2.24.2010

i should listen to myself more often.

Congratulations. You did it. You are now one-quarter of the way through the second semester of your senior year in college.

Take a minute to let that statement sink in. Four years ago, did you ever think this day would come? Now that it's finally here, how do you feel? Are you upset, or are you relieved? Are you excited, or are you nervous? Are you counting down the hours and minutes between now and the moment you'll walk across the stage? Or are you in denial, hoping that one of these mornings you'll wake up back in the warm days of August and September, when the end was only just beginning?

This isn't a dream. This is the real thing. Every second turns into another minute, every minute turns into another hour, every hour turns into another day closer to May 15, 2010. It's coming, whether we want it to or not. Are you ready?

Of course you're ready. We're all ready. We wouldn't have made it this far if we weren't. All those hours spent in class, every exam and every paper, all that time spent in office hours or at club meetings or at practices, even those weekend nights full of less-than-great decisions, all of it was meant to prepare us for this.

We're approaching an emormous crossroads. There are an infinite number of paths lying before us. We can choose to follow any one of them, each one with its own infinite number of forks and branches ahead.

Which one will you choose?

You have the education. You have the training and the experience. You have the tools you need to arrive safely at your destination, wherever that may be. No doubt there will be some bumps in the road, some minor and some huge, and you'll certainly have to take a few detours along the way. Those unexpected turns, however, are the intricate and exceptional details that complete a life story.

So listen to yourself, follow your heart, trust your instincts, and pick the path you feel drawn to, knowing that you have what it takes to make it past whatever obstacles lie ahead. Don't doubt your abilities; if you made it this far alive and intact, you can certainly keep going. Nothing is ever set in stone. You have the rest of your life ahead of you--there's plenty of time in there to experience the unknown, make mistakes, learn from them, and change directions.

In the end, wherever you end up is exactly where you're supposed to be.




Best of luck on whichever path you choose :)
-Jenn G.



2.11.2010

"we're running out of opportunities to do this,"

she says from her place on the wood-and-fabric two-seater. "Seriously though, how cool would it be if we could get together and do this again next year? Here's the thing, though--we can't EVER do this again after THIS year. We won't be together anymore."

It's snowing. The college closed at 3 PM. The four of us are all wearing our oversized Living the Hound Life t-shirts over black spandex leggings. One is drinking Wachusett Blueberry, one is drinking Bud Light, one is drinking white wine and one is drinking Smirnoff in some kind of fruit juice. The only thing missing is the fifth roommate; the overachieving real-life example of what all of humanity should be like, who graduated early so she could volunteer at an orphanage in Peru. Show-off.

We have ten weekends left, including this one. Only ten weekends left before the real world swallows us up. Ten weekends left to be completely immature and completely grown up at the same time.

And so here we are on a Wednesday afternoon, watching a combination of TLC and trashy MTV shows in our beautiful matching outfits, anxiously awaiting the 4 pm cocktail hour we have planned--featuring prosciutto quiche and the aformentioned classy beverages of choice.

We're a unique group of girls, to say the least, and we've come a long way since we showed up here one summer day in late August 2006.

We still have a long way to go.

And we still have ten weekends left to build up our bank account of college memories.

But the time when Wednesday afternoon snowstorm cocktail hours will no longer be relevant to our lives is fast approaching.



So when Nicki comes out of her room at 3:57 PM when I'm taking a break from a history paper and asks me why there isn't a Wachusett Blueberry in my hand in preparation for the cocktail hour, instead of calling upon my better judgement and using the unexpected time off to do work, I quickly oblige.


Turns out, I was calling upon my better judgement. If every Wednesday afternoon between now and May could have a cocktail hour built somewhere into it, this semester would be perfect.


2.07.2010

writing, singing, a driver's license, and baking.

Those are the four tools God gave me to diffuse my emotions.

The writing is a tough one because there aren't enough hours in the day; this blog spends more time gathering dust in a remote corner of cyberspace than it does being used for its original purpose. I won't sing by myself if I think someone is watching, and a cappella rehearsals only happen twice a week. As for driving, gas is expensive, and there are only so many times I can drive up and down Routes 1, 9, 109 and 95 before they get so repetitive that they stress me out.


When God caught wind of these problems more than two years ago, back when I was still thinking He didn't really give a crap about what went on down here, He took one look at the awkward, quiet, brown-haired mess of life in the glasses and said to himself,

"This kid is in big trouble."

So He stopped by the HR office one day and began sifting through files and folders, looking for a job application submitted by Jennifer A. Gallant who prefers to be called Jenn, and when He finally found it, He wrote a note at the top:

"INDICATED FRONT END--BAKERY POSSIBLE?"

And while it wasn't nearly the same as baking homemade cookies or mixing buttercream frosting from scratch, it worked.




