All posts by Tatum Conner

Apparently, We Are All Clay Jars 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hope as “cherishing a desire with anticipation.” Which, as we all draw nearer to graduation I would say is how I feel about May 5; hopeful. However, the archaic definition of hope is trust. And trust, I think, is harder to obtain than hope sometimes. Hope is internal. Hope is something that sits under your breastbone and burns with little sparks to keep you moving. Trust is an elusive concept. Most of us don’t even trust our own bodies or minds, riddled as we are with diseases both mental and physical. This idea made me think of the story of Pandora and her box.  

Pandora in Greek Mythology was a woman fashioned from clay by Zeus who was married to Prometheus’s (the guy with the fire and the eagle liver thing) brother. As a wedding present, Zeus (lightning thunder dude who liked to change into animals to have affairs with mortal women) gave her a clay jar or box and told her not to open it. As all Greek myths go she opened the jar and let out all the evil, disease, and nastiness that the world now contains, but she shut the box before Elpis, the Greek minor god of hope could escape.  

There are a lot of different theories and interpretations of and about this story, but one that gives me hope is the idea that the clay jar was representative of the human body. Hear me out. So Pandora was the first human made out of clay by Zeus, given the clay jar with all the evil of humanity inside of it. She opened it and now all that was free in the world but the only thing inside the clay jar was hope. The only thing left inside this physical metaphor for the human body was the small, flickering idea of courage and belief. Which means that while people can be evil, can be sick, can commit atrocities beyond imagination, the only thing that is inherent in all of us is not good or evil, but hope.  

Hope therefore is the truest human expression, the truest emotion that all humans share. The universal truth of humanity is hope, and if we go off of the original definition is trust. I hope for my future that I can embody this more, that I trust more, that I hope more. There are goals, aspirations, working hard, and planning, but hope is what keeps those fires lit.  

 

There is another interpretation of Pandora’s Box, and it is that Elpis is really the minor god of foreboding, that ominous and ever-present fear that is the acid that eats away at hope. And while that sounds like a terrible thing to keep trapped inside of a clay jar, this too brings the reader of Pandora’s Box hope. For fear is locked in a vault somewhere it can not touch the sunshine rays of hope we hold in all of us.  

Lady Luck is Seen in Her New Role: Organizational Skills 

I have an interesting relationship with lucky charms. Having grown up playing select field hockey, all the girls had some keychain, Under Armour, socks, ect. that they had to have on them before they played in any competition game. One of my teammates, (a goalie the most superstitious of all players) wore the same pair of gross, falling apart socks until they literally were just tubes and could not be classified as socks anymore. I never really had anything like that; instead I had my routines, and they’ve carried over into a lot of different aspects of my life post high school.  

Before a game day, I would wake up two hours before we had to leave the house, even if that time was as early as 4am. I would eat the same breakfast, two eggs sunny-side up with an apple, milk, and either turkey or sausage. I always put my uniform on the same way; always put the right cleat on before the left. Once I was on the field I would spin my stick in my hand twice and make sure my fingers were gripped precisely over the tape that had a Wayne Gretzky quote on it, and I stayed in that position until the whistle blew to start a game. There are more pieces to my routine that I used to do, like drink 8 ounces of chocolate milk after every full-time game, and how I would tape my stick, but those I left with the smelly hockey gear in my closet.   

Now that I’m not playing hockey or entering into competitions, my routines have just switched into class related structures. I still wake up two hours before I have to leave the house for class or work or whatever. I don’t eat the same breakfast but I eat something, get dressed in a specific order, do my make-up in the same order in the same place, set up my backpack and planner in the same way and on and on. It’s gotten so bad that my mom calls me at the same time most nights because she knows after 10:30pm all bets are off for me picking up the phone. 

These routines maybe don’t feel lucky in the way that they bring me outstanding feats of academic prowess or crazy catch-every-green-light coincidences, but they make me feel settled and prepared which I think is the best luck. I don’t claim to be like Sidney Crosby levels with my routines and superstitions, but if you see me in the TAD office working, there is a 95% chance I’ll be sitting in the same chair on the backside of the front table. Luck to me is something that comes after you’ve done everything you can to make yourself lucky. I think the ancient Greeks would disagree and yell at me for believing I have a future I can affect myself, but I’d like to think that while we may have a destiny, we each make our own luck. And that’s pretty lucky I guess.  

 

Philtatos  

i find i am a vessel 

poorly made and filled with memories 

waiting to speak and make real what i have witnessed. 

for i am the god of missing aches, of fingertips outstretched, 

and the spaces between stars.  

 

i have seen the dawning and the dusk, 

i have known the tide as it swept across your shore, 

but of you, none. 

i have missed you. i will miss you 

like the night, for you could only be the sun, brilliant, warm, and golden. 

 

could yet war be won for the wanting of you, i would have slayed  

all stood before, an Achilles without his Patroclus,  

wild, and ruinous.  

 

for i am the god of missing loves 

And mine has yet to clasp their hand in mine. 

