Friday, October 22, 2010

12 Reasons to Smile

1. It's the middle of October, and still 80 degrees in Nashville!  I'm soaking it in, and trying not to think about the Moscow winter ahead of me.

2. I've recently rediscovered Fido, the best coffee shop in Nashville.
I tend to go through phases...for a few months I might spend several days a week studying at nearby coffee shops, until my wallet is empty and I become too familiar with the space.  Then I need a change of scenery in order to stay focused on my work.  I haven't had one of these coffee joint jamborees in about 8 months, and I have a job that can support my chai latte addiction (for now), so when I popped into Fido for a meeting a few weeks ago I knew I was about to get hooked again.

3. Vanderbilt's Library has books.  Enough said.  When I gleefully relayed this discovery to my thesis advisor this morning, he said, "Yeah, they have more than a title pasted on the building - it's a novel concept, coming from Belmont."  Now you know how much I love Belmont, but our library really isn't much to speak of. Since I've started researching for my thesis, I've checked out a grand total of one relevant book from the Belmont library.

4. I have a job. This alone is reason enough to smile right now, as a lot of people are struggling to find work.  But I'm smiling a lot, because this is a job I really enjoy - a place where I feel appreciated and where my colleagues respect my experience and perspective - a place where I know that the effort I put out ultimately counts for something.  I leave my tutoring sessions knowing that I'm making a difference in a young person's life; how's that for job satisfaction?

5. Of course I work really hard and seek out new experiences that will further my academic and career development, but lately exciting new opportunities just seem to fall into my lap.  I was talking with one of my favourite business professors the other day, and she was telling me about how busy she's been, putting together lesson plans for the substitutes who'll teach her courses while she's in Turkey with some MBA students for a week. I was curious about who was substituting for her, since Belmont doesn't employ graduate student teaching assistants -- our courses have on average 18 students and thus are small enough for one professor to handle.  This professor said she was going to have some grad level economics majors lead her econ classes, and then there were some undergrad students who would help with her international business courses.  "Wow, what a neat experience," I said. "That would be such a great way to help evaluate whether you'd like to pursue a teaching career." I've thought about teaching at the university level before -- although I wouldn't want to do it until I'd had considerable career experience, and even then, I think I'd only want to lecture part-time. My professor said, "Oh! I didn't know you were interested in teaching.  I'd love to have you come teach one of my courses. Why don't you stop by to look at my syllabus tomorrow, and you can pick a day you'd like to lecture."
WHAT? Really???  I feel like the experience of preparing a lesson plan and giving a lecture is such an unexpected and valuable opportunity right now -- the chance to be mentored by a well-loved and highly respected professor in the area of teaching is huge. Even if I decide that teaching isn't for me, this will surely improve my speaking and presentation skills. I'm so honored that she would even consider me for this opportunity.

6. Fall Break provided some much-needed down time.  I went into it with a list of about 62 assignments (papers, projects, reading, outlines, presentations, the works) that I wanted to complete by the end of the four days. My rationale was that I would finish all this semesters' coursework for every class, and then, presumably, I would have the next six weeks to relax. But I soon saw the flaw in my approach, and proceeded to spend the long weekend sleeping, working out, sipping chai lattes, curled up with quality reading material, and watching movies.  Now I'm back to work and feeling more energized and enthusiastic about my work than ever!

7. The International Business Society Fundraiser was a lot of fun, and profitable!  I was elected president of Belmont's International Business Society this year, so I have a unique opportunity to lead the group in this capacity and plan some events.  We bring some really neat speakers to campus every semester, host an international film series, work with international students on campus, sponsor events, and this spring we're even headed to a national competition.  Every fall we do a Food Around the World fundraiser, where local ethnic restaurants donate some of their specialities, we pick them up and bring them to Belmont, and we sell $5 tickets to an all-you-can-eat international buffet lunch.  This was our 3rd year for the fundraiser, and it's been a huge hit every year.  Unfortunately I was allergic to every single dish donated this year, so I might have cried while serving up delicious baklava that I couldn't even taste. Still, we met our yearly fundraising goal, so overall it was a success!


