10 Stages of Drake Finals Week

It’s my final finals! And what an exciting time it is. Thank goodness I’ve learned so much over my years at Drake and have now managed my time so wisely that I’m just sailing along. Hahaha; just kidding. I’m a mess. In what has become a truly time-honored tradition, I am currently reaping the seeds of my expert level procrastination, cramming to write papers and finish projects at the very last minute possible. Is this the smart way to do things? Nope. But it’s who I am, and at this point it’s far too late to change the crazy thought patterns that enter my head. It’s now my pleasure to provide an insight into my finals week thoughts. As deadlines loom, I make decisions. Some productive, some questionable. Okay, they’re mostly all questionable, but here they are:

8 hours till deadline: Okay, unlike last semester, I’m gonna get this paper done early. But not right now, obviously. I have tons of time.

7 hours till deadline: I just need the perfect playlist, then some stuff is gonna get done.

6 hours till deadline: Okay, that playlist took longer than I intended. But I’m gonna get started and write the header on my paper. Ooh, actually, my apartment is kind of dirty. I can’t work in these conditions. Better take some time to clean.

5 hours till deadline: Whoops. Okay, definitely going to write now. For real. I mean, right after I get a snack.

4 hours till deadline: Okay, I now have two pages written. That’s an accomplishment. An accomplishment that deserves a quick break.

3 hours till deadline: Oh, boy. The good news is that I work better under pressure anyway. And the pressure is building. I’ll calm down by checking my phone for a minute, then, it’s time to get serious.

2 hours till deadline: Ohhhhh no. I really have to work

1 hours till deadline: AHHHHH!!!!

1 minute till deadline: TURN IT IN; IT”S FINE. IT’S DONE!!!

2 minutes after deadline: That was terrible. Did I even spell check that paper? You know what, it doesn’t matter. That was so traumatic, I better settle down and take a well-deserved break.

Gray’s Lake

So, it’s springtime! Well, I guess it technically has been for a while, but now it finally feels like it. The Drake campus is happy, warm, and bright. And people are out and about. Which is great. Love those people. In my earlier days at Drake, I would lounge on the grass outside of my residence halls in warm weather or hang out with friends outside of the library. We’d talk, study, read, and well, mostly talk, to be honest.

As wonderful as all that was, these days, in my oh-so-mature years, I often find myself needing a little peace and quiet to think and get stuff done. That’s not to say that I still don’t spend time with others enjoying the spring, going to ball games, eating ice cream, and everything, but there is something very appealing in the idea of a solitary escape to nature every now and then.

I guess my version of nature is still not exactly “natural,” but it is outdoors, and it works for me. This past week, I took some time and went to Gray’s Lake. It’s kind of an urban-feeling park just a few minutes from campus, and connected by bike trails to downtown Des Moines. There’s people parasailing, sail boating, running, walking dogs, playing with kids. There’s even a beach with sand where people can lay out and go swimming in the lake. I know it sounds like I’m describing a George Seurat painting or something, and actually, I guess I kind of am.

Gray’s Lake is an idyllic spot in a lot of ways. It seemed like the whole Des Moines community was there the other day, and yet, I still found a spot under a willow tree, in the grass, near the bank of the lake to relax and read and just be. It was the kind of spot that made me want to recite Keats and read Wordsworth. The kind of spot that made me want to drink some lemonade and just take a nap. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it was refreshing to be outside on a beautiful day. Not exactly a revolutionary statement, I know. But a powerful one nonetheless.

Pros and Cons of Drake Relays

So, it’s done. I’ve celebrated my last Drake Relays as a student. I’d like to think I’ll be back in future years to once again join in the festivities, but for now, I think it’s important to reflect upon what has passed and the glorious—and not so glorious— moments of the Drake relays season. So, here’s my list of the Pros and Cons of the Drake Relays.

Me and my buddies soaking in the Relays craziness at Drake Stadium.

Me and my buddies soaking in the Relays craziness at Drake Stadium.

