrifies me. I don’t want to have any kids, but I feel like if I did have a baby, I would go into anxiety overload because I wouldn’t be able to give it what it wants or make it like me. Some people are great with babies; then there are people like me.

Around 10 months ago, a baby came into my life. It’s a more intimate relationship than most of the baby situations I know of, which are limited to my aunt and uncle having two babies in the past five and a half years and all the teen moms I stalk on Facebook. No, this baby and I shared a father – that’s right, I am 20 years old and have a 10-month-old half-sister.

Our relationship was pretty stunted for many months, because the majority of time I am away at school, and she is two hours away at my dad’s house. I don’t think I existed in her memory for the first six months of my life, because, well, I wasn’t there for it. What’s a weekend-long visit home to someone who hasn’t even developed a long-term memory yet? So for a really long time, our relationship kind of went like this: I thought she was cool because she is smart, but I hated it (key word: panicked) whenever she cried or became upset around me because there was absolutely nothing I could do about it except tell someone she liked a problem was going on; she didn’t really know who I was, and if I held her or something she got scared.
Note: I will say that she liked me shortly after she was born. This might have been because I tried to communicate with her by imitating her facial expressions.
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But then something wonderful happened: winter break. I had three and a half weeks off from school, and that meant I actually had time to bond with the baby. Almost every morning (um, okay, afternoon) after I woke up, I would just go to her room and hang out with her. Mostly I watched, because that’s what I’m best at  when it comes to babies. Watching her try and learn to walk and grasp the pronunciation of many syllables made me think of how difficult being a baby actually is.

If you ever get the opportunity, I recommend observing the interactions between babies and animals

If you ever get the opportunity, I recommend observing the interactions between babies and animals

Think about it. I will admit that when my half-sister was born, I was extremely envious of her because she got to sleep all day long and I didn’t. She didn’t have to worry about school for a few years. All she had to do was chill at home and play with toys and enjoy having such a short attention span.
But I was wrong. You know what babies spend the majority of their time doing? Trying to be just like you and me. This whole time, I have been envious of someone who dreams of accomplishing tasks I find fairly simple, like speaking, writing, and eating without having someone force a spoon down my throat.

Don't mind me, I'm just being a genius

Don’t mind me, I’m just being a genius

Babies just want to be people – they are incredibly aware of what separates themselves from the rest of us, and they are constantly trying to change it. Babies are always babbling not to amuse us, but to communicate with us. I think they know most of what they’re saying is complete gibberish, but they’re probably telling themselves that after so many mistakes, real words will start to come out. It’s fascinating. It’s science and psychology and – yes, I’m going to say it – Paradise Lost and Songs of Innocence and Experience in real life. Babies have the luxury of being completely innocent, but they cast it aside for knowledge because they want to be like the older people they aspire to be like one day.

Babies are driven little geniuses that should not be taken lightly. 

But the best part is that she doesn't mind my camera

But the best part is that she doesn’t mind my camera

My Top 10 Literary Influences

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I promised I’d make things up to you, and I think this list might just do the trick. Also I have a terrible habit of coming up with great things to write about right before something (or in this case, lots of things) is (or in this case, are) due.
But I am a huge literature nerd, so I think this is appropriate. I rave about books all the time anyway, so I think I should share the pieces of literature that influenced me the most.


10. The Inferno, by Dante Alighieri

I skimmed through The Inferno in high school (I was a senior. Can you blame me?), but put in a much greater effort when it was assigned in my super-hard-and-intimidating-mythology-class-that-a-valedictorian-from-my-high-school-was-in. It paid off. If I hadn’t thoroughly read The Inferno, I might have not decided to emphasize my English major in radical religious literature.

This book also influenced me because Dante had nerve. Even though his majorly unrequited crush on Beatrice was unrequited and kind of creepy, Dante was gutsy as hell (ha!), and I really admire that. It takes a lot to criticize your own religion.

9. The Natural Order of Things, by Antonio Lobo Antunes

If you know me in real life and have ever heard me rave about Portugal, this book is why (this book is Portuguese). I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with Portugal, and I’m really hoping to go there in the near future.

