Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's been So Long, but no Farewell

No, my dear readers, I have not forgotten about you.  My life has just been spinning out of control crazy fast this semester, and even my free time is full because there is so little of it!  I rarely have time to gather my thoughts into anything long enough to constitute a blog post because all of my mental capacities are focused on my schoolwork.  This is as it should be, I suppose, but this blog has been on my mind lately and I wanted to write to let you know that I am alive and well.  So here is what's been going on with me:
I've been playing catch-up since Christmas break, really, because the week before I left for Pittsburgh I got really sick and missed class for the first time since coming here to New York.  I had been to class sick before many times, but this was the kind of sick where you can't leave your sickbed.  I will spare you the details, but I will say that I was surprised and pleased to recover in only two days and return to classes despite some lingering weakness.  Over break I spent many hours in the kitchen, cooking our traditional Polish dishes for Christmas dinner during the day (hand-made peroguies, twice-baked potatoes, my great-grandma's cheesecake, etc) and then cooking dinner for the family in the afternoon/evening.  I joked with my mom that I was apprenticing her to learn the trade.  It's hard work, let me tell ya.  I mean, my schoolwork at AMDA keeps me busy 24/7, and I truly strive to give it my all, but my mother's life as a stay-at-home mother of six children (only two teenagers still at home now, but still!) and primary organizer of our family's Christmas/New Years holidays is even more demanding and fast-paced!  By the time Christmas rolled around I needed a few days of just doing nothing before welcoming some extended family for our New Years party and returning to AMDA for class on January 2nd. 
I tried my best to stay active during my time off, working out every other day without fail and keeping my sleep schedule as regular as possible, but in those few days after Christmas I was so exhausted and there was so much good food around that I quite got out of the good habits I had established earlier in the semester, the effects of which, I am sorry to say, I am still feeling to this day, almost a month later. 
Additionally, it was particularly difficult for me, the third of six children, to go from a home full of love and laughter and noise and 12+ people to my single dorm room in a big, impersonal city.  For the first time since moving here, really, I realize that occasional phone calls are not even close to enough personal contact.  But that is part of the price I pay to be here, pursuing my dearest dream.  My time for family and togetherness will come, I am sure, but for now it is simply an oasis, far away in Pittsburgh, for me to visit once in a while. 
Isn't it terrible how easy it is to lose focus, even for a few days, and how far-flung the effects of that slip can be?  Today starts the last week of classes of my second semester here, after which we start our final demos, and I must say that I cannot wait for it to be over.  This semester has brought a startling number of break-throughs, triumphs, and growth spurts in many areas, but they have all been hard-won, sometimes painfully so.  And there have been a fair number of failures, as well.  All told, I think I can honestly say that this semester was the most difficult thing I have ever been through.  And I spent a month doing manual labor in Africa. 
Is all or any of this worth it?  Well, I'm a little to close to the difficulty of it all to smile and say "Of course!  I just love it here!"  But I have a feeling that I will look back on this semester and say "That's when I learned what it took to stick it out no matter what." Oh yes, I'm staying.  There's no doubt in my mind about that.  As I used to say in Africa when the going got tough, "I'd rather be here and suffering than comfortable anywhere else."  And that's the truth.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Oh Mylanta, it has been a while!  I've had so many ideas for blogs in the past couple of months, but simply no time to sit and compose them!  My life as a student here at AMDA has become busy to the exclusion of almost everything else.  It is as though the fat has been trimmed from my lifestyle, so to speak, and I am now a lean, mean, musical theater machine.  Or at least I am well on my way to becoming one.  I was so exhausted and overworked during the first four weeks of the semester that I couldn't think of anything but flopping into bed at night when I finally got home, but I have thankfully adjusted to the fast pace, and this is becoming a new version of normal for me.  I even finally have a moment to sit down and write this blog post.
Because it has been so long, I think I'll continue with a few half-baked ideas that would have become full posts if I had had the time, so you can get an idea of what's been on my mind during my absence from the blogosphere. 

