All Nighter

I never pulled an all nighter in college. I was one of those annoying students who finished papers and take home exams days before they were due. I can remember two late nights. One was on an essay for my Working Girls class. Not that kind of working girl mind you, the class took a look at the portrayal of women and work through the 19th and 20th centuries. I’d not done well on my first paper for that class so I did what I often did in cases like this, blew the second paper into major dramatic proportions. I needed to nail it; it needed to be the best paper this professor had ever read. I had gone to the library to start work on it in the early evening but I got into a groove and just kept working and writing and suddenly it was 2AM and I was still in the attic of the library. Not a big deal really but it happened to be I lived quite a walk from library at the time so the walk was perhaps not something I should have been doing. The other time was actually before the last one though I remember it less vividly. I’d been getting no where on a paper. I didn’t know what I was trying to say in it or where I wanted to take it. I was frustrated and annoyed. So, I did the only thing I could think of; scrapped it. All four pages of useless pratter I’d managed to write and started over. At 11PM. My poor roommate. However, once I didn’t have to worry about what I’d said before, I was able to make headway and once I started making headway, I didn’t want to stop for fear I’d run into a roadblock if I walked away. So I got about half the paper done before I was confident I knew where I wanted the rest of the paper to go. All this to lead up to a story about Walt Disney World. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Heading into MK at 11PM

I missed the first 24 Hour event in the Parks. I was in Florida at the time but unable to justify taking the day off, driving down and dealing with the crowds. So, I lived vicariously through my Twitter feed and was bummed I missed it. When the Monstrous Summer All-Nighter to promote the upcoming release of Monsters University was announced it just so happened to fall on a weekend I was already planning on visiting. So I talked my sister and her newly minted fiance into going when I got to Orlando after driving down from Tallahassee at 9PM. To start with, I think our timing was off. We managed to arrive just as Wishes! was going off which meant the pakring lot at MK was still full as the first mass exodus from the park had not occurred. Instead, we were parked at Epcot and left to work our way to MK. The line for the monorail was mammoth so we opted for a bus to the Contemporary and then a walk to MK. It’s funny to see the park packed to the gills at 11PM which is about the time we finally made it in the gates. They had already run out of buttons and t-shirts so no souvenir merchandise for me which saved me money. We did make it for the second showing of Memories. Because of the lighter crowds in the Hub, we were able to get closer than usual and really enjoy the detail of the show.

Full Moon over Cinderella Castle

We then booked it out of there to avoid getting caught by the 1AM showing of the Main Street Electrical Parade. However, the park packed. The wait for Big Thunder Mountain was more than we were willing to wait (it would have put us on the ride at about 2AM) so we hit up Haunted Mansion and The Little Mermaid. The full moon lit the park in both a cool and eerie way. I was thinking it was a good Kingdom Keepers vibe. After Mermaid, we decided the other lines were longer than we wanted to commit to (I’d had coffee before coming so I was wide awake, my sister and her fiance however were fading fast) so we headed for our last stop – ice cream. At 2AM. No better time! The Eye Scream Sundae, special for the event, was delicious. I went for the Mint Chocolate version complete with a white chocolate Mike circa University disc. Just as we finished eating, the dance party in front of the Castle was getting started. A DJ was setting up to keep people awake and moving as they entered the home stretch. We danced out way down Main Street and started the long trek back to our car at Epcot. Taking the monorail in that time of night was fun though – seeing Epcot getting spruced up for guests the next day.

All in all, I am glad I went and experienced one of the 24 hour events though I don’t know that I’d need to attend another one. A fun novelty definitely but not something I need to do again.

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Thanks to all my Teachers

Recently, an article made me think about the many teachers I’ve had over the years. Now, I mean literal teachers – I’ll return to the metaphorical ones at another time. The article asked writers to talk about an important lesson a teacher had taught them somewhere along the way. As many were science writers, there was a good mix of science and english teachers full of wisdom about revising your work, not being afraid to experiment and to remember to harness what you love to be happy in your life work.

