Monthly Archives: June 2011

Last First Day of School

Few things in life are as subtly disappointing as the first day of school.

From elementary school to graduate school, I have always approached the first day of school with the greatest of intentions. The night before school starts I am eager with the hope and promise of new courses, professors and classmates. As I lay in bed I feel comfortable knowing that my backpack is replenished with an arsenal of fresh pens, highlighters and notebooks. There’s an appropriately packed lunch in the fridge and my outfit is next to my bed. I am a maven of preparation, an archetype of organization. At the gentle hour of 9:30 p.m. I slide into an agreeable slumber and wonder why I ever wanted school to end in the first place.

The buzzing of my alarm at an unfamiliar hour the next morning serves as the first reminder. Despite being awake as such an uncomfortable time, I remain confident that I’ll get used to it as the quarter goes on. I delightfully rip the tags off my new clothes, dress up, grab my lunch and float off to my first class.

When I walk into class I begin my initial evaluations. I predict who the classic over talker, know-it-all will be. I identify the silent and questionably dangerous one, the smelly kid (generally the easiest task, for obvious reasons) and, perhaps most importantly, the one who I will wind up wanting to punch in the neck. My ocular radar has a 46% success rate so I sit as far from everyone as possible anyway, just to be safe.

After a couple minutes of awkward small talk and forgettable introductions the professor enters and forces us to tell our life stories for the class. My introduction speech goes a little something like this: “Hello everyone, I am Chelsea Parks. I’m from Baltimore, Maryland…well, not the Baltimore you see in “The Wire”, it’s a suburb of Baltimore, but I just say Baltimore so that people can get an idea of where I’m from. I’m not ghetto and I don’t kill people, I promise. Seriously, I’ve never killed anyone. I also have three dachshunds.”

The class looks at me uncomfortably. Because of my speech impediment about half of what I said was understood, which works on my favor. The professor waves me off nonchalantly and starts combing through the syllabus. As I review the assignments I seriously think to myself, “I’m going to dominate the shit out of this quarter.” I’m going to do my reading ahead of time, hell, I’ll even take notes and organize them alphabetically in a glass container protected by rottweilers. No more all-nighters and coffee binges, nope, not this quarter.

As the weeks pass on and the workload increases, my green hopefulness proves to be ephemeral. Any and all reading assignments are pushed back until they are eventually abandoned. I quickly begin consuming coffee as quickly and as rapidly as a pterodactyl masticating a pile of fresh meat. Lunches goes from well-rounded food pyramid homages to naked pieces of dry wheat bread (which have been separated from their moldy counterparts) and cough drops. The 9:30 p.m. bed time soon becomes dinner time and sleep becomes something enjoyed in sets of four to six hours. Outfits that were once planned ahead and politely ironed soon come from my dirty laundry bin and start to liken themselves to an ensemble a homeless person and/or Mary-Kate Olsen would wear. I slowly and methodically morph into a grosser, bigger asshole than I started out as.

This past Monday was my “last” first day of school (barring I don’t fail any classes this quarter or suddenly pick up the urge to become an occupational therapist in a couple of years) so I was understandably sensitive about promising myself the world. That’s why I decided to do something incredibly difficult for a neurotic, anxiety prone control freak such as myself. I decided that I will approach this quarter one day at a time. I will do all that I can to avoid over analyzing the raison d’être. I’m not going to think past the pack of Big Red I’m eating by the piece or the Ke$ha music video I’m unashamedly watching instead of finishing this post. I’ve spent every quarter at SCAD being worried about the future and things I can’t control and I’ve only ended up a cracked out, generally miserable human being, which is no way for a gal to live.

This quarter I’m going to focus on finding a job, doing work that I’m proud of and finishing that Jumbo Bag of Pretzel M&M’s. Some will happen sooner than others (I’ll be done with those M&M’s in about an hour) but I have to trust that they’ll all happen eventually. If I don’t I have no doubt that I’ll end up like Ichabod Crane: old, alone and unaware of how horrible my top hat looks on me.

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The Perils Of Sleep Eating

I’m alone in my bed in a hotel room. Although, actually, it sounds like I’m not alone. There’s someone else in here; I know this because I can hear them snoring. (I use that term loosely, however, as the sound I hear is more closely akin to that of a congested boar or garbage truck ungraciously emptying dumpsters during adolescent Saturday hours.)

Anyone who has spent time in a hotel room understands their capacity to become impressively dark. This attribute works splendidly for someone looking to sleep until 3 p.m. Unfortunately, it’s utterly useless for someone trying to stealthily locate bedroom perpetuators/congested boars/garbage trucks. I quickly curse blackout curtains, ill-placed light switches and the human race for failing to pick up echolocation somewhere along the evolutionary road. Instinct tells me to grab my cell phone. It also tells me that this will not suffice as a defensive tool, but I bring it anyway, thinking that at the very least I can throw it at the intruder.

As I approach the edge of my bed my mind races. Who could be there? Did a maid sneak in here to take a power nap? Perhaps another patron mistook my room for theirs. I shine the light from my iPhone onto the ground and find none of these sorts of people. Instead, I see something much, much worse. I see George Lopez, “famed” talk show host and generally annoying human being.

Holy shit. I sprang up in my bed in the sort of “what the fuck is going on” bewilderment that comes with being jolted awake by a horrendous nightmare. I flipped the light on and was relieved to discover that George Lopez was not actually on my floor. It was only a dream.

I tried to fall back asleep. Except, of course, I couldn’t. At first I thought it was because of my subconscious encounter with George Lopez. This was understandably unnerving and unsolicited. No, it was something else. It was a sudden insatiable hunger. Fuck. It was happening again, I was going to sleep eat.

Sleep eating, in the most unscientific terms, occurs when one eats in their sleep. Those who sleep eat operate at the same level of consciousness as a sleep walker or one who has quickly consumed six stiff whiskeys. Unfortunately, I have been a sleep eater for years. Many of my past roommates have stood witness to me walking into the kitchen to methodically shove 100 or so cookies into my mouth. Aside from a bad taste in their mouth and scattered crumbs in their beds, sleep eaters have faint recollections of their late-night meals, which is why they must rely on others to fill in the blanks.

I have never had a sleep eating experience outside of my home, so when I woke up in the middle of night in my hotel room craving french fries and other salty delights I was understandably frustrated.  The only food-like objects I could find were Tic-Tacs and a suspicious piece of gum, s0 I grabbed my room key and a couple of dollars and hustled to the nearest vending machine.

At that point I was walking down the hallways of a very crowded hotel in polka dot pajamas and a truly appalling gray T-shirt. I neglected to put on a bra and shoes and failed to brush my hair so I assume I looked a bit like a half-assed crack addict. When I failed to find a vending machine on the first floor I remember thinking, “Go back to sleep, Chelsea. Just go back to sleep. Do not, under any circumstances, try and find a vending machine on the second floor.” Of course, I went to the second floor. And the third, to no avail.

I absolutely was not ready to accept that a full-service hotel didn’t have a vending machine. Surely this was a sick joke. Just as I was about to give up I walked by the front desk and noticed a glorious spread of tasty indulgences. Fooooooooood. I can’t recall with confidence what happened next, all I know is that I woke up the next morning to an empty King-Size Butterfinger wrapper, a bad taste in my mouth and a dusting of sweet, delicious crumbs. Some sort of transaction must have occurred and I’m quite confident it was awkward, which is why I maturely left through the side door as quickly and quietly as I had come. Just another peril of sleep eating.

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