This book isn’t exactly famous (at least not here), so I guess I should explain it a little. From what I remember, the story spans over several decades and has about eight narrators. It’s also one of the only postmodern books I actually like.

You should read this book – I’m not very fond of the ending, but this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Top five, definitely. It’s brilliant. Look at it, at least.

8. Ulysses, by James Joyce

This book was… an experience. I hate it and love it at the same time – it’s brilliant, but it’s just not fun to read. If you know me, then you’ve probably suffered at least 10 doses of my complaining about it. I once had a teacher who said Ulysses is a book that nobody should have to read for the first time. Now I can say that I agree with him on the whole concept of losing my Ulysses virginity. But it would be wrong of me to say it isn’t incredible. I’ll read it again later in life. I don’t think I was developed enough this go around. Joyce put an incredible amount of thought into Ulysses – nearly every word is an allusion. I hope I can have a pinch’s worth of that talent one day.

7. Cathedral, by Raymond Carver
This isn’t my absolute favorite Carver story – “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” has that spot – it was a close race, though), but it is the very first one I read. There are some works that just strike you and have so much power. For me, Cathedral is one of those pieces. Carver’s realism is just so good – if I didn’t enjoy it so much, I wouldn’t have purchased a complete anthology of his work which happens to be over 1,000 pages. Yeah… I kind of have a long way to go with that one. But I love his work! I actually tried to be Carveresque with the last short story I wrote, and it actually happens to be my best. Thanks for inspiring me, Ray.

6. The Oven Bird, by Robert Frost

I have a huge fascination with the Fall. *See numbers 5, 2, and 1 for further explanation* But this poem actually influenced me in another way too. On the day I toured UGA, I sat in on an English class that happened to be taught by my current poetry teacher (I did this on purpose). Want to take a stab at the poem we learned about that day? Yes, that’s right, The Oven Bird. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but that poem is part of the reason why I took the Milton class and most of the reason I am in the poetry class I’m taking. Robert and Susan shaped my life, guys.

And that is why I am going to be my poetry teacher when I grow up.

5. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

When I was 16, I went to Iran to the first, and as of now, only time. I found this book on my mother’s shelf and brought it to read on the plane. I had read and loved Steinbeck before (The Grapes of Wrath actually almost made this list), so I thought it would be a good choice. I was actually thrilled to find this, even though it’s a giant book. I ended up depending on this book while I was on vacation because I was parched for contact with the English language. I read it feverishly.
And oh, how I loved this book. It got me into the Fall before I even realized it!

It’s kind of funny how my taste in literature has worked out.

4. Howl, by Allen Ginsberg

I can’t think of a writer more irate and pissed than Ginsberg was, and I love him for it. Now obviously, I love this poem. I’ve seen the movie, and I’m a little obsessed with it. I listen to Ginsberg on Spotify. I have a book of essays on the poem, for god’s sake. I would have written a huge essay on Howl, but we didn’t even cover it this semester. I’m actually really upset about it. I hope that one day when I’m really pissed, I’ll remember to think like Ginsberg and just spin a beautiful web of poetry out of my anger.

3. It’s Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini

I was in a pretty dark place when I stumbled upon this book – and the cover art is what caught my attention, so that’s why I hate the phrase “never judge a book by it’s cover.” Covers are meant to attract readers! That’s how it works!
You probably think I’m lame since there’s a movie of this book, and it’s pretty cheesy. Well I read this book years before news of a movie reached me (I’m so goddamn indie, I know).
The reason I like It’s Kind of a Funny Story so much is because I relate to Craig so much – not just because of depression, but also because of the crazy expectations he puts on himself and his masochistic thought process. And once I realized that Craig could become better, I decided that I could overcome my mental instability too.

2. Paradise Lost, by John Milton

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that Milton is my homeboy. A semester ago, all I blogged about was this poem. I have a fish named Lycidas. I’m referencing Paradise Lost in a paper that’s due next Tuesday.
But I really do love Paradise Lost. Once you read it, everything changes. I can see a Miltonian interpretation of almost everything I read because of it. Ulysses, Portrait of the Artist, the huge amount of poems I’ve had to read this semester, you name it. Oh, and Paradise Lost solidified my decision to emphasize in religious literature, so there’s that too. And it’s beautiful. Don’t forget that.