I always tell people my dream career is pediatric NP by day, baker extraordinaire by night/weekends/holidays. I love to find recipes, try them out, modify them here and there until I come up with something uniquely mine that looks almost as sweet as it tastes. For me, baking is a de-stressor that can rival even the strongest alcoholic drink. It gives me the chance to silently reflect without having to be still, to actively create something delicious while sorting out this tangled ridiculous mess called LIFE. The way the elements of a recipe come together and fall perfectly into place parallels the way I think through and pick apart whatever problems I have while waiting for an oven to pre-heat or for dough to rise. It calms and quiets me so I can clearly hear God's voice during times when I need Him to talk to me the most. I think maybe that's what he had in mind for me when He gave me baking.



While I was cluelessly dancing around the apartment last night, He knew the Black Eyed Peas were lying to me every single time they said it was gonna be a good night.


So it came as no surprise that while I was driving down 290 W to 395 S this morning, my spirit crushed and my eyes tired and bloodshot, He was already in Webster waiting for me, this time in the form of a baking rack full of uniced 7-inch rounds and stripcakes.

"Thought you might want to talk," He said.

I stood there for a minute and looked Him over a few times while N'Sync serenaded the customers and associates from overhead.

I was angry. I was upset. I was angry because I was upset, so I took a chocolate cake off the rack and placed it on the cake stand, then slammed a spatula-full of white frosting onto it.


"I don't want to talk to You yet because I don't even know where to start," I said as I spun the cake on the stand. "So if You don't mind, I'd like to keep my unpleasant feelings between myself and this cake for the moment while I figure some stuff out. Sound good to You?"


As the cake became fully engulfed in frosting, I replayed everything in my head--every word, every expression, every action. I ran a comb along the side as I silently screamed obscenities. With each rosette, I wondered where I went wrong, and with each sprinkle, I wondered what I had missed. I began singing along to the music above me while I focused on the cake in front of me, piping all of my sadness into its borders. I drowned out everything but the cake, the music, and my fired-up thoughts. The irony was that the customers and my co-workers thought I was in a chipper mood as I sang along with John Mayer and Celine Dion and Rod Stewart.


What was really happening was that I was caught in my own world of sugary bitterness, in denial that I would at some point have to stop berating myself and start accepting that what happened happened.


Eventually God grew impatient with me and began calling me back, interrupting the music and obnoxiously yelling "BAKERY, TAKE A PHONE CALL ON LINE ONE PLEASE. BAKERY, LINE ONE."
"Nice try," I said sarcastically as I finished topping my rosettes with lemon drops while someone else picked up the phone.
"ATTENTION PLEASE SHAW'S CUSTOMERS AND ASSOCIATES, IF THERE IS A CATHERINE SMITH IN THE STORE, PLEASE COME TO THE FRONT OF AISLE 5, YOUR DAUGHTER IS WAITING FOR YOU."
"PRODUCE CALL ONE-TWELVE FOR CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE PLEASE. PRODUCE, ONE ONE TWO FOR CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE."
"CARLOS TO RECIEVING FOR A DELIVERY, CARLOS TO RECIEVING."
"BECKY, CALL ON LINE TWO."
"ROB TO THE FRONT END PLEASE. ROB, FRONT END."


Annoying. Immature. COMPLETELY unnecessary.


"Fine." I was gritting my teeth, seething on the inside but still humming to the music on the outside. "Here is my question: WHY?!" I asked as I grabbed another cake off the rack.

"Because everything happens for a reason," He answered.




Could there be a more cliche answer? Probably not, but He was right. He always is.




For four hours and eight trays of cakes, we picked it apart. I asked Him questions, He gave me answers. I cried on His shoulder, He consoled me. I told Him everything really, really sucks sometimes and He said not everything, but definitely some things, and the suckiest things are usually the ones with the best lesson attached.


What was my lesson here? There wasn't just one. I learned that it's okay to open up and let someone else see what's really inside me, hidden below the awkward quietness and the glasses. I learned not to settle for something that isn't what I deserve, that there's a lot better out there if I keep my eyes open. I learned that people are actually not going to dislike me for wanting to be friendly (wierd?) and I learned that God shows up everywhere, not just in a baking rack, but also in the actions of the people I'm close to, the people I see every day. I also learned, again, that everything happens for a reason.



I'm still working on figuring out exactly what the reasoning was behind this, but I know it's there.



As I started piping the border onto my last lemon stripcake, I took a deep breath.

"So, what do I do now?" I asked Him.

"Simple. You keep doing everything you've been doing," He replied. "I wouldn't put you through something if I thought you couldn't deal with it; you should know that by now. Have faith that it will all come together when it's supposed to, the way it's supposed to."



With that, I covered the rack and wheeled it into the cooler.

"Just remember this above everything else," He said before I closed the door. "There was always a friend there. That didn't change. That will never change."




I suppose I will be baking quite a few cookies this week.