Introduction to a Houston Summer: Literacy and Lazy Floormates

I have now been in Houston for almost a week now.  Although I have been attending Rice for three years, this is the first time I’m spending part of my summer vacation in Houston.  I’ve had some interesting interactions this week as I have entered my internship and met various people around my temporary summer home, Brown College.

I love the city of Austin and living with my family, but I thought one perk of living in Austin would be more time with other Rice students.  The first day proved that statement true as I met up with many people as I moved in and then got an invitation to dinner from a writing buddy and recent-grad friend.  I thought that everybody would be so friendly, especially when I lucked out with my roommate.  At first I wasn’t excited to share a room with anyone.  Martel has spoiled me with single rooms and en suite bathrooms for the past two years.  But my roommate Wendy and I actually have a lot in common.  I didn’t expect it from a physics major from China, but she is writing a book and also acts in Chinese Theatre.  Who knew an English major and a Physics major could share such common ground, not to mention she’s letting me share her fridge and microwave?  I’m still not a fan of floor bathrooms, but I suppose it was inevitably going to happen at some point during my undergrad.  And with such an understanding roommate who fills the silence in our tiny room with enlightening conversation, I don’t mind blow-drying my hair in the hallway to give her a little extra sleep.

On the other hand, at other points I feel lonely or annoyed with the other people in this building.  When I ride up the elevators or cross paths with most people, they barely acknowledge my presence.  I want to make new friends, but it’s difficult to be cheery all the time when everyone else seems anti-social.  But the worst is in the kitchen.  Sharing a kitchen wasn’t a big deal until two girls decided to boil water in the only pot, and then leave it unattended . . . on the one night I wanted to cook.

The office started out much the same: I loved meeting everyone at Houston Center for Literacy during the first few days.  One of my mentors has been guiding me into the office culture.  She has not only given me numerous tips for how to get things done and how to connect with the rest of staff, but she listened to all my goals and expressed a lot of interest in my current playwriting project.  Because I told her about my love of writing and editing, I have received many small editing and word-related projects.  If you have time, check out the Houston Center for Literacy’s facebook page.  I’ve been making the past few posts!

I’ve also made progress on another work-related, challenging project.  In addition to working at HCL, my internship program requires classwork to research leaders and how they have been successful.  One of our big assignments is to interview 2-3 executives in our city, who work in industries that interest us.  I contacted some people early and landed my first interview on Thursday.  It all happened so quickly, but it was a fun experience.  I hope to be slightly more prepared next time–I didn’t have the interview confirmed until about 36 hours before–but I greatly enjoyed talking with Nora McAlister about her role at Bright Sky Press, the future of the publishing industry, her previous career as a lawyer, her family, and her adventures at Rice when she was an undergrad.  I may have felt nervous and didn’t ask all my questions, but I’m so glad this assignment is forcing me to reach out to inspiring, wise people.

In many ways I have been confidently entering into office life and pursuing the goals I set for this internship, but on Friday I started to get a little down on myself for not meeting every goal.  I let the quiet office weave into my thoughts and make space for more self-doubt and hyper awareness.  When I do that, I get more shy around other people.

I have had to find more creative ways to meet new, friendly people and to reboost my confidence.  On Tuesday night I joined a Summer Writing Group.  For my second play I have had a more difficult time getting feedback, so when I got the invite from a graduate student I jumped at the opportunity.  I thought madly reading all the other writers’ work in less than an hour before driving to the meeting was fun, but when I got there, it only got better.  I barely knew half the people at the table, but they turned out to be a welcoming, honest group.  They didn’t critique my piece this week but the other pieces received plenty of encouraging, constructive criticism so that I have great hope for mine.  I haven’t had a good workshop experience since creative writing camp during high school so I cannot to connect with more serious writers this summer.

On Friday after I was feeling particularly down in the dumps, I went to Valhalla, the graduate student bar.  Even though I can legally drink now, I haven’t been to many bars in the United States.  I’ve never had the right group of friends.  I didn’t feel confident about going on my own, but an invite to an important friend and mentor’s going-away party forced me to put on my red lipstick and head out.  My summer roommate came with me for an extra boost of confidence, but it turns out I didn’t need it.  Not only did I effortlessly meet new people as I mingled in the crowds, but I had great conversations with the hosts and some old friends from my home college, Martel.  I ended up staying out later than I expected, but it was a wonderful way to remind me that when I relax, it leads to more genuine, fun conversation.

After a weekend of relaxing and reading over articles, I am ready to go back to work tomorrow morning and reassert myself there.  There’s no need for me to feel self-conscious or shy.  If I relax and let my true self emerge, I’ll feel comfortable and included in the office soon enough.  I may not have met all my goals this week, but there is still plenty of time: 8 more weeks.


About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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