April 1, 2013 by Laura Manzano
All my life I’ve been raised as part of a very Catholic family, in the best possible way. In today’s world, I suppose it’s hard for a lot of people to hear the word “Catholic” and make positive associations. But in retrospect, I can say with confidence that some of the best memories of my childhood came as a result of the faith I was raised around. I went to Catholic elementary and middle schools the years I was not home schooled, and it’s only in coming to college that I have found a community as supportive as the one I had when I was in 5th grade, during those formative years when happy songs about loving Jesus really got stuck in your head forever. In my relatively short life, I have seen my parents to be a prime example of all the good that living a life in a particular faith has to offer. They have raised me and my four siblings, I like to believe, in such a way that promotes the many positive aspects of our religious convictions – teaching us to be honest people, to treat others with the same love and generosity of family, and most importantly, I think, to be mindful and conscious of the world we live in and the people that live in it with us.
I guess it was a combination of those things (and a masochistic penchant for brutal physical activity before the sun rises) that drove my older brother Michael to join the military. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point for the same four years that hundreds of thousands of 18-22 year-old students attended “normal” college, where skipping class is totally a thing we can do, and weekends are spent drinking really bad beer from plastic cups at awkward parties like life was definitely meant to be. Almost a year after his West Point graduation, I was lucky enough to attend his graduation from Ranger School, as it conveniently coincided with this past spring break. Ranger School is one of the hardest there is – my family and I were virtually unable to communicate with my brother for 9 weeks, while he was out doing all those cool army things you see in commercials, just without sleep and food and, you know, toilet paper and stuff. Michael talked to us a lot about his experience – the good, the bad, the enlightening. He told me the second phase, in the mountains of Dahlonega, Georgia, was the hardest thing he’s ever done.
The next morning, on the pull-out sofa bed in the hotel, I had one of those existential life crises that always come at the worst times. I realized that I only really think about the men and women that serve in our military as frequently as I do because my brother is one of them. Because honestly, what reason would I ever have to otherwise? My daily life is almost completely unaffected by the war we’ve been a part of for practically half the time I’ve been alive. I’m not living in World War II era America, where things like sugar was rationed, tires and gas were often unavailable to operate cars, and women even gave up stockings and leggings. (Could you imagine? A life without leggings?!) But that’s what life was then – it was a matter of accepted sacrifice, and it was all accepted in the name of patriotism, for the good of others.
During my weekly 4:00 AM crisis, I often find myself thinking of the super constricting and inclusive bubble I’m in here at “normal” college. The life I’m living right now is for me. Everything I’m studying, every email I’m sending, every move I’m making is for my own personal gain: for my career, for the family I hope to have, for wherever I hope to live, for my future. It’s paralyzing and frustrating, coming to the realization that so many people like my brother make sacrifices and live the unique lives they do because they are living not for themselves, but for others, just as my parents stressed to me throughout my life, by both their teaching and their example.
My perspective on the Catholic faith in which I was raised has changed a bit since coming to college, as perspectives on so many other things tend to do upon entering a new phase in one’s life, filled with new people and new experiences. But I think one aspect of my religious beliefs that has remained the same, if not strengthened by my talks with my brother, is the notion of sacrifice. I made the decision to give up alcohol this lenten season, and it’s definitely been a tough one. Hanging out with the friends on the weekends generally leads to at least one polite refusal and certainly a short explanation. The whole concept behind giving up something for lent is a symbolic gesture – deriving from the forty days and forty nights Jesus spent suffering in the desert, likely without modern comforts like toilet paper and cocktails after a stressful week of tests and papers. I suppose my religious ties to this sacrificial tradition served as my initial catalyst, but if I’m being completely honest, my real motivation comes from people like my brother and people like my parents – people who sacrifice something every day, people who compromise their lives without a second thought. Because in the three years I’ve been in college, I’ve never really had to live that way, even a little bit, and that kind of makes me feel selfish, and that kind of makes me feel angry.
I suppose in giving up alcohol, I’m not really benefiting anyone other than myself. So in reality, maybe this process is actually achieving the opposite of what I had intended to do. But there’s a part of me, after these forty days have come and gone, that still believes that the act of simply “living without” helps to gain yet another new perspective. It has certainly helped me to see past the insular lifestyle I’m a part of now – the world that is greater and bigger than just myself and my classes and my own future. Obviously, it’s no one’s fault in particular – that’s just the way college is. But who’s to say that’s all it has to be? I’m definitely not trying to preach here, or say “hey everyone, you should be more like me,” because goodness, if everyone on this earth were like me, there’d be no way sports could exist, and government leaders would make significant decisions based on how happy or sad they were that day. But in making such a simple sacrifice, a part of me has changed in a way I definitely didn’t expect – the kind of change that I’d argue is just as important to one’s college experience as drinking those bad beers at those awkward parties. Maybe even a little bit more important. But only a little bit.
