Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Brain, don't fail me now...

Once upon a time, I was a straight A student. Once upon a time, I finished all my papers in due time, written in perfect Danish, spell checked and with correct grammar. All of my math, physic and chemistry papers was presented as they should be, with abstracts and all necessary (and a couple extra) paragraphs. Once upon a time, not a page in my textbooks was un-read, not a notebook unfilled with drawings and notations, not a source of information not found.

Once upon a time, I was terribly boring. I mean, I must have been. I studied, and, apparently, I studied a LOT. At least, that's what my Mom tells me, now. I don't think she ever let me know back then, because, frankly, it probably wouldn't have changed much. And is it at all possible to study too much? It's not like I was isolated - I had a boyfriend, I had a couple of girlfriends I spend time with, every now and again. But I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that most of my time, I spend with my books.

I think that's what I wanted to do. I liked going to school, I liked learning new things. I was - am - a determined girl, that wouldn't let go of a problem until it was solved. I kept trying, kept wringing my brain to find that solution, going to sleep still with the numbers in my head, not being able to grasp why the answer just wouldn't come to me.

I used to have a great memory - my sister used to call me RAM, because I had a scary way of remembering phone numbers, bus arrivals, music titles, tv-show schedules, places we'd gone, people we'd met... All sorts of random things.

It's funny how things change.

These days, I can't seem to remember what I read just a couple of minutes ago, but ask me what my phone number was when I was little, and I'd be able to blurt it out before you even finished asking the question. Ironic - or just plain annoying. Do you ever have the feeling of not being able to put more information in there? That it's just - full? Like an overflowing muffin cup, dripping down on the floor of your oven - 'cause of course you forgot to put in that extra baking sheet to nestle any would-be spill-overs.

That is, I'm not sure they have actually changed. I still like learning, I still like studying. But my brain doesn't seem to be able to keep up with me anymore. Maybe, I'm growing old. Or maybe - I'm just not willing to forsake so many of the things I've come to love doing, for the goal of a grade or an exam.

Sometimes, it is plain playing hooky - all of a sudden, the laundry needs doing, now, sooner than later. Perhaps it's the bills that needs to be paid? Mails that needs answering, a guinea pig that needs lovin', food that needs cooking. Or maybe it's Sunday evenings on the couch with the boyfriend that has become a necessity in a way it never was, back when I was in high school. Maybe it is just life itself that has become important.

Either way, that doesn't stop me from moaning about my lack of brain capacity. My attention span seems to have diminished, or maybe it has just been stretched so wide that it's starting to go transparent in places. I need to get it back in shape.

One thing that tends to happen when I start studying for my exams is I forget to eat. It's not because I want to not eat, it's just - well, you know, it takes time away from what is immediately important - namely, turning pages. And frankly, it's just plain stupid to not be eating, and to not eat properly is even more stupid - if there's ever a time your brain and body needs energy from the right sources, it's when preparing for an exam (and I could come up with a thousand other times it's important too - really, there's no excuse for not taking care of yourself, is there?)

When preparing food for myself during crunch-time, which for me starts a week or two before the actual exam, I don't want to spend hours in the kitchen. What I make needs to be good (well, duh!), and I need to feel like I'm actually cooking, and my mind is away from my books, but it can't be drawing my attention too far away from them, either. I like making salads. There might not be much actual cooking involved, but letting that big knife do all the chopping, the calm of washing leaves and slicing vegetables, tasting dressing, makes for just enough distraction, for just enough of a reminder of there being something else than antibiotics and rheumatic diseases out there, that it's still possible for me to turn back to the books afterwards, without a sense of missing out on the good things in life. I don't mind letting the good things in life consist of avocados, cauliflower and cucumber, at least if it's for a shorter while. I know the Sundays, and all of that life-thingy, will come back soon...