So, me being me, I tried to remember moments like this. I was one of those Students. A person who realized early on that she was good at school and little else. That my natural propensity to read everything I can get my hands on and to be able to remember it made school a walk in the park. Memorize a bunch of facts and spit them back out again? I could do that in my sleep. And did for many years. I had teachers who’d challenge me every once in a while – a hard read in advanced reading group would keep me occupied for a few days, my first research paper would make me nervous and send me into research realms I didn’t really touch again until college but honestly? School was a walk in the park until 9th grade.

A pair of teachers all of the sudden decided myself and fellow honors students had been living the easy life long enough. 9th grade Global History class was unlike anything we’d encountered – our textbook was college level and our teacher treated us like college students. Gone were the nicely organized notes and easy to follow questions where we could cite a sentence from the text and be done with it. Our teacher expected us to know the text enough to fill in the blanks of her haphazard key words scrawled across the overhead – we were there to understand history, not simply repeat a lot of dates. We learned Taoist exercises and wrote essays about surviving stranded in the Amazon rain forest – in short, we learned to apply history, not simply memorize it. It was revolutionary.

Down the hall, we met an English teacher who wasn’t going to give us a bunch of easy-to-answer questions simply proving we’d done the reading. This is when I really fell in love with the study of English literature – the idea that how I responded to a piece of writing was just as important as understanding the symbolism of the same short story. I wrote my first college worthy essay in this class, wrote my first actually decent piece of fiction and also learned that I liked the unconventional for school projects (I picked the one Greek deity who didn’t have a myth for a class project that year and adored her – I still see Hestia as the Archivist of Olympus). These two classes combined taught me a valuable lesson – I hadn’t liked school because I was interested in it, I had liked school because I was good at it, because it was easy. 9th grade taught me I could love school when it challenged me (I’m weird that way).

However, I learned how to play that game pretty quickly too and I also learned that as long as I did well on paper, my teachers seemed pretty happy with me. Being a shy person by nature, I only spoke up in class when I needed to and avoid presentations at all costs (barring French class of course – Madame requires her very own blog post someday). I would write a 10 page paper before I would willing open my mouth in class and most teachers let me get away with it. So, let’s fast forward to second semester of freshman year of college for the next pair of teachers that changed me.

I’d pretty much coasted through first semester without too much worry, had carried a 4.0 average without a single late night. Thankfully, I received another one of those double whammy wake-ups calls to make sure I got the most out of college. My Critical Methods professor was tough and opinionated. I was in the class with a lot of English majors in their sophomore and junior years who’d already used a lot of critical theory in class. Our prof was fine with freshmen taking the class but we had to pull our weight. I tried to impress in my first paper and ended up with my first bad grade of college. I’d understood the theory OK but hadn’t applied it well to my literature choices at all. So for my second paper I used my favorite theory, Readers Response and fell back on The Little Prince, arguably a children’s book. To this day, that remains one of my all time favorite essays of college – I needed to remember that understanding a theory didn’t mean I had to complicate it more.

However, the hardest, and scariest moment was yet to come. I was taking a Survey of Medieval and Renaissance Lit that semester with a bunch of juniors so I was afraid to open my mouth. Not that I would have on my own either but they were kind of intimidating. However, after our first quiz, the professor called me up after class. “You scored one of the highest on the quiz, why don’t you talk in class?” I remember stammering out something lame and shrugging my shoulders. Not good enough my prof said, either start talking or I’ll fail you. Now, failure is a major issue with me; my college admissions essay had been about my fear of failure. So, you can imagine, I was terrified. So, I started talking about anything and everything. Even the silliest observation I’d made about a poem I’d put out there and something amazing happened, others agreed with me or argued with me but no one laughed at me or flat out said I was wrong. That survey class became one of my most rewarding experiences of my undergrad degree and also finally got me over the fear of talking in class. My classroom experiences became so much more relevant, rewarding, and fun after I learned that lesson and its one that serves me well in meetings today.

So thanks to the teachers who challenged me to be more than I was – you taught me to write well, speak up, realize a mistake isn’t the end of the world and defend my opinions.