February 19, 2013 by Laura Manzano
Many are familiar with the crippling, chronic illness known as Senioritis – in which an individual at the senior level in academia endures tremendous bouts of apathy to the most extreme degree. It’s a thing, trust me. I looked it up on Web M.D. But sadly, many more are unfamiliar with a rare and equally crippling strain of Senioritis – it is one that plagues juniors, typically in their second semester, and is, more simply, the fear of becoming a senior.
I finally watched the pilot episode of HBO’s Girls, and I hate the show already. No, that’s not true. Of course I loved it – it’s funny and smart and real and everything all my twenty-something female friends (and obligatory gay male friend) told me it would be. But I want to hate it, because watching Girls is like looking in the mirror. I graduate William & Mary in about 18 months (no, I’m not counting [yes, I obviously am]) and I am already hyperventilating every hour, on the hour. I worry about getting a job that I’ll like, but at the same time one that will allow me to survive on more than tortilla chips and Dr. Pepper. I worry about being able to support myself, wherever the heck I’ll be living. Virginia? Back in Florida in my parents’ basement? (Well, I at least know the latter won’t be true, since Florida is at sea level and doesn’t have basements. AHA!) Mostly, though, more than anything else, I’m worried about making the four years that will have preceded me count for something, and not simply flopping on my face with only an expensive paper diploma to cushion me.
In watching one episode of Girls, a long-repressed thought of mine has been confirmed: I’m scared to graduate. I don’t wanna do it. Hi, my name is Laura Marina Elena Manzano, and I have Type Two Senioritis. For me, the first month of this semester has been so full of rejection and disappointment and setbacks – some of which I’m still getting over, weeks later. Junior year has taught me, more than anything else, that the more you put yourself out there, the greater chance you have of getting hurt. A big part of me can’t shake the fear that here, now, in college, where I’m supposed to be building my resumé and gaining all this experience – if so many of my attempts have been unsuccessful, what’s to say that the infamous “real world” will be any different?
I’ve decided I’m not going to watch Girls anymore, for at least right now, because it makes me think about all those things at four in the morning, when the whole point in watching is to submerge myself in that mindless, animal-cracker-crumbs-on-your-shirt kind of TV-watching experience that you take part in when you’re trying to forget about reality. I sometimes think about what all the people I know who watch the show have in common. I suppose a lot with each other, and a lot with Lena Dunham. Typically female, English/American studies/LCST majors, maybe a tattoo or two or seven, social smokers, coffee drinkers, Woody Allen lovers. Budding Lena Dunhams, essentially. The same principle applies to the question of why my mom is into Parenthood right now. She’s a parent. It’s relatable. (Pure entertainment value will explain why my thirteen-year-old sister watches Cake Boss on Netflix like it’s her summer job.)
Last fall in my film class, we read an essay by Laura Mulvey which said that for a long time, women faced some difficulty identifying with the characters present on screen. The protagonist was almost always male, and the female character was almost always used primarily for visual, sexual appeal. Women watching movies were rendered immobile. They couldn’t relate to the main dude, of course, and Lauren Bacall was just too sexy and mysterious for the average American woman to think, “she’s just like me!” I’m certainly not claiming she’s the first to do so, but Lena Dunham is a great example of recent success in re-energizing that young female demographic which has been slowly defrosting since the days of which Mulvey writes. My collegiate friends watch with an excited intrigue (or in my case – an equal mix of intrigue and terror), as they see themselves in Dunham and her friends in cleverly written 30-minute episodes. For me, Girls is everything I don’t want to watch right now, because it’s also everything I don’t want to confront right now. Granted, I’ve only watched one episode. I had a friend tell me that as the series progresses, you find yourself feeling proud about the quality of your life, because it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, anything is better than doing cocaine in a nightclub bathroom while wearing a mesh tank top. Or something like that.
