Sunday, November 20, 2011


I know what you're thinking.

"Shannon, why the EFF are you awake before ten on a Sunday morning?!?!?"

The answer, amigos, is because of my stupid turkey. I had to wake up at 8 this morning to brine it. I thought I'd be able to go back to sleep, but once again I have overestimated my body's capacity to do what I tell it to.

So instead I'm blogging. Sort of.

I was looking at all of my posts in the Edit feature and I decided to look at some of the "drafts" I have but have never actually posted. Blogger automatically saves everything and I never think to go and delete them, so they're all still accessible. A lot of them are topics I thought would be fun to write about but only go a couple paragraphs in because I got bored.

For example, this post on 3/25/09:

Opera Scenes. A necessary evil in the JMU School of Music. In general, this "class" consists of Dr. Rierson randomly choosing scenes from various operas for all of us to perform. There is no rhyme or reason to the scenes he picks, and they're usually from two genres: Operas he's considering doing at JMU the following fall, or Operas he would never be allowed to direct on a collegiate level.

Dr. Rierson obviously has a philosophy. What makes him qualified to direct the JMU opera program? Well friends, your guess is as good as mine.

This brings me to today's rehearsal, which consisted of two scenes: Chicago, and Carmen. You might be thinking "Chicago...isn't that a musical?" Yes, you are correct. Apparently this year we're performing for some people in Luray and they specifically requested that not all of the scenes be classical (I like them already). For some reason, this inspired Dr. Rierson to choose scenes from CHICAGO, of all musicals. I will now share with you the ridiculousness that is today.

Today was our first blocking rehearsal for "All That Jazz". He's decided to have Addison and I split the solo line and then have a chorus line of girls as background singers (???????????). There was literally no reason for me or Addison to be at this rehearsal, because he devoted it entirely to teaching them the dance he's planning on having them do.

According to his concept,

translates into:

And sadly that's all I wrote (that last picture is such a win). This is not the only time where I'd stop midway through a post. Sometimes I stopped because it felt contrived, or not funny enough, or like I was forcing myself to write something for the sake of keeping my blog updated (as was the case in Opera Scenes blog).

It's been interesting re-reading these past Shannon thoughts. Sometimes they're incredibly brief but hilarious, as is the case here on 2/26/10:

So I woke up around 11 to Ashley Bacon harassing me via gchat (standard).

Some of them are just pathetic (6/23/10...titled "I Hate My Life"):

No but seriously. I have lived in this city for two days and it's already a gigantic mess. Anyway that's not why I'm blogging. I need some positive encouragement so I'm going to write about all of the things I'm grateful for:

-My internship is great. The people are nice/cool, after today I'm going to have a lot of stuff to keep me busy, and I think I'll get some good references. Also they have a cat and it's obsessed with me, always nice.
-I got to watch the US make that goal work
-I have lots of delicious food in my apartment just waiting to be cooked.
-My new mattress is super comfortable
-Lots of my friends are visiting me starting tomorrow for my birthday weekend
-Craigslist is full of job opportunities

(I stopped writing that one because I genuinely could not come up with anything else that I was grateful for, and I figured only having six things was too pathetic to post)

and again (11/4/10):

I don't know what I was thinking, assuming college was hard.

You know what I've realized? College is easy. Real life? It's not easy at all. And I know that it gets easier and that this limbo is only temporary, but let me tell you, if the worst thing about college is that you fail a class or don't get cast in a show...LIFE IS EASY. And I'm not sitting her pretending like nothing bad happened in college. In fact,

I think we all know what was coming after that "In fact," ...yikes.

Sometimes, you run across these gems (12/16/10):

Look, it's no secret that I detest snow. But at least it does give good today, when I desperately needed a break to chill and do nothing (you know, what weekends are usually for). I left for work like normal today, made it less than a mile from my house, and turned around. The roads were HORRIBLE and I couldn't stop TWICE (one time almost throwing me into an!) and I saw an accident...I had only been gone for FIVE MINUTES. So I went home to see if it chilled out (it didn't) and emailed my boss. Since it pretty much only got worse from off. For the THIRD THURSDAY IN A ROW.

So I blog.

Well first I watched two children's movies, took a nap, and ate the grilled cheese, spaghettio's, and chocolate chip cookies my mom made me (no, I'm not kidding, I'm 5, and I LIKE IT!). But now I blog.