My nerd is coming out. Sorry, guys.


1. His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman

These books, guys. Yes, my top choice is a trilogy. I can explain.
Three years ago, when I was taking adolescent literature at Harvard nerd camp, I had no idea how much these books were going to shape me. I came to these books much later than I should have – by this I mean “I saw the Golden Compass movie months before I ever read the book.” And I didn’t think the film was that great, because I don’t think anybody did, but I really loved the story. I’d still watch the movie today even though it’s disappointing, out of order, and inaccurate just because I’m such a huge Philip Pullman nerd.
These books have shaped me tremendously. They have made me laugh, fawn, smile, throw The Subtle Knife at a wall, and shed some of my hardest tears. Although I didn’t know it until a few years later, they sparked my interest that turned into my major concentration. In the years since I read them, I’ve made efforts to get other people to read them in the hopes that they would be as struck as I was. I got The Golden Compass on a class curriculum in my very Catholic high school. I lent copies of the trilogy to friends – and sadly, lost a book or two in the process. I took that Milton class just so I could understand the books better. I even read these books and Paradise Lost at the same time. I think it’s safe to say that these books influenced me more than any other pieces of literature.

Praise for Paradise

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To be honest, I signed up for the Milton class I’m taking on a whim. I had originally signed up for English 4000, because it was mandatory at the time, and Poetry, well, because I love it.
Then came the announcement that frustrated the university’s older English majors: English 4000 was no longer a required course for an AB English degree. I was ecstatic: my grade wasn’t going to go down the toilet this semester!
With English 4000 dropped from my class schedule, I glanced through the roster of English classes online. Then I thought, “Hey, why not Milton?” It was still a 4000-level English class, but the number wasn’t really what caught my attention. No, it was my obsession with His Dark Materials. I’m going to have to save my post concerning that said obsession for another time, because if I mention it now, it will overtake this post, which is obviously supposed to be about Milton and the Paradise poems.
On the first day of the semester, I learned that there was an available spot in a photojournalism class I really wanted to take. I’m lazy and get stressed incredibly easily (oh, and I have to limit my course hours so I don’t have to graduate early), so I didn’t want to take five classes this semester. Or any semester, for that matter. I did that my very first semester of college, and I was a little overwhelmed. I would have to drop Poetry or Milton.
I went to the bookstore, because, like the model student I am, I didn’t have my textbooks. Plus I wouldn’t have time to pick up the photojournalism textbook later that day. Obviously, I used this bookstore trip to examine my course loads for the Milton and poetry classes. The poetry class required that I buy nine books; the Milton class only required one. I was taking Milton.
I’m sure I would have adored the poetry class, but I’m really glad with the choice I made. I immediately decided to stay in the class when I walked into the room and saw one of my friends sitting in a desk. That meant I wouldn’t be the only sophomore in a 4000-level English class. We younger English majors who are a year ahead in our classes have to stick together. Will and I make great study partners. We are killing that class. Also we’re making the same scores on everything, which I think is funny. I think everything is funny, though.
There are a number of other reasons I like Milton. Firstly, we have a similar mindset. There is evidence in Milton’s earlier work, which he wrote when he was around my age, that he didn’t feel like he was doing enough with his life and work. Milton was a perfectionist and a worrywart, just like me! His environment was extremely competitive: He was surrounded by scholars and writers, and I think it terrified him a little. He must have put himself under a tremendous amount of pressure. I just liked that we have similar mentalities. It makes me feel a lot better about being in a huge creative slump (which is disappearing, by the way, if you haven’t noticed – I’m writing something every day now!).
I also have this thing for religious literature. I guess it’s because I wasn’t raised with any particular religious background. With an Iranian dad and an American mom, it’s pretty obvious that my parents didn’t have a similar religious background. I did go to Catholic school, but the only religious literature I was really exposed to was a little bit of the New Testament, books in the religion and literature class I took (and everybody in the class got to pick a book, and that’s how I got a Catholic teacher to assign The Golden Compass to his class.). Oh, and the songs I sang in mass for chorus. Aside from the New Testament class I had to take in the 10th grade, my other exposures to religious literature were optional.
I haven’t read much Puritan literature. My AP American Lit class read a few Puritan poems before we had to read The Scarlet Letter when I was in the 11th grade, but that was American Puritan literature (again, that exposure was completely optional since I chose to take the AP English class). Milton was a Puritan, and obviously he wasn’t an American Puritan. And reading an English Puritan’s literature is nice because I can read it without having to discuss the Salem Witch Trials or anything of the sort. It was a nice spin on things. I just really like reading religious literature because I’m free to make an interpretation without anybody telling me how to think or judging me. People don’t know what I’m up to because I’m just reading! Isn’t literature wonderful?