 

Philtatos, most beloved, 

i wait for you. 

Like Blue Planet Meets Parks and Rec 

If I could be in a TV show, any TV show, I think I would have to admit to the world the not-so-secret love of mine for BBC (British Broadcasting Channel) nature documentaries. Traveling around the world to explore the last reaches of the wild places on Earth is everything that I want to do in life. Unfortunately, I lack the gentle British accent and soothing tones of David Attenborough so I think any of my viewers would be ultimately disappointed, but to stand on the African Rift Mountains and discuss the ever-changing Savannah would be worth the low ratings. At least to me; I can’t speak for the BBC and their budgetary needs.

The ultimate pinnacle of amazing nature documentaries that I would insert myself into would be BBC’s Blue Planet. I have no scuba training, no ability to hold massive, waterproof cameras steady underwater, nor the stomach for long boat trips, but to swim stretched out next to a blue whale, to look into her eye and know that she was here before I was born, and will be here long after, would change my life I think. So Blue Planet 3, hit me up if you need a relatively unskilled 21-year-old to join your crew.

However, if I were to write my own TV show and there were no limits, I would do something different than nature docs. I would cast an all minority cast. We would have scripts that used words like bisexual, feminist, and Black Lives Matter in meaningful ways that add to the larger discourse instead of being the butt of jokes. Inside the actual plot, I would have to admit that deep down I’m a romantic. I want the struggle of Captain America (because if he isn’t a closeted bisexual man in love with his best friend and punching people along the way I’m a hat), meets the surety of a Law and Order episode (because they always get the bad guys, right?), meets the queer romance of Below her Mouth (it ends happy okay) all wrapped up together and packaged into easily binge-able and funny 30-minute episodes. I want Parks and Recreation but even more liberal and queer, and with more fight scenes so maybe what I really want to write is 30-Rock meets 300?  

Jokes aside, if I were ever given the opportunity to write a TV show I would want to make a character that I could have seen myself in as a younger girl. Growing up it would have changed my life to see someone who looked like me, who loved like me, and who had the aspirations of a future shaped just like mine. In today’s world getting to tell stories like this are difficult as producers refuse to pay for anything that isn’t guaranteed to make money and sell advertising space. Which is why we have the third remake of Spider Man in my lifetime happening now, and why the Big Bang Theory spin-off, Young Sheldon, even exists. But, if one day this mishmash of shows is on a 9pm ECT on Wednesday nights, I would pay for cable to watch it every week and boosts its ratings, which is a lot of dedication okay? Cable is expensive, and Netflix exists.

TAD: Thankful for All the Days

Thanksgiving does bring that idea of thankfulness, as everyone probably has guessed from the name. Yet, no year has ever made me feel quite as thankful as my senior year here at JMU and at Technology & Design. At this point I’ve been at TAD for about three years, but when I first started, I was an awkward second semester sophomore who didn’t know anyone in the office except for the team lead at the time, Elaina. I would spend my office hours quietly behind a desktop computer, channeling Harry Potter and “making no noise and pretending that I don’t exist.” As junior year began with the craziness of training week and a whirlwind of laughing taddies who were quickly becoming some of my closest friends, I settled into my place on the Writing Team.

The Writing Team my junior year, was composed of mostly seniors who would be leaving TAD when they graduated, and I was given the opportunity to be the Writing Team lead for my senior year after the current team lead left. In addition to this amazing offer, I was also given the chance to stay in Harrisonburg and work at TAD throughout the summer. Full of hot days, and possibly reaching the limit of tea a human can drink, this past summer was full of amazing experiences; I was able to help Lindsey (the current Assistant Director of TAD) plan training week, write team handbooks, and even design a new webpage for TAD and our clients.

Even though this fantastic quilted collection of times makes me thankful for TAD and all the wonderful people it contains, nothing hit me harder than when all of my crazy Trello board organizing, calendar planning, and handbook obsessing came to head in my wonderful, productive, amazingly talented Writing Team. They inspire me every time I scroll through the list of things that they’ve accomplished just this semester on our editorial calendar. I have to confess, I obsessed over every single list, every card, and every comment on every board for the entire week before training to ensure that everything was ready for them at training week.

Right before Thanksgiving Break my senior year, I convinced a few taddies to put up the TAD Christmas tree, listen to a few carols, and spend a couple minutes decorating as a group. When I left for class in-between decorating, a few people created a tree topper star and an ornament for the tree with my face on them.

TAD's 2017 Christmas Tree
TAD’s 2017 Christmas Tree

Coming back into TAD and seeing my face splashed all over the tree, listening to my friends laughing and Christmas music playing, and sorting through past taddie ornaments to arrange carefully on the tree brought little pinpricks of tears to my eyes. I’ve had Christmases, birthdays, a summer, Valentines days, and everything in-between at TAD, and each one is full of happy memories and special topic monthly blogs.

