If You Ask, You Will Receive

Last week I complained about feeling lonely during my first week in Houston, but that has not been the problem during my second week.  Instead, I had plans with friends and group meetings almost every night.  This was a quick change and I loved every minute of visiting with friends both old and new.  But my third week’s challenge will be finding a balance between the two–plays and senior thesis projects won’t finish themselves!

First of all, my social life at work began to take off.  Last week I knew one of my mentors, the marketing and communications staff member, and I had met everyone else in our office briefly.  A few factors combined to make this a more social week where I had more opportunities to meet with new people both within and outside of Houston Center for Literacy.

On Monday, our new Director of Advocacy started.  We had a staff meeting complete with breakfast tacos.  For me, the repetition of everyone’s names and positions helped.  I also found out that one day the CEO had been trying to contact me, but couldn’t because the phone in my office forwards to my mentor in Dallas.  Whoops!  I never even heard she was trying to find me.  Because Jackie was new, I was no longer the oddest new face in the office. I felt more like I belonged.

Over the course of the week, there were more activities for Jackie to get to know the office and what we try to do to advocate to change the illiteracy problem in Houston.  Thankfully they invited me to go on many of these little field trips so I got to see much of what we do first-hand.  On Tuesday we visited a learning center where adult education and ESL classes are taught every day.  I loved getting to ask questions and hear from the center’s director what they do.  By far the most exciting trip was on Wednesday morning.  We all travelled to City Hall to see the appointment of a new member to our Board.  The actual appointment lasted about two seconds, but I enjoyed sitting in the gorgeous building and meeting a few important people also in attendance.  It may seem weird, but my favorite part of all these trips were the car rides.  Most of the time our CEO drove and I loved getting to speak to her and listen to her crazy stories.  For example, one of her childhood friend’s father invested his savings from selling odd hubcaps collected off the streets in Southwest Airlines, made a fortune, and now owns Regency Films.  WHAT?!?!  I know that the more I work with Sheri, the more I will learn this summer.

I know I should have been watching the meeting, but part of me just wanted to marvel at the art deco interior . . .

Even outside of work, I am learning from my friends.  On Tuesday night I met up with one of my old roommates for fro-yo.  She’s also a writer and we enjoyed sharing our research on graduate schools with MFA programs, education, and senior thesis progress.  We are similar in so many ways, and yet so different.  I loved exchanging opinions with her about Twilight and Perks of Being a Wildflower.  Plus she gave me The Fault in Our Stars to borrow (when I’m going to read it is another issue . . .).  Wednesday night I met with a newer Martelian friend at Black Hole coffee shop.  We enjoyed talking about Sherlock and his progress in the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, but I’m also excited to work on a joint project between his club, Active Minds, and the Rice Literary magazine.  Mental illness is an issue that all college students should be aware of and I’m glad that I can help break up the stigma associated with it.

The counter of Black Hole. This picture was taken with one of those hipster filters, but it actually fits the atmosphere at this place.

Thursday night brought one of my favorite new activities: summer writing group.  It was great because we had two of the same writers from last week, but also a new fiction writer from Rice’s Marketing Graduate program and a recently-graduated Martelian friend who was also one of my fiction authors from the 2011-2012 edition of R2.  With so much new work, I didn’t expect to get to my play, but everyone wanted to learn so much more about my process and scriptwriting.  Last week I had been nervous about getting criticism, but now I don’t know why.  It was just what I needed.  They reinforced that I am going in the right direction and gave me specific examples to revise the weaker areas.  It has given me new motivation to keep writing the second act.

On Fridays I get off work at noon, but this week I didn’t stop working then.  I set up many, many meetings with groups on campus.  It was a little overwhelming to talk about applying for big name scholarships and what kind of progress I should be making on my senior thesis this summer.  I feel so busy working full-time at the Houston Center for Literacy and it’s scary to think about the future.  Thankfully I finished off the afternoon by meeting with a friend from my Modern Drama class last semester.  Kay works at the literary journal at Rice, but more importantly, she is also a playwright!  She told stories in class about feedback Edward Albee and Langford Wilson gave in creative writing courses she has taken.  I was blown away and I knew that this summer I needed to talk with her more about playwriting.  We had a wonderful conversation about what she has written in the past, what I am writing right now, the culture at Rice, the many many theatre opportunities in Houston, and how we were both going to spend part of this weekend writing.  I loved it.  It reinforced that I am working on the right projects this summer.  I may get exhausted, but I am staying true to myself and focusing on things that will make me happy.

I finished off the night by going with a HUGE group to eat dinner and see Prometheus. There’s not much I can say without giving away plot points, but I must say that it was entertaining, startling, and had beautiful cinematography with the alien landscapes.  And I’m happy that I have been watching so much Doctor Who this summer; I feel it prepared me for the topics discussed.

I still have much to do this weekend before my third week begins.  I need some alone time to get back on track with all my academic and writing projects, but I am so blessed to have inspiring friends.  Bring it on week three!

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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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