At William & Mary – or any college, really – it can be hard sometimes to look up. To look outside of the bubble we’re in: of classes and problem sets and tests and essays and readings and internships and resumés, resumés, resumés. It’s natural, I think, or at least has become second nature at this point in our lives, considering the entirety of them thus far has been a series of schools – first pre-school, elementary school, then middle school, then high school, and finally college. Sometimes even grad school. Academia is like climbing a set of stairs. You walk confidently, knowing exactly where your foot will land next until you reach the top, and you’ve exited the bubble, at which point you find that open ground is ahead, and your options are seemingly limitless. It’s the freedom that scares me so much, I believe. It’s that terrifying moment when your professor says, “write a paper on anything we’ve covered so far,” and you sit at your laptop for forty-five minutes, forgetting how to use the joints in your fingers. I’ve never really thought of myself as a particularly structured person, but right now, in the (distant) face of graduation, I realize that structure is what has been holding me together all these years.
I have a very clear memory of when I was in fifth grade, during winter break. I was sitting beneath the Christmas tree, crying to my mom because I was nervous about starting 6th grade – it was a whole different building in my school, the teachers were intimidating and had large mustaches, and changing classes was going to be way too much to handle, for sure. She said to me, very matter of factly, as I’ve always loved my mom to be: “Laura, fifth grade isn’t even over yet. Relax. When you get there, you’ll be ready.” Who’s to say I won’t fall on my face when I get to the top of this proverbial staircase I just made up? I guess the lesson in all of this is that I just have to believe that by the time I finally get there, I’ll be ready. Or something like that.
The Fall of Breaks Began with this One a.k.a Title Laura Thinks of in a Desperate Attempt to Be Clever
October 22, 2012 by Laura Manzano
Because today marks the one week anniversary of Fall Break 2012, I thought no better way to celebrate than to write a commemorative entry highlighting the dramatic ups and downs of my experience. Seeing as I’m from Florida, it is sadly not feasible to spend $300+ on a plane ticket to essentially be home for 2.3 days. So, unfortunately, as much as I miss my dog, my duck, my family, and steady water pressure in the shower, I typically remain here in good ol’ Williamsburg. Also unfortunate was the fact that my sister was away on tour with her a capella group (visiting and performing at prestigious college campuses across the northeast, an experience of which I am not jealous or bitter over whatsoever). But luckily, I consistently have a friend or two that finds themselves in the same situation I am, so we text each other and arrange to be lonely together.
And because I’m confident my impassioned readership is silently begging for details, I have provided you all (assuming there’s more than one person that reads my blog) the day-by-day:
- Woke up around noon-thirty, eased my way over to the Caf to get breakfast (would that still qualify as breakfast?), and cheerfully discovered the pleasant revelation that they closed at 1.
- Went promptly back to my room, Googled the dining hall hours schedule with great voracity, branded it into my memory.
- Laid on the Sunken Garden for several hours with my friend [Chis]Yake, after (customarily) arguing for 45 minutes about what to do that day (stay inside and watch movies vs. be outside and not feel horrible about ourselves for staying inside).
- Watched Dial M for Murder later that night.
- Paused every 10 minutes or so to share with Yake all the thoughts that crossed my mind as they came about (and to also make him explain the confusing parts I missed when I wasn’t paying attention).
- Yake grew increasingly annoyed with me.
- I gave him some pretzels to make him less mad.
- It worked.
- Ate a sweet potato with chili and bacon (choosing a sweet potato over a savory potato [I’m going to start calling them that] was originally an accident, but by the end of it I assure you I felt no regret).
- Later I was thrown a thing-that-you-throw-to-save-someone’s-life-when-they-fall-off-a-boat by my friend Carly, who picked me up and brought me to Target with her, where I bought mascara and she bought ingredients for peach cobbler. (Carly wins.)
- Went back to Carly’s apartment, where I reclined on the couch and texted, which I promise you is an ENTIRELY different and radical experience from reclining and texting in my room.
- Got back to campus, got dinner with Yake, sat duty in Yates, talked to my little brother about his awesome camping trip (an experience of which I am not jealous or bitter over whatsoever), went to bed.
Monday and Tuesday
- These two days are being condensed into one, because I did similar things on both days, and also because I am losing patience with myself.
- I don’t remember what I had for lunch, because all I know is that more friends were slowly trickling back and the elation of not being alone (or alone with Yake) anymore was blinding (plus I doubt you care about what I had for lunch).
- Naps were fit in there somewhere , that much I can guarantee.
- Watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi and The September Issue, two fantastic documentaries I highly recommend (that have put me in a position where I now need to decide if I’m going to be a sushi chef or a magazine editor when I grow up).
- On Monday night, I saw Pitch Perfect at the Movie Tavern with Carly and our friends Blaise and Bryan. The fun part was the movie itself, and also Carly giving me sips of her milkshake.
- I ate dinner both days… I also remember that.