I love being at home. My family is absurd. This was one complete conversation:
Dad: I think we got a solid two inches.
Mom: Oh we got more than that.
Dad: I don't know about that, I measured it! I put my finger in it!
Mom: Oh, you're right, how could we question your accuracy?
Me: Dad I vote that we get rid of rulers and just trust your finger to do the job from now on.
Dad: Fine, fine, I'll go get a ruler! (He leaves)
(Joe enters)
Joe: My hands are FROZEN
Mom: Why?
Joe: Because you made me shovel!
Mom: Well did you wear gloves?
Joe: No.
Mom: .....
Me: Hahahahahaha
Joe: And Chris threw snowballs at me!
Mom: Why didn't you wear gloves?
Joe: I couldn't find mine. And why would I expect to get SNOW thrown at me?
Me: Hahahahahahaha
(Joe leaves to find gloves)
(Dad comes back with a ruler)
Dad: Look! Look at this! Two inches exactly!
Me: You actually measured it?
Dad: I should start MARKETING these fingers!
(Joe comes back)
Joe: All we have are women's gloves.

But the "non-posted" blog I found most interesting I can't seem to figure out why I didn't post. I guess it must have been because the post was relatively insightful, which was not the kind of tone I was looking for at the time. I wanted this blog to be witty and stupid (hence its ridiculous name, Disco Anarchy). But I'm going to post it here, because it's actually fairly well written and interesting to look back on almost two and a half years later, especially considering the path my life took post-college. I wrote this while interning for the Coast Guard in DC the summer before Senior Year. So, for your reading pleasure, I give you "What am I gonna doooo" written on 6/25/09:

I'm just warning you, this is probs going to be a seriousish post, so if you're only here for my biting wit and hilarious stories, this post is not for you.

Something that troubles me more and more while I'm working in the real world this summer is what the eff I'm gonna do when I graduate. I mean, working here doesn't suck, but it's totally not what I want to do. I definitely don't enjoy it. Mostly I feel like I'm wasting my time, and I'm taking up space, because I don't do anything! Don't get me wrong, if you want to work for the Federal Government, more power to you. I totally recognize its importance and can completely understand why people would enjoy working here. I mean the pay is spectacular. And honestly, for some people, that's why they want to work. Because they want to earn money. I wish I DID have that same drive, because it looks like I'm gonna be poor.

Because even after only 8 days, I know I can't do this. I can do it for the summer. That's no big. But I can't do this for my life. I didn't spend 3, and when I graduate 4, years preparing to do THIS. Because I just don't see the point. I don't even know what I do. And I thought it was just that I was an intern, and that the people who worked here with real jobs had cool things to do...but they don't. I went on a trip and talked with people who have real civilian jobs here...and none of it sounds fun at all. Sure, it is a secure job. You basically won't get fired. You'll make GREAT money. But I don't think anyone CARES that much about what they do.

But that would make me miserable. I couldn't do something I don't love, I just couldn't. I was spoiled my last two summers. I was in love with my job. Those kids were incredible. I liked having to get up for work. I didn't mind the hours because I loved what I did. The job I have now is INFINITELY easier than what I did, I get paid more, and I have actual spare time...but I would trade it in a second. Well, not for SF NOW, because two years is enough. But I would trade it for something that paid less that I loved. If I gain anything from working here, it's knowing that.

Who knows what I'm going to end up doing. And maybe when I graduate I won't have a job. So you know, I'd apply here if I had to...but probably only for a year tops. I wouldn't want to get sucked in. It's so easy to do. But I'm not meant to work in this kind of environment. I'm just not. I don't connect with ANYONE, first off. I mean sure people are nice and good to make small talk with. And I bet after a lot of exposure I would find people I have things in common with. But I can just tell, work wise, I don't fit in. Everyone else is kind of happy to be here. I'm never happy to be here. I'm not ungrateful...this kind of job in an anomaly in this kind of economy. But grateful and happy are two different things.

Let me just say that I'm not the kind of music major who gets wrapped up in the idea of "making art" or "artistry". Sure, I believe that what I do is creating and expressing, and I fully believe that what I'm doing is important. But I never really think about it. I am a musician because it's fun. And because I love it. I try not to take myself too seriously and get wrapped up in my "art" or my "craft". And sometimes in my head I laugh at people who talk like that. I mean come on, I'm a music theater major. I'm here to ENTERTAIN. And I'm okay with that! I love it! I never really consider what I do "expression". Even though it is.

