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Graduate Lesson #4: The Kitchen Classroom

It’s been a month since I posted, and that means I owe a witty explanation that is honest enough to maintain integrity, yet endearing enough I might be forgiven. Not that I have illusions people hang out waiting for me to post, but a month of silence is still a deadly blogger sin.

When I found out I would be writing on this blog, my initial thought was to write about those whose impact my life from beyond campus…. rather than you know, the failed pancakes I made one night at 2 am, or photos of friends in cowboy boots at Barbarella.

My first few posts were about people I didn’t know –  which were warm ups for a post about someone I did know — Winston, a server I work with at the Four Seasons Hotel.

That post was popular with people… causing Winston to become somewhat of celebrity in my circle. The impact was flattering, but also intimidating.

1. Writing about Winston was more rewarding, but more difficult. My responsibility to him was greater than say, homeless people eating a picnic lunch, or a research paper. If I screw up a research paper, I discredit my topic or personal credibility. If I screw up a story about Winston, I discredit our relationship. Yikes.

2. Being more thoughtful meant more time. The Winston post was two, five-hour days of uninterrupted writing and editing… not a sustainable practice in graduate school.

3. The combination of factor one and two led to writing anxiety, which took a hacksaw to my creativity, resulting in a large writer’s block lodged somewhere in my pre-frontal cortex (or at least that’s where I imagined it was residing.)

4. The writer’s block didn’t just extend to the LC blog. My personal blog, thesis writing… even text messages took forever to crank out. I picked up a Pinterest addiction, and started training for the Austin half marathon… all in the spirit of productive avoidance. Through it all, I still sat down to write each day –  giving myself a massive headache a few times, driving myself into the arms of coffee flavored ice cream another, or melting into frustrated naps filled with fitful dreams about disappointing my thesis committee.


This past Sunday after a long run — my friend Audrey came over for a writing date at my kitchen table. As she began voraciously writing and sharing her ideas, I feebly alternated between a thesaurus the surfing my Facebook newsfeed. My roommate and his friend returned to make dinner, so I closed the laptop and retreated to the bathroom to color my hair…. productive avoidance.

Flat ironing hair to the sounds of friends was relaxing. As the smells of eggplant parmesan began to waft down the hall, I rejoined them in the kitchen. The scene was seemingly mundane, but a few steps into the room I found myself covered in goosebumps. Luckily an iPhone was in hand, so I hit record… albeit sideways… ahem, a videographer I am not.

It was 43 seconds of nothing and everything all at the same time. (Clicking green text takes you to see the 43 seconds of nothing and everything.)

It was nothing, in that you could probably enter any number of campus houses on a Sunday evening and find some combination of swing music, grating cheese, and laughing people.

It was everything, in that the swing music, grating cheese and laughing, did something to my performance anxiety.

Writing is just like hanging out with friends. You enjoy it much more when you love the moments, rather than fret the product at the end. Relax Borrelli.

So I did relax. I woke up the next morning and wrote like a boss. I was so rejuvenated that I brazenly incorporated cliche and uncharacteristic phrases such as “like a boss” into my writing. It was nothing short of magical. You would have thought fairies had descended into my kitchen. I can’t speak for others, but this what I want time at UT to be about… power in moments. Graduation will be in August. I want to know I squeezed love out of every drop of this experience.

Cheers to that, and another post to come in a few days. I have catching up to do.

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January 17, 2012 | | Comments are closed for this post

6 Comments to Graduate Lesson #4: The Kitchen Classroom

Fantastic post Becca. All I can think of are cliches…but you are so right-on with the importance of the mundane. And you are so lucky to realize this! It’s the every-day that is the foundation of our lives and shapes the contributions we make to the world, our friends, and family. I’m bookmarking your blog and moving it next to my daughter’s on my toolbar…no pressure, but looking forward to reading more!

January 18, 2012
— Amy buller

Okay, I’m back after reading your first post, and all the rest. But the first…like Glenda told Dorothy, you can go home anytime…You had this knowledge about time, place and people, you just lost it. Allow me to quote you:
I wish I could do this for the 21 year old Rebecca. I wish I could have told her that the meetings, deadlines, test cramming, and chasing accolades to land that prestigious job, would take a distant second to lounging in the middle of campus with a sketchbook. Second to inhaling the smell of books in the Fine Arts Library. Second to discussing art with friends over California Cab on a Friday night. Second to philosophizing with 20 diverse and intelligent women around a table in the 3rd floor of the Art Building.
Glad you found “home” again.

January 18, 2012
— Amy buller


After reading your comment, I realized most of my posts are about “home.” I think the inherent nature of school is about looking forward away from home. I love UT, but I battle with it as well. Love your commentary, because I hold your words in higher regard than most. :)

January 23, 2012
— Rebecca

I enjoy reading your posts. You are an excellent writer, but of course you are a graduate student so that makes sense.

February 9, 2012
— Jelisa

Ha ha! Jelisa I am sorry I am now just seeing this comment. There are pros and cons to being a grad student. if it makes me a good writer, it has also made me too busy to blog in months… and/or an excellent procrastinator. That being said- THANK YOU. We still need to get together one of these days :)

March 19, 2012
— Rebecca

I agree! We do need to hang out and talk about grad life haha.

March 19, 2012
— Jelisa
photo of Rebecca