Life as an Extreme Sport

beauty in the rising signs

I’m sitting at my desk, a little after 9pm on a Saturday night. The sun has set, the sky is a rich indigo, the trees inky black stains against it. Jupiter is rising, bright twinkling just peaking over the copse of redwoods in the distance. The air is sweet with the richness that comes from being near water and forest, a loamy earth-scent that is warm and familiar, relaxing. I’ll need a sweater, soon – a sweater in summertime, something I haven’t experienced in a long time.

I’m tired. Exhausted. Bone weary and barely moving. I was expecting this, but wasn’t expecting the additional strain on ankles and knees – the only thing that makes sense is having sprained an ankle and not noticing, something that is too easy to do. I spent most of the day napping, reading, stretched out on my bed like a cat in a sunbeam, warm and content.

It’s going to be weird going back to New York from this, from a place that so closely resonates as home. My settling into New York has yet to really happen, roots haven’t set, I could still blow away from there. Not so easily, not without pain and loss – I’ve grown attached to at least a small group of people, and there is one person in particular whose presence alone draws me, an incentive to return. But I realize how fleeting it is, still, and how much I would be served to fall in love with where I live as much as I love where I’ve come from.

I smell of salt and sand and sea, of musky smoke and fire and burning cloth and singed hair. My feet are blistered, my throat hoarse from laughing in all the smoke. And I am utterly exhausted, delighted, happy.

Jacob took a group of us to the beach this evening; we had decent Indian food for dinner, then parked downtown and walked to the Boardwalk. We hung out with the sea lions, broke into small groups to talk, watched people get sneezed on by sea lions (not me, for I move faster than a sea lion sneeze… but oh, poor OCD Emily…), then wandered past the amusement park to another beach to watch the fireworks.

These were not city-sanctioned fireworks. No, these were people spend hundreds, if not thousands, at fireworks stands, and set them off on the beach. And we, through what kind of luck who knows, ended up smack in the middle of the display. The fireworks were bursting overhead close enough to touch, sparks and flame raining down on us, we all carried home small paper parachutes that were part of the sparkling spiral fireworks. We had to watch and sometimes run, paying attention to where they were coming down, if they were too low, what the dangerous drunk people were doing.

It was terrifying. It was exhilarating. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced; the awe, the laughter, the joy in living and being alive.

Eventually the danger outweighed the benefit, and we crept carefully out of a landmine of fireworks and sparklers and flares. Our original plan, to get alcohol, derailed when we walked by a Coldstone. Instead, we sat around small tables sharing ice cream, like we shared dinner, like we shared our laughter, and marveled at how, after only a week, it seemed like we had all known each other for years.

small victories are still victories

I made it through the evening. I selected some readings on the Hippocratic Oath; a student had asked if we could look them over, then I took a nap before dinner. My dean talked to me after dinner a bit – gave me quarters so I could do laundry (not implying I needed to, but an acknowledgment I was unable to get off campus to do it myself), and generally just checked in to see if I was okay. I assured him I had a lesson plan, I had napped, eaten, and things were fine – I was momentarily overwhelmed, but I’m good again. We’re gonna meet tomorrow afternoon, nonetheless. But it will be fine.

And I did make it through the evening. We did a close reading of the Hippocratic Oath, as well as the modern Tufts University version, and spent some time talking about the history of medicine. They were fascinated and appalled by “the cutting of stone”, surgeon barbers, the heavy use of mercury, etc. After the compare and contrasts of the reading, I taught them the four box paradigm of case analysis, and then had them analyze the case that was on their pre-class assessment. It was loud and they talked, a lot – but it was a good thing. I think running through case studies and analysis like this for every topic will be highly beneficial, especially if they become more and more complicated.

I’m not entirely sure what we’re going to do Weds, yet, but it’ll be fine. In the end, it always is.


I’m susceptible to post-teaching blues. There’s such a high when you teach, and feel so in your element and on your game, that the crash can be hard. I’m teaching for seven hours a day right now, in chunks that give me at least one crash, if not two. It’s hard. It’s hard to stay positive and think you’re doing a good job – and it’s even harder when you don’t have a classroom key, you don’t get all your supplies, you’re flying by the seat of your pants because someone screwed up and there weren’t textbooks, and you keep finding out at the last minute that the things you need can’t be had.

I have about two hours to pull a two hour lesson plan out of thin air – that includes making photo copies and eating dinner. My TA has the night off, I didn’t get the movie I needed, and I nearly broke into tears in front of the academic dean – told him it was just everything all at once, and I need a nap. A nap I can’t take because I have to do other things. And there won’t be sleep after class, either – the lack of movie throws my entire schedule and plan off, and I’d better come up with at least 5-10 hours of material before morning class.

On top of all that, I’m missing my support system. The people I normally talk to, who know how to deal with me, who know how to be kind without coddling, or causing tears.

I know this is normal for me, I know it will shake out in another day or two. But right now I just want to throw myself down on my bed and cry. Instead, I’m going to figure out what I can do for tonight’s class. Because, if nothing else, I am a magician, and I always pull it out of my hat – even if it’s the very very very possible last minute.

snapshot into my brain

Scene: Wandering down a hallway on the UCSC campus, partly exploring randomly, partly heading to food. Idly chitchatting with several other instructors and RAs.

Kelly: Yeah, so anyhow, it ought to be interesting and I think it’ll be a lot of fu…
slows down, allowing other people to pass her by
Kelly: A lot of fu…
swivels and stares fully at office in front of her

RA: Kelly? Yo, Kel – everything alright?
others rejoin her

Kelly: I..
gestures at door
That’s Donna Haraway’s program. Her office must be around here. I’m going to need to take a fangirl moment, hang on…