- Finally, on Tuesday night, I sat at my computer and made a list of everything I needed to get done over break, but as you have just read, and as I have recently discovered, did none of it.
- However, similar to my sweet potato debacle, I have no regrets.
October 4, 2012 by Laura Manzano
That I’m dropping my water bottle approximately nineteen times a day
It needs to stop.
That I’m reading Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River” for my American Lit class, in which good ol’ Ernest talks for fifteen pages about a dude camping, making canned spaghetti, some stuff about grasshoppers, and catching trout.
That my MIXED fruit snack pack that I ate last night contained ALL strawberry, save for two peach
Seriously, Target, I want a refund.
That my mom emails me daily with pictures of our pet duck, named Duck, who is steadily approaching adolescence:
I’m just glad I’m not around to have to deal with those raging hormones, amirite?
That Busch Gardens Day, the second-coming of Christmas, is tomorrow
Did you hear me? CHRISTMAS.
That it is 84 degrees and muggy. In October.
Seriously, Williamsburg, I want a refund.
That the iPhone’s recent update gives you about a billion new Emojis
[picture of lifelike ram]
That its been announced that $8 million is going into Sadler’s expansion:
Fantastic. Just don’t touch the terrace.
That 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” is stuck in my head right now
That I found Orson Welles notably attractive in Citizen Kane
This is not something I will share with my film class.
That a Beyoncé music video made me tear up last week
That leaves will be changing colors soon
[high-pitched, manic squeals]
That this blog post, like most others, has been in list format
I’ll work on it, okay?
July 26, 2012 by Laura Manzano
For frisbee and sleep
What kind of garden is this?
I see no flowers
Tyler Family Echo Circle Thing
You stand there and talk
looking like an idiot
impressed the first time
YES close to coffee
chairs, tables, chairs, tables, chairs
I want to live there
Like an old lady
when wearing lots of makeup:
pretty from distance
TJ’s former watch
“Caf for lunch? Meet at dial!”
These haikus were hard
July 18, 2012 by Laura Manzano
Things I Do During the Summer:
- I wait tables at a busy seafood restaurant
- I promise it’s much more glamorous than it sounds
- (Oh wait, its not)
- What I’m reading:
- Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
- All I can say is… WOW.
- (I’m sorry, I had to)
3. Drive around in my crappy, radio-less car
- Do you know what it feels like to have to sing One Direction alone?
- That’s right
- No one should have to
- My last three tweets:
- “I LOVE READING”
- “When you think about it, illiteracy is very sad”
- ["Moon River" lyrics]
- (Practice makes perfect)
- World = New York, Texas
- a Hello Kitty key cover
- like 16 used books from this Goodwill Bookstore by my house
- like 12 bajillion new dresses
- this heavenly mango smoothie because I just felt like it
- I don’t even like mango
- but it was good
- He tries to tell me that Bulbasaur is clearly the best starter and I’m just like
May 1, 2012 by Laura Manzano
Ah, finals week. I suppose it’s counter-intuitive to be posting now of all times, but it makes sense to me for a couple of reasons:
- Why study when you can write about fun stuff?
- I’m about to begin work on a 5-page paper. Whereas “7” in a Biblical context is considered to be the best number ever (thanks, Christian Origins) “5” has become the number I love to hate, as an English major. Professors throw around five page paper assignments like a scantily clad, feathered woman with heavy eye makeup throws beads on Mardi Gras. Well, where I’m getting at with #2, is that writing this post will get my creative juices flowing, right? Either that or have me on Google images looking at Mardi Gras floats in the form of an androgynous Poseidon.
But either way, for a new blogger, I shamefully haven’t written since my first post over a month ago, and I figure this is as good a time as ever to get my impassioned readership (hey there, Carl) up to speed with my William and Mary life. I’m often hesitant to commit myself to a long narrative in writing for the sake of my absentee attention span, and my tendency to ramble about nothing that is relevant (see, majority of above paragraph). So here is where I transition to a list of transition-less random snippets that highlight the highs and lows of my past month.
- I walked into my Contemporary Literature class last Wednesday about 23 seconds late, and on the projector was a black and white, silent clip playing of a woman taking a shower in super slow motion. I was thoroughly confused for a full minute until I remembered this movie, 24-hour Psycho, was referenced in the novel we were presently studying – Point Omega by Don DeLillo. But anyways, lesson learned: never be late to class, unless you want to be thoroughly confused. Or … just retain the reading you did the night before.
