Before & After

We have suffered through an unfairly cold winter – snow, rain, the monotony of endless overcast skies – but after a day like this one, you remember why it’s worth it.

Today was phenomenal. I spent over an hour in the Square soaking up the sunshine and blue sky in a flowery sundress and flip-flops, with no room on either side of me because so many students had the same lazy agenda. If you couldn’t tell from the blue sky, the sudden surplus of empty Coronas in the trash would have given it away, and since nearly last August I broke a sweat just from sitting in the sun. It was glorious, and I’ve got the photos to prove it (including one of me, looking slightly nekkid and big-nosed, and one of my delicious smoothie and the flowers I was seated next to):

Great weather makes everything better. My MA application (both, in fact) may be stuck in academic reference purgatory for the fifth week running, but I wore sandals and sunglasses today so it doesn’t really matter. I essentially have no clue what the next year holds, but this moment is so perfect I don’t really care. Maybe my nonchalance will be my undoing, but as far as I’m considered, at least I’ll go down happy, and can you really ask for more than that?

I’m currently on a Lenten diet, and having indulged in a bit of trifle last night that narrowly elluded my rule list (no cookies, cakes, candy, chocolate, fried food, takeaway, or meat), I’m feeling pretty good about it. Meat is on the list not for ethical reasons, but rather as a personal exercise in both curiosity and control (also, I got  sick off nasty bacon just as Lent started and it pretty effectively put me off the stuff so I figured what the hell? let’s be vegetarian!). So far so good, though I certainly have been consuming more Quorn and yogurt than usual. Yogurt is possibly my favorite food on the planet at the moment. I swear I consumer nearly a quart of the stuff a day.

Bizarrely enough, my Lenten fare has induced a certain amount of nostalgia, for two reasons. In my time at uni, I have never been a particularly great grocery shopper. What I don’t eat at work I pick up from either the co-op down the road, the artisan bakery a few doors over, or the chippy across the street. Being a temporary vegetarian and a pseudo-health nut has required a certain amount of planning, however, and planning inevitably means grocery shopping. Wandering the aisles of Sainsburys I couldn’t help remembering when I was younger and, fresh from a day in school, would leap bright-eyed at the opportunity to go grocery shopping with my mom.

When you’re a kid, a grocery store is a beautiful thing, full of fruitsnacks, cookies, and all sorts of lunchables that can be easily snuck into the cart. I would have the greatest time perusing the aisles of Raleys with my mom, helping her pick out dinner and – if I was lucky – grabbing a box-kit for my FAVORITE (and unfairly delicious) Oreo cake dessert. I’d get to chat about my day and my mom would let me pick a treat for my lunches, and she’d ask my opinions on certain foods to see which me and my sisters would like more. My adult self looks back and wishes I’d taken notes on how to actually buy necessities and shop for a full week, but then my nostalgia takes over again and I just wish I was ten.

The other unexpected memory conjured up by my Lent diet revolves around Grape Nuts – possibly THE most underrated breakfast cereal in the world. Besides a marketing campaign nearly entirely based around the crunchiness of the cereal, most people have probably never given it a second thought. I, however, was exposed to the glory of Grape Nuts at a young age.

Throughout my life I’ve been close with both sets of grandparents, but at a young age, I was closest with my maternal grandmother. Her husband, my Grandpa P, was a bit hard of hearing and slightly more involved with watching baseball on the television than taking me and my sisters to Adventureland. This isn’t to say in any way he was less loving – just, shall we say, a little less expressive. Despite this, I have this incredibly vivid memory of sitting with him at the kitchen table at their condo, surrounded by beige and that very particular smell their condo had, watching him eat breakfast. I couldn’t have been very old when I watched him, but I will never forget that he would have Grape Nuts with sliced bananas and that I thought it was the strangest cereal in the world. Little did I know, at age six-ish, that Grape Nuts was God’s cereal-form gift to man and that my Grandpa P was a genius for putting bananas in it. Now, at age twenty-two, I can fully appreciate his wisdom, and I think of him every time I pour a bowlful.

At this point I think it’s fair to note that I wrote the above portion of this post earlier in the day. Now, with some just wonderful fresh news at hand, I’m going to make my “maybe my nonchalance will be my undoing” spiel a little too close to the mark for comfort. Essentially, the UK government has decided to scrap the post-study work visa I was planning on applying for directly after my graduation as of April 2012. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, except for two things: one, I’ve been seriously considering and am now quite sure I’d like to go for my masters next year rather than join the workforce, and two, even if I still wanted the post-study work visa right now, I don’t have the new, nearly £600 fee required upon application. So basically, if I get my MA here, it’s a guaranteed extra year, but then I am quite possibly going to be forced to leave the UK after I graduate if I’m unable to find a professional sponsor to hire me. Or I can ditch the idea of getting my masters (which upsets me at this point, because I’ve decided I really want one) and just join the workforce (after coming up with £600, that is).

When I found all of this out a few hours ago, I couldn’t help but think of the notebook in my bag, the above blog post sitting freshly written and blithely naive regarding my entire future, which has now been slightly shot to shambles. I sat down twenty minutes ago to type it up and wasn’t sure if I should even bother; a black mood and pajamas have replaced the cheer and sundress of this afternoon, so it did seem a bit inappropriate. I have, however, decided to take it all with a salty grain of karma – maybe I saw this coming, and before it all set in, fortuitously had a moment of clarity in which I could say: fuck the system, the world is beautiful, I am not going to let my problems get to me. And frankly, I think that’s a fantastic idea to run with.

1 Response to “Before & After”

  1. 1 Maggie Joan March 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    WHAT!!!! I’m pretty convinced that the UK doesn’t want ANYONE in their country except British people, EU residents, and australians. Legitimately, they make it absolutely impossible for anyone else to stay there- even students. That’s so stupid. I’m sorry 😦

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photo cred to myself and Maggie J. Moxie

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