Pro—Everybody’s here!                                                            Alumni, parents, family, friends, future Bulldogs, plus all those world-class athletes…campus pretty much triples come Drake Relays season. And it’s wonderful. It’s the best time of the year to catch up with classmates and see friends who have graduated. There’s events going on every day of the week, and no matter where you are, you’re bound to see people you know.

Con—Everybody’s here.                                                                    I mean, people are great and all, but this campus can only hold so many. To be honest, by the time Relays are over, I’m definitely ready for the crowds to disperse… and for people to give me back my parking spots.

Pro—I actually care about track events                                     This is the one week of the year when you can talk to me about the triple jump or ask my opinion on a pole vaulting champion and I will give you an enthusiastic response. I mean, I really get into it. Seeing world records getting broken at Drake Stadium and people pole-vaulting over the street’s of downtown’s Court Avenue makes a crazy track fan out of me. And though I’m still not super sure what a steeplechase is or how people defy the laws of physics to high jump, I’m a huge fan nonetheless.

Con—I forget to care about school                                                                                                                                       The thing is, for some reason, they don’t cancel classes for Relays. School moves on…but I don’t always move on with it. When there are concerts, gatherings, and track events going on constantly, it’s really hard to focus on homework, projects, and papers. So I didn’t. Now, this week, reality is hitting home and I’m left to pick up the pieces from past Abbey’s negligence.

Pro—WE LOVE DRAKE!!!                                                                                                                                                     Relays is undoubtedly the most spirited time to be on Drake’s campus. We’re all filled with so much joy, noise, and Bulldog pride that it’s honestly kind of crazy. But we’re in it together. Seeing everyone around Des Moines in their Drake gear all week, you know you share a bond with these people.

Con— I’m so tired.                                                                                                                                                                   All that spirit and joy is great, but it’s also a lot. This week, I’m honestly left a little emotionally drained. I mean, it’s a lot of work screaming and supporting and being enthused all the time. I guess it’s just my burden to bear, though.

Beautiful Bulldogs

The Drake Relays is about world-class athletes, campus celebrations, and most of all, bulldogs. Drake’s mascot becomes an all-powerful symbol during these couple weeks every April. In fact, bulldogs are so praised that we even have a pageant to honor the most beautiful bulldog. This year for the first time during my tenure at Drake, the contest happened during the weekend, so I was finally able to go. And let me tell you, it really was beautiful. Though I’m not normally a fan of pageants, The Beautiful Bulldog Pageant is a definite exception.

Tank, the beautiful winner at this year's pageant, gets his own crown, throne, and cape, and gets to reign over  this year's Relays festivities. Photo via Drake University

Tank, the beautiful winner at this year’s pageant, gets his own crown, throne, and cape, and gets to reign over this year’s Relays festivities. Photo via Drake University

Over 50 different bulldogs competed and I got to see them dressed up in their finest and strut across the Knapp Center stage. There were dogs were dressed in scuba gear, a ladybug outfit, and even a pirate outfit. This year’s winner, Tank, was wearing army fatigues. It sounds kind of crazy, I know. But actually, it’s a really fantastic, fun, and important event. It brings the Drake community together to kick off the Relays season, and is just a showcase of what make Drake so special.

At then end of the day, the Beautiful Bulldog Pageant is really about more than those adorable, slobbery faces. It’s about celebrating Drake, raising awareness for canine adoption and welfare agencies, and honoring the memory of our late mascot Porterhouse, who was a therapy dog, adoption advocate, and unifying force of the Drake community.

Then again, those little faces really are pretty cute too. To see them in all their glory, check out this photo gallery. And for more information on this year’s Beautiful Bulldog Pageant, see the story here.

Drake Women’s and Gender Studies

The state capitals, how to write an essay, the lyrics to Remix to Ignition. I’ve learned a lot of important things in my educational career so far. From the tangible and concrete to the purely theoretical, my time at Drake has allowed me to expand my intellectual horizons. And while I’ve had the opportunity to experience a wide range of academic subjects, I can confidently say none has been more important that my foray into Women’s and Gender Studies.