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From Chihuly's Venetian collection.
 8. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is one of my new favourite places in Nashville. Earlier this semester my Modern World class met there to review a visiting exhibition on loan from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The exhibit was called The Golden Age of Couture: Paris & London 1947-1957. You can explore a lot of the collection online at their beautiful website.  I felt like I was in a dream, browsing the original creations of the design houses of Chanel, Christian Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Balmain, John Cavanagh. My second visit to the Frist was just last week: I had to write up a review on a piece of my choosing from The Birth of Impressionism exhibit.  I was shocked by the complete reconstruction of the same space that had, just weeks before, held The Golden Age of Couture exhibit.  This time I went alone; it was near closing time on the opening night of the exhibition. For once I accepted the audio guide and let myself be swept away into the artistic movements of the 19th century.  I listened through the entire audio programme and spent over an hour browsing the 100 pieces in the collection.  I inspected works by my favourite painter, Renoir, hovering just six inches away from his original brushstrokes. And yet the excitement had only just begun. With just twenty minutes til closing, I dashed upstairs to see a much-talked-about collection of Dale Chihuly's glass work.  I'm so glad I did.  It was absolutely incredible -- the colours, the shapes, the movement and life injected into his sculptures took my breath away.  Tonight I'm headed down to a botanical garden right outside Nashville for "Chihuly Nights," a glow-in-the-dark adventure into the beautiful world of his masterpieces.
This is one of my favourite Chihuly creations. One of the ladies guarding the exhibit told me that all the glass tubes are fitted onto rods emanating from a central wooden post.  There is no map for how to put it together -- each time is different. Chihuly's only request is that "he likes to have the green tubes mostly on one side, and the blue ones mostly on the other." 

9. My thesis is moving ahead full-speed. I've done little besides research in the past 48 hours, and after a three-hour meeting with my thesis advisors this morning, I'm more confident than ever in the foundation and rationale of my research.  It's a little scary, because, as my committee chair pointed out this morning, I'm coming to the place where I'm more familiar with the literature surrounding my specific variables than my advisors are. So it's really up to me to "steer the boat" now.  Now that I've (figuratively) carved my name into one of the corner desks in Vandy's stacks, I enjoy retreating to that quiet place where, among a pile of books, the research comes alive for me. Big smile on this one :)

10. The college women's community group I lead is full of truly amazing women who, over the past ten weeks, have become like sisters to me. We meet every Wednesday night for fellowship and fun, support, relaxation and rejuvenation, and maybe a little dose of silliness. A lot of the girls are relatively new to Nashville, so, not being too "plugged in" yet, we've had a lot of time to plan get-togethers, dinners, movie nights, etc. I've so enjoyed socially and emotionally connecting with these girls on a regular basis, as it seems like I'm always buried in textbooks and often miss out on that social part of the typical college experience. I know I'm technically the "leader," but I feel like I learn more from them than I could possibly teach!


11. My twenty-first birthday is less than a month away! Five years after first gaining la liberté de boire while living in Belgium...I've finally been deemed responsible enough to handle a little alcohol here. Looking forward to having a glass of wine with dinner every now and then, or maybe some hot sake with my sushi :)

12. Since my high school graduation was rather unorthodox, I never got senior pictures done. My mom and I have talked about having them done a few times since then, but just never made it happen. Now, as a senior in college, I think it's finally time. Senior pictures are one of those things you look back on later in life and represent an era, an benchmark, an achievement. One of my good friends, Bennett, who also happens to be the boyfriend of a great girl friend of mine, is a very talented photographer and budding entrepreneur.  His successful niche-marketing strategy has made Bennett Photography the unofficial (but official by popular demand) source for headshots among Belmont's musical theatre and commercial voice/commercial music majors. See a bit of his portfolio by clicking here to visit his website. I'm so excited for my upcoming photo shoot with him!

So there you have it...12 reasons to smile.

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