Thursday, August 30, 2007

No basis for comparison

The following story isn't bad. It's not weird. I just have nothing (and I mean absolutely nothing) in my life that remotely compares to this, so it had an affect on me. My reaction is not meant to offend....I just, you know, want to share.

The Indiana State Fair was in town from August 8 - 19th. On August 11th, the boyfriend and I decided to spend some time at the fair as per our annual tradition. It was beastly hot, and I volunteer on Saturday mornings, so we waited until about 5:00pm to make our trek down to the fairgrounds. Since we live quite a bit north of the fairgrounds, and parking (and traffic) usually suck, the boyfriend suggested that we take the fair train. The depot is about 1 mile from our apartment, and the train drops you off just outside the fairgrounds.

Thus, Emily took her first train ride. Not only that, but we upgraded to first class on the way to the fair, so we got to ride in the first class car. Woo Hoo, big spenders, huh? It was awesome.

While it was my first train ride, this was not my first visit to the State Fair. I love the State Fair. Where else can you indulge in all manner of things fried, pet a cow, and ride a ferris wheel all in one night? (side note: there is a similar occasion in my hometown called the "Fall Festival" which I have loyally attended for years. However, the State Fair has slowly taken over the #1 position for my favorite place with fried foods. Why? Because the State Fair has animals. Fall Festival has none. I love the sheep. Bah.) This year, the new fried food was fried Pepsi. I kid you not. It was basically fried dough made with Pepsi with some Pepsi flavored syrup on top. Nate and I shared some because - you know - it's the State Fair. You sort of have to.

After the fried Pepsi, I had some fried pickles. Then, feeling thouroughly ill, I abstained from all other food for the night. The boyfriend played some of the (rigged) games to try and win me a huge stuffed animal that would then make its way to Goodwill, we visited the sheep, the cows, the horses, and the pigs...I rode a life-sized rocking horse (probably the oldest person to try THAT particular stunt) we took a turn on the ferris wheel....and then we made our way home. All in all, an enjoyable evening.

My mother had mentioned that my brother and his wife would be at the state fair, and why didn't we go with them? My brother's in laws were all in town because one of his brothers in law was playing the piano in the talent competition, and the other had a pig to show.

I was confused. A pig to show? "Yes," my mother explained. "A pig that he raised to show at the fair."

Oh. Okay. I had heard of such things.

I didn't think of it again until I spoke to my mother last night. Apparently my brother's mother in law had stopped by with wedding pictures for my mom. They met to see what each one had purchased and have some coffee. My mother also mentioned that she had received a surprise present.

"She brought me some pork chops. The pig got fourth place."

"So they KILLED it?" I was horrified.

After more amused discussion (on my mother's side), it became apparent that they hadn't killed the pig just because he got fourth was just that, you know, he had been shown, he got fourth place....his purpose in life was fulfilled. He is now pork chops.

There are SO many questions running through my mind that I don't dare ask. Did they make the boy who raised the pig kill it too? Is it a rite of passage sort of thing? Did he smear blood on his cheeks like warpaint? Is he now a man? Who actually butchered the pig and cut those pork chops? Would I be able to eat the chops from a pig that I knew - even if only by reputation? Did I miss out on some experience of growth because I didn't care and raise an animal only to eventually eat it?

I understand that some animals are killed for food. I know this. I'm an avid steak eater, and I am not under the impression that there's a "steak tree" somewhere from which my succulent filet mignons come. I know that one person's "Bessie" is another person's overpriced dinner. I get that. But...I'm not eating MY Bessie. I'm not even eating a Bessie that I saw the other day (at least, I don't think....)

You might think that because of this reaction, I would never be able to handle the death of any animal... that's incorrect. When I'm a veterinarian (God willing) I will most definitely be one of those vets who cries along with you when your loving family pet has to be put down....but I will have no problem administering the euthenasia. Because, you know, IT'S NOT MY ANIMAL! I didn't raise it from babyhood, lovingly feed it, groom it, prepare it for show....