Item 1: Rest and Relaxation
The crucial turning point at the four-week mark this semester came out of a monumental shift in attitude.  Up until then, I had the idea that I am entitled to a certain amount of free time every week, and if I didn't get it I would be upset about how busy my life was and take free time for myself in a variety of ways such as procrastinating or all-out not doing my homework.  I was justified, I thought, for taking the free time I needed to keep my peace of mind.  It certainly didn't help that I didn't give a rat's ass about the grand majority of work that I did in college. 
Now, however, there is nothing I don't care about that I can cut from the agenda when the going gets rough, so I had no choice but to do it all, which did indeed make me very unhappy for several weeks until this breakthrough:  I am not entitled to any free time.  Of course I need rest and relaxation just as much as every other human being, but psychologically I cannot be always looking forward to and living for the next period of rest, be it an evening with my favorite TV shows, a night out on the town, or a weekend off for Thanksgiving.  There may be no breaks one week and loads of them the next, but I need to be able to keep going without pouting about how little free time I have.

Item 2: New Mass Translations
As my Catholic readers know, this past Sunday began the use of the third edition of the Roman Missal, with translations closer to the original Latin.  I know that there have been mixed reactions to this, but I am super super pumped!  I am all for the beautifying of the language surrounding the Eucharist, the most beautiful thing in the whole world!  And I love the idea of returning even closer to the roots of the Mass, the original Latin, which saints prayed for centuries.

Is coming!!!!!!!!  There are less than three weeks left!  AH!  Thanksgiving, as usual, has been only a teasing, tantalizing taste of the family, food, and fun that is to come... and I am excruciatingly excited about it all!  And meanwhile I get to revel in Christmastime in New York City. Who could ask for anything more?

Ok, there are more things, but I really have to get going.  I have songs and dances to rehearse for midterms this week and next!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I've Got That Feeling...

So, almost done with my first semester here.  There have been ups, there have been downs, there have been triumphs and there have been failures.  But it has all led to this... I will be a second semester student in a matter of days, which may seem like an obvious progression, but in this accelerated 4-semester program, finishing a semester is like finishing a whole year of normal college.  Supposedly.
So, what do I have to say about AMDA now that I've been through the first bit of it?  I still hesitate to sing its praises too loudly since the work will keep getting harder, but I seriously am having trouble finding fault with the program.  Sure, it's not for everyone, and it's very unforgiving.  There's not really a middle ground here; you're either getting good grades with perfect attendance or you're flirting with dropping out.  We are expected to give 110% all the time, no matter what, because that is what our employers will expect of us in our ideal work situation, namely, 8 shows a week for years on end.  But I think that's a good thing.  Better to learn it now than out in the real world.
Here's what I've learned as far as keeping up with the challenges presented:  you have got to find something that refreshes and rejuvenates you, something that can calm you down or help you blow off steam.  Keep yourself rested, hydrated, and well-fed.  I've said all of these things before.  They're still true.  And I probably would have gone insane without them. 
Honestly what wears on me the most is the constant scrutiny.  We enter the school each day to be placed under a microscope in all of our classes.  That which is most personal and most dear to us - the way we sing, the way we speak, even the way we move! - is constantly open to harsh criticism.  It's certainly not easy to live like that day in and day out.  But I think it's so worth it.
If we are open to receiving those criticisms, whether we agree with them or not, we are open to improvement on a vast scale, a scale on which most people fail to make even a blip.  And that's exciting!  Watching myself and my classmates grow over the course of this semester, getting to know our strengths and weaknesses as a group and as individuals, and watching us improve in every respect is truly one of the more rewarding experiences I have been privileged to experience.  I greatly look forward to continuing our studies next semester, intensive as they may be.  Difficulties and all, I love this school and its curriculum so far; it is exactly what I wanted from a school when I started looking to transfer not even a year ago.  The teachers are all extremely knowledgeable and professional, and they truly want us to be, and push us to be, the best we can possibly be.  I truly believe that if I throw myself into my work here, I will be setting myself up for blazing success upon graduation.  And you just cannot beat that feeling.  That I-am-going-to-conquer-the-world-and-AMDA-is-going-to-help-me feeling. ;)