But now that I've been here for two weeks, I realize how much of my life truly is about expression. At school everything I DO is about expression. And I don't just mean musically. I mean the conversations I have with my friends, the things I write in this blog, the stories I tell. We're so expressive that we don't even realize that we do it everywhere. There's a reason vocalists are so loud and animated. We wouldn't be good artists if we couldn't do that. We're characteristically overdramatic, we exagerrate, and we're funny--we HAVE to be to succeed. So if we do that while we sing and perform, it's only natural that it would become ingrained into our every day lives.

As performers we're encouraged to be as expressive as possible. Otherwise we're not interesting to watch. I feel like at least for me, the more I'm encouraged to be expressive, the better I get across the board, at least when it comes to things involving expression. Like writing for instance. Obviously you need a grasp of the English language, but I feel like I've always had a natural ability to manipulate the language to make it interesting to read. I by no means think I'm a really great writer, but I do know that I CAN write. And not just mindless papers--I can emote, and invoke comedy, and create images. And to be able to do that, you need to know how to express yourself. Anyway, I've gone off on a tangent--what I mean to say is that even though before this summer I used to make fun of people who took themselves and their "expression" too seriously, I now can understand why that would be important to someone.

This kind of place doesn't encourage expression. It just doesn't. The work you're given is mindless. You're not encouraged to be creative, you're encouraged to be precise. And exact. Which is important, because if you weren't, the work wouldn't get done correctly. I'm not saying this a problem with the organization. This is just the problem with ME in this organization. Because I've quickly learned that being able to express myself in my own way is not just a want or a desire...for me it's a NEED. Why else would I spend so much time writing in this blog? Before this summer I think I might have written in here three times, and I can tell you that each of those times it was because I was avoiding doing something that I considered mindless. Although I love writing it's not something I do much of. I HATE writing papers and avoid classes where I'll have to do it. And I don't keep a journal. I love singing more, and so that's what I throw my creativity into. I don't NEED to write in this blog to maintain my sanity during the year, because I have other, better outlets (and when I say better, I mean better for me personally). And even at home, I don't need to write in this, because I can spew my creativity and expression on someone with ears who's willing to listen. Because sometimes even just talking to people is enough. Like the only times I'm not about to lose my mind in this place are when I'm emailing or talking to the other intern Sarah. But these two weeks I've NEEDED this blog. Because if I'm not doing those two things, there's no one else here to spew my thoughts onto. I mean think about it. I don't ever even write blog posts this mentally in depth because I usually think it's stupid and vain. Which it still is, but I'm doing it anyway, because these are thoughts I would normally just tell a person.

I hope I'm not coming off as complain-y. I don't resent working here, and like I said, I'm grateful beyond belief that I have an easy job that pays well. And that's letting me go to England. I'm just commenting on how I could never do this forever. I would lose my mind. This isn't for me.

What's SO funny about the fact that I'm posting this now, is that I actually did post a blog on June 25, 2009, which includes the following paragraph:

So I just spent like two hours writing this intense blog post about expression and how this place supresses it and how I don't know what I'm going to do when I graduate...but before I posted it I waited like 15 minutes...and now I'm not gonna post it. I don't feel the need. It's too wordy and boring and there was no specific train of thought and nobody cares enough to read it. I just needed to write it and get it out of my system. So now it will sit in blogger forever and I can read it but no one else needs to be subjected to it. Tight.

Oh past Shannon, how little you know of the future.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I love JMU

Since graduating, there have been a few times where more than anything I wished I could be back at JMU.

The first was the glorious day that the JMU football team managed to defeat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, much to the general surprise and astonishment of the entire world. It was right after I graduated, and the celebrations in Harrisonburg were pretty fantastic. Despite the fact that the game was not at home, those still in the Burg rushed Bridgeforth Stadium and partied into the night. Definitely wanted to be there.

The next was in February for Allison and DJ's joint recital. Then it wasn't the community that I missed, but the facilities. It was the first time I had been to a recital in the new performing arts building and I was SO MAD that I had missed it by one year. Unfair.

The third time was this year for the commemoration of September 11. On days of grief and sorrow, you long for community, and strangely enough, there was no group gathering here in our nation's capital, but there was at JMU, and I certainly missed being part of that community that night.

The fourth time was last night.

Last night a girl was struck by a bus while walking through campus and passed away. Her death marks the fourth JMU death in the past ten days, and the sixth this semester (five students, one faculty member).

