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Jess G

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Everything posted by Jess G

  1. Jess G

    Creativity in History

    I always find myself described by the creativity you can find in unexpected places. I have two words for you: Public. History. No, not the kind of history you just barely tolerated in high school, or the Harry Potter brand of history wherein the professor literally falls asleep during his own lectures. For those who aren't familiar, public history refers to things like museums, national historic parks, battlefields, historic houses, even some types of historical fiction (Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels is a rather well-known novel that gets a lot of people interested in the American Civil War). Public history is communication. Communication is creative. Sometimes it's obvious--places like Colonial Williamsburg (if you've never been, WELL worth the price of admission) do a thing called first-person interpretation. Guy dresses up in an eighteenth-century suit, introduces himself as Thomas Jefferson, and with only a little bit of suspension of disbelief it really does feel like you're talking to the man himself, successes and mistakes and all. Sometimes it's more subtle. I recently started working at a museum about prisoners of war. How do you make people care? Not by talking about American POWs in the Revolution, and then the War of 1812, and then the Mexican-American War, and then the Civil War, and so forth. You usher folks into a room with a few dozen rifles trained on the center and have them listen to real interviews with former POWs about the stressful and frightening experience of capture. Then you talk about living conditions. Rights, and their violations. When or if one might expect to return home. Show them a Red Cross box and ask what they would want to find inside. You focus less on the Civil War-era tin can and more on what it might have been like to dig a well with one because the internment camp's only water source is polluted, and you have no other tools. The effect is disarming. It doesn't let you look away. It makes people a little bit uncomfortable. But that's what makes them remember. And that, as I see it, is basically what history is--remembering to care about things that happened in the past because they matter. Because real human beings suffered and made others to suffer, which for better or for worse influences our world today. Public history is how we communicate that to people who don't spend an inordinate amount of time reading dead men's diaries. If you have a historical museum or preserved site near you, I encourage you to visit. Take a guided tour. You might be surprised at what you find. What other seemingly ordinary or dull things have you all found creativity in?
  2. Jess G

    Creativity in History

    Ack! Surprised, not described. Thanks for reading my little ramble!
  3. This question is for any of y'all who do any kind of live performing arts. Do you enjoy it? Wish you didn't have to do it? Bit of both? How does it affect your relationship with your art (and, for that matter, with your own self-care)? I'm a violinist I play the violin I study the violin with my college Symphony Orchestra. I'm not a music major or minor, and am nowhere near the same caliber of our conservatory-level musicians, but we're in something of a dry spell and need violinists' bodies in chairs, so they keep me around. It's a lot of fun--I love going to rehearsals, hanging out with other musically inclined peeps, and playing cool music. Still, I hate pretty much everything about actually being on stage, from the hollow sound it makes underfoot to the bright (hot, so very hot) lights to the audience that I can feel but not see because of said lights. When I get nervous, the first thing I notice is tension. Usually in my knees, then my hands. Sometimes each finger will go numb above the second joint. Then my hands start to sweat. Even if you don't play a stringed instrument, you can probably see why this would be a problem. If I concentrate, I can get some of the tension to go away... but the more attention I'm paying to the over-tight tendon in my left hand, the less I'm paying to the repertoire. I kind of see performance as the price of admission for being in the orchestra. I get to spend my time with this cool group of ridiculously talented musicians, and in exchange I have to grit my teeth and spend 2 or 3 hours per semester in front of an audience. I realize this probably isn't the healthiest way to look at it. But as much as I love music and sharing what we've been working so hard on with others, I would be seriously fine with rehearsing for a full semester and having no concert at all. What makes it all extra special and strange is that I don't get the same thing with horse shows--at least not in the same way. Best guess: when working with horses, the worst case scenario remains the same whether you're practicing or competing (you could get into an accident, risking serious injury or death). Without that element of physical danger that you have to accept before starting even the most informal practice, music is a bit less clear. Worst case scenario in rehearsal: you get frustrated, maybe a little embarrassed. In performance: ??? Public shame? Failing an audition? People you care about are in the audience? Call it performance anxiety, stage fright, or something else, it doesn't happen for lack of talking about it. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a seminar about harnessing that high-energy alertness to achieve a "flow state" or "get in the zone". Did you know Chopin hated big concert halls and sometimes refused to play piano outside a parlor setting? Itzhak Perlman has said that even he gets nervous on stage! So misery (and, apparently, performance anxiety) loves company, but you and I are neither Chopin nor Perlman. So I thought I'd ask how y'all feel about live performance, musical or otherwise. Love it? Hate it? What do you do when the stress sets in, and disengaging long enough to calm down isn't an option? Hope everybody has a good weekend!
  4. Jess G