- This past Friday was the last day of classes, equivalent to Christmas in April here at the College. AMP always hosts a really great celebration for most of the afternoon on the Sunken Garden, this year consisting of multiple bouncy structures, a live band, a rock wall, free food, a smoothie bar, and soft grass. A good time was had by all, and I discovered I look good in straw fedoras! Win-win.
- So now that I’m officially inducted into Phi Sigma Pi, the co-ed honors fraternity here on campus, my life has been mostly sunshine and rainbows. Seriously, one of the best decisions I’ve made in my time at this school was rushing PSP. I told my Dad on the phone during the fact, and he reacts: “fraternity?!” I think he was thinking I was some Greek life trailblazer, forging new paths of women being admitted into frats, and perhaps imagining me on the roof of a house in a neon tank top drinking a Natty and flicking roof chips at innocent bystander squirrels. But no, no, Father. This connotation is not one to be upheld by either PSP, or most people and organizations at W&M, really. My freshman year I met a blonde cheerleader who earned a 5 in BC Calc in high school, and at the time loved reading her Comp Sci textbook as much as People magazine. One of my best friends plays the guitar and obsesses over baseball as much as the next bro, but can narrate the entire rise and fall of the Roman empire with his eyes closed. (I guess you don’t really need your eyes to do that, but you know what I’m trying to say.) So, PSP is a fraternity, yes. But I assure you, we don’t call ourselves a “nerd frat” for nothing. And just a general word about stereotypes in the context of William and Mary – I’ve found that they only exist to be broken.
- Finally, I found a Twitter account attributed to President Reveley a bit ago, and I grew excited to have the opportunity to solidify my commitment to Reveley’s army (via Twitter following), but then I was disappointed to find out it was a fake account, but then I was happy again because it’s actually pretty funny. It was an emotional five minutes.
- And speaking of five…
March 27, 2012 by Laura Manzano
I’ve spent almost my entire life with her. Heck, I’ve spent a large portion of my life in the same bedroom as her. She knows my every fear, my every flaw, my favorite flavor ice cream. She takes my clothes without asking and annoys me as her job description sees fit, but I have yet to find another person on earth who understands me better (so go ahead, sure, take my clothes). I’m talking, of course, about my sister. Amanda is two years younger than me (although we won’t talk about how she’s taller than me), but only a grade below me. So quickly after I made my decision to attend William and Mary, she was right behind me with a half dozen bookmarked college websites, essay prompts, essay responses, and an debilitating case of senioritis, resulting from her older sister already living it up and partying hard (pft) at college. So it honestly didn’t surprise me when, in narrowing down her choices, she decided upon the university I had been raving about all this time. Because why not? It’s hard to ignore W&M’s impressive academic standing, it was out of state like we had both wanted (Florida: where the land is flat and boring, and the weather barely changes), and the idea of a student body small enough that I can take a writing workshop my freshman year with fourteen people – upperclassmen, nonetheless – (and I did!) was calling my name in all types of seductive voices.
This year I’ve been hearing a lot of “your sister goes here?!” and I suppose I can understand the surprised reactions when I mention it. After all, for as close as Amanda and I are, our personalities and interests are vastly different. Honestly, I was a little worried when she had told me William and Mary was her first choice college, and I was convinced she was bound to hate something I loved so much. But for perhaps the second or third time in my entire life, I was wrong, and after some normal adjusting that comes with any freshman year anywhere, Amanda has taken to the College like a duck to the Crim Dell. (No, not hesitantly with concerns of mutant bacteria. Just easily.) People will often ask me what it’s like having my little sister here with me, and I’m glad to say that it isn’t completely terrible all the time. Just kidding, Amanda, relax. It is genuinely one of the greatest pleasures to be able to share the things I love with all six members of my family, whom I am close to and talk to about everything.
In my mind, I compare it to a situation with bacon…and another delicious item of food. Let’s have my sister be the bacon, and other food be the College. Bacon is really awesome, and has a great personality, and I love it very much and want it to succeed. Other foods are also wonderful. They are fulfilling in a bunch of different ways, give me nourishment and are comforting and remind me of home. So everybody knows when you put bacon with or on or in anything else, it makes that food a million (arguably a billion) times more spectacular. And that is how I feel about going to college with my sister. We don’t see each other every day, and we each have our own activities, classes, and groups of friends. But the shared experience of attending a university that in itself feels like a small family, blurs the line between who we are to each other and what the people here mean to us. And at least for now, I’ll be spending some of the most memorable years of my life – learning and growing as a student and as a person – with my best friend at my side, and what more could I possibly ask for? Beside my own closet, finally. I really like having my own closet.