Evidence suggests that Satan was the original troll.

Okay, point number three. I love Paradise Lost. I made Paradise Lost my bitch this semester. Paradise Regain’d can be my little bitch. Or would that be my bottom bitch? I’m not sure. I can’t speak pimp. I’ve assigned myself all this supplementary reading material, like Utopia, His Dark Materials (of course), and the Old Testament, so I can research Paradise Lost and appreciate it even more. Paradise Lost actually helped inspire me to create my own concentration within my English major. Well, reading Dante’s Inferno and Pullman helped with that too.
Paradise Lost is one rich text. Sure, there are the obvious themes of knowledge, obedience, and disguises, but there is so much more. There’s history, sociability, fertility, heroism (well, atypical heroism), teaching, the power of words, and of course, blindness (these are all topics for the essay I have to write during my exam tomorrow, by the way). And there are allusions all over the place. There are geographical allusions, biblical allusions (well, obviously), mythological allusions, even allusions to Milton’s other poems. I read one in Paradise Regain’d today, for example. Milton’s texts are so rich! I’m rolling in literary dough! I just love literature so much!
I’m not so sure if writing about how much I like Paradise Lost helps me study for my exam at all, but at least it makes me eager. I have already planned out my essay, after all (I’m writing about the roles of sociability in Paradise Lost, Paradise Regain’d, and Comus). I’m actually kind of excited to write this essay, because I know I’m going to kill it. Since when do I feel this way about finals? I suppose I did feel this way yesterday.
I have a new theory! Milton’s work is slightly responsible for the route to happiness and stability that I’ve encountered. Yeah, why not? I’m sure I could argue it. At this point, I can argue anything.  And now I really need to end this post and actually do my work, so I’m going to end this as strongly as I can – so I’m going to use the end of Paradise Lost to close this up. Feast on this, lovers of literature.

            The World was all before them, where to choose
            Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
            They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
            Through Eden took thir solitarie way. 

Do I See a Light?

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Despite the fact that I am a somewhat normal human being, I’m not really abhorring finals week this time around.
I don’t know, I actually feel kind of good about my finals. I mean, I got a 90 on my Paradise Lost test. My Milton final should be manageable. I can write, and I write better closer to deadline. I have to turn in 10 pictures for my photo class, and we’re allowed to use pictures we’ve submitted before.
Do you have any idea how awesome this feels? I’m not worrying. I’m eating whatever I want, and it feels awesome (I actually don’t eat that unhealthily when I’m not sticking myself to any sort of regimen, I’ve discovered). I even think I look okay. All of me.
This is crazy stuff, guys! This does not regularly happen to me!
I am making great decisions this week. I might as well get fat now instead of waiting for Austria. Actually, this week can be practice. I can test my stomach’s capacity limits. It’ll be fun! I don’t think eating prosciutto has ever been a mistake for me before, so I’m completely okay. Oh, and I found out about this class that’s going to be offered spring semester that would be perfect for my emphasis (because I’m a huge nerd and wanted to create my own emphasis, radical religious literature): comparative Islamic literature. Doesn’t that sound awesome? The answer is yes!
I’m also going to a party dressed as that fine-ass bitch ballerina ostrich from Fantasia. Let me be honest, I kind of wanted to be her when I was little.
This bitch. Just… wow. I thought she was the greatest character ever when I was a kid. Well, I thought almost every character in Fantasia was the greatest character ever when I was a kid, minus the dinosaur part. It was boring to me.