My Stepdad's Salad

I suppose this is what would go under the description of a "chopped salad", seeing that is basically what it is: avocados in cubes, diced cucumber, small florets of cauliflower, shredded iceberg lettuce - maybe a thinly sliced green pepper, but I'm not much into green peppers so I tend to leave it out. Maybe a small white onion, sliced paper thin. Mix it all up, drizzle with LOADS of fresh lemon juice, a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar, a little extra virgin olive oil - salt and pepper to taste. I love this, It doesn't look very pretty, but I love the crunch and the zingy taste. Eat with crusty bread, or use as a side to go with grilled meat.

PS: This post is also being put up to let you all know (who am I kidding - it is mostly to make sure I don't violate my own restrictions!) that I will be shutting of my computer for the next couple of days, until my exam is over. I have a fantastic way of needing to make sure that there are no unread comments on my blog, that my bloglines subscriptions has no new notifications, my flickr account no new notes and that there are no new mails in my inbox before I can start with my studying - and I mean, there are TONS of things on the internet you can spend time doing- so you can just imagine how many hours I spend NOT pondering my textbooks?! I'm bad that way - very bad. Therefore, until after the 9th., be good, play nice, cross your fingers for me and wish me luck!

PPS: I'm SO going to Disneyland after this exam is OVER!;-)


Cathy said...

Zarah - I'm thinking of you and I guess since you're no longer on-line, that's how I'll have to send you my good wishes - telepathically! Good luck - I know you can do it!

Alanna said...

WHEN you're back ;-), Food & Thoughts is a great candidate for The Veggie Evangelist. Would you mind popping over to say how you fit in? Thanks! Alanna

bea at La Tartine Gourmande said...

Good luck, the light at the end of the tunnel is close! I forgot what it is like to be a student! ;-) Phew!

Alice said...

Good Luck!! We're all pulling for you! :)

Anonymous said...

i am studying for an exam myself...right now. but i decided to check out your blog because i love it so much...i'm horrible when i have to study and the computer is in front of me too! so, i'm off to eat...i forgot to today.

Ivonne said...

Zarah Maria,

You have brought back the memories of being in university! I remember those days when I would wake up in the morning and not even know what day of the week it was!

But you'll get through it ... and I love the salad and the photo!

joey said...

Hi Zarah! Best of luck to you on your exams! :)

Sam said...

hope it is going well zarah!

Andrea said...

Good luck, you'll definitely pass with excellent marks. Looking forward to seeing and reading your posts once you are back.

Julie said...

hey zarahzarah,

I wish you the best results on your exam -- I know just how you feel! After having been a graduate instructor for a long time, I'm now going back to school (oh horrors!) for an administrative degree.

Anyway, this all shall pass -- and soon enough, we'll be sharing pastries and tea in New York -- I hope!

Michèle said...

hi Zarah, its funny when you mentioned your phone number when you were a kid, mine immediately popped into my head from when I was aged 6 to 12. Now I cant even remember the new phone number I got 5 months ago.. whats going on? Best of luck to you with your exam ;)

Zarah Maria said...

Hi Cathy! They got to me - telepathy is soo cool!;-)

Hi AK - I'll be sure to do that!

Hi Bea - thanks! Can't wait till the day I forget!

Hi Alice! Its' so nice to know I'm not alone!

Hi Anon! Food's important - both reading about it AND eating it, heh! Thanks for the nice words about my blog!

Hi Ivonne! Thanks! I'm so with you on the "What?! Today's FRIDAY?!?"

Hi Joey! Thank you!

Hi Sam! I sure hope so too! Keep your fingers crossed until the end of February!

Hi Dreska! Am looking forward to coming back, for real!

Hi Julie! Oh me oh my, sounds very interesting! Best of luck to you! And yes, sooner then you can say exam (okay, almost!) there'll be pastries, tea and the two of us!

Hi Michèle! I say it's the darned cell phones - everytime I get someone's number, I put it in there, then totally forget about it! Doh! And thanks for the well wishing!:-)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Zarah!

How can I tell you this...
You've just described me! Absolutely! I couldn't do better! It's amazing!

At least I feel better because I'm not the only one in the world.

Thank you very much for your thoughts!

Helena, from Spain.