TAD has become my home here at JMU. Each and every taddie has pushed, helped, and inspired me to become the best version of myself I can be at this point in my life, and I could not be more grateful for this crazy, quirky place. More than that, each person in this second-floor office has been my friend, and I don’t know if I’ll ever find a place quite like TAD ever again. So, thank you, TAD. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know I joke a lot about living at TAD, but I hope the spirit of hard-work, team collaboration, and friendship lives in me (as cliché as it is) for the rest of my existence in this wild life and I couldn’t be more thankful for anything as I am for that. So, I know the rest of the seniors (new and old) and I will be cherishing every meeting, late night Slack, and missed Trello update until graduation.

 

Thanks for everything, TAD <3.

Things I used to be Afraid of or: Teen Wolf lied to me about what to expect with my public school experience with werewolves

I used to be terrified of the idea of things coming to life from my nightmares and walking around with me during the day. I would dress in my red, green, and black plaid jumper uniform, with a white button-down shirt and red snap-tie, and head into elementary school like everything was normal in the aftermath of a nightmare. In the watery sunshine of a Hampton morning, fog rolling in off the James River into the backyard, “older kids’ playground,” things seemed just a bit unreal every morning. It was just surreal enough to look like the opening to a fairy tale that nightmares seemed a plausible reality. Things would start to appear in the corner of my eye, the candles at mass seemed to jump and flicker just a bit more than usual when I walked by, and I kept thinking that someone was calling my name when no one was, keeping me in a perpetual half-turn. 

I have a vivid memory from when I was a kid about walking downstairs after a nightmare to get a glass of water. I walked into the kitchen after carefully walking across the creaky hardwood floor in front of the stairs, and just happened to look out the big floor-to-ceiling panel windows that looked out into the side-yard. There, perched in-between the softly swaying pines and bushy mint stalks, was a big, black, furry thing with glowing, red eyes, and what I’m sure were huge teeth. At this point my brain was screaming at me to FORGET THE WATER KID LET’S GO, but for some reason I stood there and stared at it until it lumbered off. Thus satisfied, I quickly walked-maybe ran-upstairs to bed and promptly fell back asleep.  

I had an active imagination as a kid. I read a lot of books that I probably should have waited until I was just a touch older to read. But, somewhere around sixth grade I had a revelation, and I’m not entirely sure but, I’m placing the blame squarely on Stephanie Meyer’s crappy writing shoulders with all the Twilight hype that was going on–all terrible middle school ideas should be her fault. Anyway, I had this idea that things only became nightmares because there was no one to love them wherever they were, you know, trapped in the liminal space between alive and somehow not, all alone in the dark only to interact with people in their nightmares.  

So, it became my little sixth grade mission to lucid dream in my nightmares and try to hug creepy demon-monster things, and then during the day try to put out enough “I am a happy and loving person who totally will be friends with anyone who needs one” out into the ether. I’m not sure if it worked or not, but I haven’t had many nightmares since then. I do sometimes catch myself skating my eyes over the corners of rooms, and almost turning to respond to someone saying my name.  

Harvest Orange  

“The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter-often unconscious but still a faithful interpreter-in the eye.” Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

The car is running softly underneath my right foot, and the brakes clench up under my slightly to vigorous press at the top of the hill. The street is pitch black except for the blue-edged glare of the IHOP sign reflecting across my windshield. The red of the stoplight seems to be more faded than usual and the parking lot of the movie theater is an empty black stretch down the gently, sloped road. Hanging above the muted steel-grey of the stoplight cross-bar is an orange crescent moon.

Warm, low, and shining with left-over sunlight, the moon seems to reach for her left over piece in the Earth. The almost harvest moon, skinny before the flushed glut of the October fullness, pushes an ache in my stomach to the surface. Drawn longing sudden and violent to my fingertips, and for just a moment, I press my hands to the cool of the smudged windshield and think what it would feel like to touch the sharp edge of the moon.

It would feel desperately cold, I think. I mean we know, empirically, that space is cold, and thus with no atmosphere the moon is also cold. The moon, the no name moon, has no heart inside her to bubble up to her surface with tender heat. Has nothing to keep her from the cold clutch of space, inky black and full of faraway stars. I think that’s why she keeps drifting down closer to Earth. Spiraling slowly closer orbit-by-orbit, year by year. She was supposed to be a piece of Earth, supposed to have grass and heat, supposed to be named.

This feeling of namelessness, of desperation to become full and claimed, is what autumn instills inside me at times. A blanket desire for a warm mug of something sweet to be held in empty palms, cupped, curved, and dry around a heat found not within one’s self, to be famished and bursting all at once, to feel chilled and yet warm gently by flame.

A season of disparate dichotomies and shared nostalgic memories, autumn comes bringing winds through the mountain-valley trees. After parking my car, I turned the lights off and settled into the silence of a past midnight neighborhood, the pinging and groaning noises of my old car cooling off my only company. And as I step outside to walk into the little copse of trees guarding the entrance to my stairwell, I can see the orange moon and she can see me and we both smile, a little sadly and part as friends do, softly and with great promise.