What else am I feeling good about?
Actually having a little spare time. That’s actually why I’ve been on here so much. I have time to write things! And I’m actually inspired to write about things. That hasn’t happened in a while. Well, I guess a few weeks since I’ve been fantasizing about spending six weeks in Europe this summer so much.
I have time to read too, so I’ve gotten a little more of The Flame Alphabet out of the way (I guess I should be rereading all those Milton poems I had to learn about in the beginning of the semester… Nah). I still like it, by the way.
See how carefree I’m being this week? Shouldn’t I be acting a little differently? I studied for my Milton exam outside at 10:30 tonight. I’m blogging about a cartoon ostrich I idolized about a child when I have a test in a day (and a half, I guess).
I’m feeling great. I’m feeling really great. And I know I’ve picked the oddest time to unfurl my optimism, but hey, at least I’m not pulling my hair out anymore.
It’s nice.

Control-Alt-Delete

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I am a control freak. Every day is a battle between my dictatorial urge to exert complete control over every aspect of my life and my battered, overly stressed psyche. I moderate whatever I can: how much work I do in a certain day, what kinds of food I eat, the amount of food I end up eating, how much money I spend on food, how much time I spend in my room, and when I want to get things done. You should see my day planner – it may be adorable and uplifting on the outside and come with stickers (I know, it looks so harmless here), but on the inside, it’s a sentence for anxiety attacks. I’ve scribbled pages and pages of to-do lists that range from my academic tasks for the week to what I need to buy at the grocery store to certain ways I want to think. They’ve taken multiple forms, too – I’ll draw a calendar next to an obsessive bulleted list to remind myself that my tasks aren’t simply jarred strings of words, but real actions that are chained to deadlines and time. That’s right, I have multiple lists for the same thing. My attempt to become more organized and subsequently think more clearly has only thrown me into an even larger spiral of worrying. My motion to reduce my anxiety has not only backfired, it’s managed to stress me out even more.
Did I mention that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Yeah, that plays a huge part in this.
I’m a worrywart. You probably inferred that from the tone I used earlier in this post. I will worry about anything – I worry about everything, actually: grades, whether I’m marketing myself enough, what I eat, my cholesterol intake, time, my friends, my family, my weight, not getting enough sleep, sleeping too much, my performance, my car’s MPG, you name it. It can take me a matter of seconds to trap myself in a cycle of anxiety, and once I’m in there, it’s very hard to pull myself out. I have to take pills for it – pills that are supposed to mellow me out, which just make me tired all the time, and bipolar pills, because I can’t stabilize myself when I get anxious.
For some reason, I love worrying about things I have absolutely no control over. This category namely includes quarrels within my family (and since it’s divorced and partially Iranian, that happens very often), what other people think of me, and any negative situation my friends get into.
Of course, it’s only logical that I cope with situations I can’t control by taking it out on myself. Here’s where my nature as a control freak comes in. I tell myself that by achieving perfection, I can fix things that I honestly can’t do a thing about. I’ve tried to cope with my school-based stress and ignore the series of intense fights my dad and sister had a few years ago by cutting off a chunk of my food supply. That worked stupendously. Then I’ll bottle everything up and crack weeks or months later. That method helps me out too. Ignoring my anxiety or covering it up with a control-based issue is my go-to method is coping with a stressful or depressing situation.
The thing about my coping mechanisms is that they don’t work. They make things much worse, actually. There’s also the matter that they’re completely inappropriate methods of stress management. Since when has shutting myself away from the world and hiding in my bed helped me get over something? It hasn’t. It hasn’t helped me at all, but for some reason, I am set on doing it every time something troublesome comes my way.
I cannot do this anymore. I can’t! It’s driving me crazier. Even thinking about my anxiety is stressing me out. I have to change. And it’s not just so I can make it past May 7th in one piece – I don’t want this interfering with the rest of my life. I want to be a journalist. I want to travel and write and get paid for it somehow. How am I supposed to get my stories and interview people if I’m afraid of talking on the phone?  I’m afraid that if I can’t tame my anxiety, I’ll be living with my parents or something and not be able to work efficiently. That isn’t exactly my dream.
I have to tackle this on a short-term scale right now because my finals are creeping up on me and I’ve got two projects due within the next week. They’re both for my journalism classes, so that means I’m going to have to talk to people I don’t know and sit at a computer for a long time. I can’t have any distractions, especially not anxiety.
I’ve started by eliminating my sources of stress. It’s proven to be pretty easy so far. With school, it’s getting things out of the way and setting up meetings and interviews for my projects. I don’t have to worry about my Paradise Lost test anymore, so that relieves me a lot, especially because I think I did really well on it. So that’s one issue out of the way. I’ve got some leeway on my projects, and I’m in the process of finalizing setting all my interviews and appointments up. I’ve got one tomorrow, one on Friday… I have to set my other two interviews up, but that shouldn’t be a huge deal, especially because I figured out how to record phone conversations (that one was a bit of a lifesaver.)
Then there’s studying for finals, which I’m actually not too concerned about. But I’ve got all my notes typed up, so I don’t even have to let any senses of impending doom concerning not having studied for my news writing final at all bother me. That’s good.
I’ll get my projects done. I’m typing that again to encourage myself. It’s working, just so you know.
I have to say that the easiest adjustment I’ve made was shutting off all my worries about food. I mean, yeah, food is important. But for these next few weeks, I’m going to try not to worry about what I eat as much. I mean, I’m not scarfing cheeseburgers down for every single meal. And at this point, I really believe that a slice of bacon is healthier than all the stress I’ve endured over the years from fixating on food so much. So for now, all worries concerning food will be shut off, and I’ve made a good start. I drank one of the best iced lattes I’ve ever had today, and I spontaneously took 15 minutes aside yesterday to sit down and have a few scoops of blood orange gelato.
It was definitely worth it.