    Feeling Conflicted

    Thanks for your thoughtful response and kind words. For the record, I did feel tons better today. In retrospect I think it's something not unlike the rage you can get from being "hangry", but instead of resenting whatever meeting, class, or accident of logistics that is separating me from much-needed calories, I could only direct that frustration at the fact that my draft didn't exist yet and by extension myself for not having done it. It helps to be able to remind myself that this is A Thing(TM) that human brains do. I would be more surprised if my brain wasn't unhappy with me for subjecting it to stress and sleep deprivation.
  5. Jess G

    Feeling Conflicted

    The main question here is, how does the way you think about self-care change (if at all) when you feel like you've fallen off the wagon? Long winded version: I'm going to level with you guys here--I didn't do a great job with self-care this week. For a number of reasons, I had a pretty rough week and didn't get ahead on work like I had planned... and realized too late that I needed to draft a research paper by Friday afternoon. Nothing for it but to work through Thursday night. It's something we're culturally told (in the US, anyway) is something that college students do. We know it's not a good thing to do. Sleep is important. Health is important--ostensibly mores than grades in college. But an 18-22 year old in reasonably good health can recover more quickly from a night of lost sleep than a late assignment. So here we are. I'll admit I'm feeling odd and conflicted about my all-nighter. I haven't done that before. I don't know exactly what I expected, but I thought I'd share a few observations: It was easier than I'd thought to stay awake. A bit of coffee, a 2 AM shower, and two 90-minute naps got me through. I thought that would be the hard part, but it wasn't. I got hungry. I suppose it makes sense, being active much longer than usual, but I hadn't expected that. Lucky I had some healthy food in my room so the urge to stuff myself with the nearest junk food wasn't a problem. Controlling your environment really does help. I live in a single room, so I was able to keep the lights on and pace as necessary without disturbing anyone. Napped in my clothes so I wouldn't mentally transition to "night mode". It went fairly well until about 4 AM. That was when I really started hitting the wall, and as my body wore out, my mind also became less disciplined: there was less coherent thought about folk music of the Cold War and more "you're never going to finish this. Why are you doing this? This was a bad idea. You don't belong here. This isn't going to work. You need sleep. You can't write like this..." It was very, very hard to get out of that rabbit hole. By midmorning today, I felt... better? I was more or less fully functional today, which was unexpected. I'm slowing down now, just waiting for something that resembles my normal quittin' time so I can get back on a schedule. Helps that I got to ride a horse this afternoon. Don't know if it was the moderate exercise or the animals themselves, but I felt sooooo much better after the ride. So I guess in the end everything turned out... okay? I finished my draft. It wasn't anything spectacular, will need plenty of revision in the coming weeks. But it was done. Still, I can't shake the feeling that staying up like that was a mistake. I didn't like the person I was at 4 AM. The exhaustion dredged up pretty much every fear and doubt I had in the back of my head and wouldn't go away. So long story short, I accomplished my goal, but I compromised... something... doing it. Not sure what yet. Plan for the weekend: equalize. Reestablish routine. Maybe get ahead, because I don't want to do this again. I'm no stranger to little sleep, but this felt different. Curious to know any of your thoughts, if this is something y'all have dealt with before.
  6. Jess G

    Green Grass (Focused.af Discussion)