In a time of sadness and tragedy, I am so moved by the way JMU and its wide network of students, faculty, and alumni have come together to grieve the loss of people they probably have never met, but who they feel connected to nonetheless. It's been twelve hours since news started spread about last night's tragedy, and my Facebook newsfeed and twitter timeline show almost nothing but people speaking out in honor of the victims, their friends and families, and the JMU Nation. I watched a Facebook event to wear purple today (I proudly sit at my desk in my purple out shirt) go from 300 attendees to 6,000 in less than an hour.

No one wrote disparaging things about the bus driver. No one commented on the mistakes made and what could have been done to prevent this from happening.

The only thing people shared was love. And that speaks volumes about my alma mater.

My friends and I call JMU Disneyland College (a term I once heard our university President it's totally official). And it's so true...everyone is just NICE there. It's probably one of my favorite things about JMU as a whole. Everywhere you go, people are smiling at strangers, holding doors open for one another, leaving their cell phones and wallets unsecured because there's no fear of anyone taking them...the rest of the world just isn't like that. There are nice people everywhere, but I have never been anywhere else with so many of them all in one place.

The sense of community at JMU is absolutely overwhelming. It's quite apparent today, thanks to Facebook, twitter, and the plethora of purple that people are probably wearing, but it's always present. I didn't realize how much JMU apparel I had until this summer, when I would wear JMU shirts to every rehearsal, which did not go unnoticed by my cast. They also pointed out that my car is covered in JMU stickers, and I have JMU license plates. Obviously I was aware of all of this, but what I wasn't aware of was that my sense of school pride, which is not particularly higher than any of my classmates (past, present, and future), is not necessarily the norm for other schools across the country. Not to say that JMU has more pride than anyone ever (that would be a foolish assumption); it doesn't, but it has a humble sense of pride, a pride of community rather than solely of achievements.

That community is certainly felt today, but it's not the first time I've been acutely aware of it. The first time I was overwhelmed by the love present at my school was my freshman year of college when the mass shootings of Virginia Tech took place. I was used to seeing purple and gold attire, but the days that followed were full of nothing but orange and maroon. Candlelight vigils were held and attended by thousands. People joined together to honor victims at a school they didn't attend, that maybe they knew, but most likely did not.

The next time I felt how strongly Dukes could come together was far more personal; it was when Jim and Mrs. Smith died. That period of time will always been a grief filled blur for me, but one of the things that stands out so strongly is how many people offered condolences, how many people came to Jim's funeral, and how everyone came together in the aftermath to show their support of the Smith family, be it through vigils, memorial services, or even a concert given by all of the JMU A cappella groups in honor of them.

The reaction to their death is probably best described by something I found out over a year after they died; I was taking a leadership class taught by JMU Vice-President Dr. Warner, and our first assignment was a personal reflection on a reading we had done. I don't even remember what the topic of the reading was, but in my reflection I related it to losing Jim and Mrs. Smith. When our reflections were handed back, Dr. Warner came up to me and said "I want you to know how much I enjoyed reading your reflection. I didn't realize that anyone in my class knew Jim Smith. When I heard about what happened, I drove up from Harrisonburg and attended that funeral. I couldn't believe how many people were there; it was truly unbelievable. I never met Jim, but when I saw that there had to be more than 2,000 people at his funeral, I figured this was a guy who had made a serious mark on the world in just nineteen years. It was so incredibly moving." Here was a man who had never met Jim, but drove two hours to attend his funeral, simply because he was a JMU student.

And now people come together today to honor the Dukes we have lost this fall. As a graduate, I am able to more clearly see just how far a reach our network has; most of my friends are graduated and spread across the country (and world), yet everyone, no matter where they are now, are reaching out to show their love and support for the JMU Nation.

This is what JMU is. Generous. Gracious. Loving. Today is a sad day indeed, but it is an inspirational one as well. It has reminded me that I am always a Duke, and even outside JMU's sun-shining like campus I should act as warmly and kindly as people do there. I may have had a long list of complaints while I was there, and maybe there would be things about my life that would have been easier had I gone somewhere else, but I would not change where I decided to go to school for even one second.

The Dukes that we lost this fall, along with their friends and families, are in my thoughts and prayers today. May their deaths remind us all that life is short, unexpected, and that it should be full of love. Today I am thankful for my friends, I am thankful for my school, and I am thankful for my life.

Show your colors, proud and true, we are the Dukes of JMU.