National Poetry Month Appreciation Post

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I know I’m getting horribly off topic, but April is National Poetry Month and I’ve been geeking out about it hardcore. (It’s my blog, I’ll post what I want!)
I’m lucky because my school is taking National Poetry Month just as seriously (well, probably more) as I am.  UGA has set up lots of poetry readings, book signings, and colloquiums on campus and around Athens for all the literature and poetry nerds in the area. So yeah, I’m pumped. Now I don’t really know how many events I’ll be able to attend since journalism is starting to take over my life (and my news writing professor won’t let me cover speeches on language or literature, which sucks), but I’m really excited about one particular lecture: on Friday there’s going to be a colloquium on The Aeneid. Yes, Vergil’s Aeneid. And I know that I won’t be able to let it count for one of the speeches I have to cover, but um, that’s not important because I know this colloquium is going to be incredible. And it’s going to talk about the role of ships in the poem, which might help me out with my Milton class (Satan is compared to ships a lot in Paradise Lost.) It’ll also help me out because I’m trying to make my own emphasis for my English major (radical religious literature), and I really think knowing a good bit of mythology and mythological epics would help me out. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to this lecture. I know, I’m a huge nerd.

I’ve found a few ways to celebrate outside of school as well. You know, since I’m a nerd. I found a book on Howl yesterday in the UGA bookstore, and maybe somewhat impulsively purchased it. This book was on a table dedicated to National Poetry Month, by the way. Just throwing that out there. I couldn’t not notice it, okay?

I’m a big Ginsberg fan if you can’t tell. I wouldn’t say he’s my absolute favorite poet, because, well, I have problems with choosing favorites. I like Raymond Carver and Elizabeth Bishop. I actually appreciate T.S. Eliot now, thanks to the American lit after 1865 class I took a year ago. And of course I’m fond of Milton, because oh my god he was a genius.
But yeah, Howl is great, so I’m really looking forward to reading this. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it more than those two people on Amazon did.

I’m going to try to watch a few movies based on poems too. There’s a Howl movie, and I like it. I’m trying to think of what comes to mind. I’m not sure if there are many movies on poetry. I guess the Romeo and Juliet from the 90s, which is awesome. I wonder if anybody would go for a poetic movie night. I know I’m not the only giant literature nerd here. (Trust me, I’m friends with others.)

And maybe now that I have my energy back, I’ll actually aim to finish a poem for once. It could work. I’ve got more material to write on now. I might as well try, you know?
Hopefully journalism won’t completely take over my life.
Dual degree problems? Dual degree problems.