    First of all, that drawing is amazing. I'm definitely in the "work things through rather than starting from scratch" camp. Starting over seems like it would be easier, because the early stages generally tend to be. With a blank slate, you have so many options open, so if one doesn't work it doesn't feel like a big deal. But as a project takes shape, your options for progress narrow. It gets harder because you have a better idea of what you want Your Thing to be, and you feel compelled to work through issues rather than find an easier solution. That's a good thing. It means your project is starting to exist. Whenever I feel like scrapping something, I remind myself that the same issues will crop up with the new project. It's just a part of making something--something I can be proud of, anyway. So then it becomes a question of whether I actually like the new idea enough to take the time necessary to start from scratch. Otherwise, stay the course. PS: got distracted five times while writing this just looking at your comic. Looks like you've got a fantastic sense of humor!
  7. Jess G

    Web Development Stuff

    I was reading this topic this afternoon and it reminded me of a computer science problem I had been stuck on (nothing fancy, beginner JavaScript stuff). I got to thinking about a particular bit of code and how only one part of it was broken. One stroke of inspiration and quick jaunt to the computer lab later, and what do you know? The code works. Thanks for the unintentional inspiration!
  8. Jess G

    Self-Care Through Weariness

    So I know the title sounds pretty contradictory--we generally think of self-care as something that decreases fatigue, not as a cause of it. Exhaustion is bad. We're afraid of running out of steam, of burning out. But stay with me here, and let me know if there's something to this or if it's just the tiredness talking. If you haven't gathered, I am tired.af right now. But for one of the best possible reasons. Horseback riding is something that makes me stupidly, unreasonably happy. I started when I was tiny, and have been riding for nearly a decade and a half now. A ride--even a really difficult one--can drag my mood from "depths of stress arghhhhh" to "that just okay joke is comedy gold right now because I'm just so happy" in the space of an hour. This morning, I left my college campus at 4 AM to travel to a competition a state away, stood around in freezing weather until mid-afternoon, rode for 5 minutes, stood around some more, finally made it to a hotel, did some homework, and now await another early morning (followed by another long drive back to school). The way these horse shows work is a lot of people do basically the same thing one after the other, and then the judge decides who did it best. Think of it like dance, but if everyone had to do the same routine. That means the day is very long, repetitive, and difficult to explain to visiting family members. ("No, did you see that rider's leg slip around the turn? That was what confused the horse, so he didn't have a very good jump. ...I know he didn't knock it over, he didn't have to, it's about form and posture and stuff....") All of this might sound like a rough day--and it is! It's a very demanding operation, and it carries the risk that tiny, tiny mistakes can knock you out of the ribbons--we're talking one foot moves one inch in a direction it's not supposed to go, and you've ruined the round kind of mistakes. It's tiring, sometimes it's frustrating. I'm soooo tired... but with the same floaty, unspoilable good mood that I always get from working with horses. It's a good tired. It's a fulfilling tired. I suppose it helps that I did well in my class today, but I've found that the feeling is still there even if I don't. I still spent the day hanging out with my teammates, in an environment saturated with the thing we all love. Maybe there's something to that. Tired is good, as long as there is a reason for it. Rest is important, but even more satisfying when it feels earned. You have to want the tired. With that, I have to be awake again soon, for another day at the shows (and tons of responsibility when I get back to campus). So good night, and let's make exhaustion afraid of us.
  9. Jess G

    Hi, Call Me Jess!

    Hello there! I've been floating around the edges of the SCS community for a few months now, so I guess I'm overdue for a proper introduction. I'm currently a college student (history is my jam). When I'm not holed up studying, I'm probably playing the violin or stealing time out at the barn with the equestrian team. Ask me about ponies! I love a good story--books, film, and more recently audio drama (thanks, Wolf!). I'm in the process of moving away from "mental health via brute force". I say from experience: yes, you can actually convince yourself that you aren't tired/angry/stressed right now through sheer force of will; no, it's not a very good idea to do so. Looking forward to getting to know you folks better!