Again, I have no basis of comparison for this. I wasn't raised on a farm or anything like that. I do NOT think that killing an animal for food is wrong. I just don't understand how it's done. Maybe the relationship you form with an animal that you're eventually going to eat is different than, say....the relationship I have with my dog? (Whom I'm never going to eat, by the way.)

I don't know though, man....I saw those baby piglets. They sure are cute.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back to School

I didn't realize I would have an "adjustment period" when I finally decided to just bite the bullet and go back to school. I mean, I've been in school before, and I've been working 40 hours. Doing them both together (especially when the schooling is in MUCH smaller quantities than my previous experience) should be easy, right?

Tell that to my boss after I've arrived at work an average of 15 minutes late every day for the last week.

Even though I've been thinking about going back to school for over a year (apparently I have decided that I want to be a veterinarian...better late than never, right?) the actual decision to take classes this semester happened rather quickly. Like, in three days.

Step 1) Finally call IUPUI.
Step 2) Apply/Register for Class/Meet with Advisor the next day.
Step 3) Send my transcript to Purdue to see which credits from Butler transfer to cover my pre-vet requirements
Step 4) Buy my books.

To be fair, I had done a lot of the ground work for these three days in the last year. I had previously spoken to my advisor. I had already contacted Butler and gotten a copy of my transcript. I had researched which classes I needed to take. So that's probably why my application/enrollment process was able to happen so quickly...but still. My life is still reeling.

For example, I now have class on Tuesday and Thursday nights. At first, I thought that merely cancelling all activities that happened weekly on those nights would be enough. Then I just decided to clear out all weekly events. Then I remembered that my book club only meets monthly. On Thursdays. Boo. I wasn't ready to give up EVERYHING. Then I discovered that while volleyball is only on Wednesdays, if I get homework on a Tuesday, and my next class is Thursday....well....

I used to make fun of my friends who went back for their Masters degrees and lost all semblance of a social life. "C'mon," I would cajole, "You can come out with us this ONE night, can't you?"

Now I completely understand the "No."

The first day of class was surreal. On the one hand, my brain was SO excited to be learning again. (Woo Hoo!! You haven't used me for YEARS, Emily! I was beginning to despair!) On the other hand, it's been, oh, about eleven years since my last Chemistry class (cut me some slack! I was a marketing major. We didn't have to take sciences) and while I thouroughly enjoyed my AP Chem class, I was only 18 years old when I took it, and since then...well...apparently those synapses haven't fired. Not once.

It was a humbling experience to be paired up with an 18-year-old and watch while he flew through his workbook problems, and I was still struggling to convert the speed of light from feet per second to meters per second. And how many feet are in a mile again? I wanted to tell my partner that I really wasn't as stupid as my struggling would lead him to believe. Just let me get warmed up and I would prove to be a proficient partner. It just takes longer to get going at this age, someday he would understand. But I didn't have the words.

In the downtime, I did enjoy talking to the 18-year-old. He was so bright eyed and bushy tailed. So happy to be in college. He told me all about his girlfriend back home who was still in high school. He was just so....eighteen. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I expected to hear the breakup story by December. Hell, let life crush him. For now, I'll just enjoy being around someone so young. It's got to rub off somehow, right?

Off I went to my Chemistry lab. I was paired up with two other girls and we had a good time getting to know each other. One girl was working 40 hours a week like me, and only taking night classes. I never got her age, but she couldn't have been much older than 21. The other girl was a full time student - a junior. I was relieved. Okay, so they're not quite as young as my previous experience. The girl who worked full time (Mandy) and I discussed the issues with parking, missing dinner two nights a week, and how long it had been since our last Chemistry lab.

Mandy: "It's been so long since my last Chemistry lab...I'm not sure I remember what all this equipment is called."
Emily: "Don't worry. I'm sure it's been longer since I've had a Chemistry lab. It will all come back to you."
Mandy (pensively): "It's been...hmmm...about a year and a half since my last lab. Can you believe that?" She then looked at me expectantly.

It occurred to me here that she probably thought I was around her age. Sweet! Misguided though she may be, I wasn't quite ready to end that I just responded, "Wow. It has been a while for you."

I'm not proud. I'll take my warm and fuzzy moments where I can get 'em.