If you’re picturing barefoot women parading around in the grass, reading Gloria Steinem, you’re completely off base…okay, so maybe not completely. But the point is that Women’s and Gender Studies at Drake is complex and multi-faceted. It’s more than reading the theory of Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, and Judith Butler. It’s Beyoncé, it’s Portlandia, it’s Britney Spears. Issues of feminism and the performance of gender are in the very fabric of our culture, economy, and political system.

It wasn’t until I came to Drake that I was really able to grasp that truth. Until I took classes about Women’s European History, Feminist Theory in Popular Culture, and the Salem Witch Trials that challenged the way I thought about gender and made me question my own thoughts and beliefs. I really can’t overstate how important this has been in my college career. I mean, after all, what is higher education for if not to provoke growth, spur discussion, and develop new perspectives?

Now, Drake is not Oberlin. The University strives to prepare students with a mix of liberal arts skills, but also focuses heavily on professional preparation. And while that’s great and important, I think it can sometimes take too much precedence. You’ll have the rest of your life to work in Excel spreadsheets, memorize chemical compounds, or refine your journalism skills. But you may only have one opportunity to have a big, fascinating discussion about what gender means, where our ideas originate from, and the reality of equality.

Sorry if I’m a liberal arts student cliché right now, but I firmly believe that Drake would be an even better place to learn if everyone had the opportunity to experience at least one Women’s and Gender Studies class. I mean, it’s not my job to tell people what to learn, but I guess I’m telling everybody what to learn right now. As a senior, I have that authority, right? So do it. Take a Drake Intro Gender Studies class. And watch it transform the rest of your life.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore

It’s almost hard to believe that when I first came to Drake I could barely use a hammer. Okay, to tell the truth, I still miss my nail about 50% of the time, but that’s improvement. The point is that before I arrived on campus, I had no idea I would become involved with Habitat for Humanity, much less become co-president of the Drake campus chapter. But these days, my work with Habitat is one of the most important, rewarding parts of my life.

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This past weekend, I got the opportunity to delve into one of my favorite parts of one of my favorite organizations with a trip to the Greater Des Moines ReStore. Habitat’s ReStore is what I like to call a mixture between Lowe’s and Goodwill. It consists of tons of donated home improvement and décor items, sold at discount prices. And all the funds from the store go right back to Habitat to help fund their work in the local community.

So, on Saturday, I went with a Drake Habitat group to volunteer at the Restore. We hung up giant area rugs for display, assisted customers, painted carts, took apart sink hardware, and even moved refrigerators and other large appliances. Pretty impressive, right? More so, it was a lot of fun to lend a hand and talk with members of the Des Moines community and Habitat staff. Plus, as it turns outs, I’m a pretty fantastic area rug salesperson. It’s always nice to have a fallback plan.

Joe Biden Visits Drake

So this week, Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, came to Drake University. The occasion was filled with majesty, grandeur, and a thriving political and economic discourse. Okay, so full disclosure: I was not there. But I heard it was great.

Sorry to disappoint everyone as I know you were counting on my firsthand political take and detailed economic analysis of the Vice President’s message. But I do have an excuse as I was in class and at work during VP’s appearance. Ah, yet another example of how the American political system keeps the working class down. Just kidding!…Well, kind of.

The point is that I saw the Vice President’s secret service SUVs, network news crews, and a whole bunch of important people in suits roaming around campus this week, and honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I know that sounds disrespectful, but what I mean is that over my four years at Drake, I’ve gotten to see some pretty important people here on campus and in Des Moines. I’m talking about individuals like Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter, and, Diane Sawyer hanging out on campus. I met Rashida Jones and Adam Scott and heard Tim Gunn speak. And the night before President Obama got elected for his second term, I went downtown to hear him speak and listen to the Boss play. (That’s Bruce Springsteen, for you youths out there.)

What I’m saying is, we’re kind of a big deal. And though I’m used to the rotating cast of politicians, celebrities, and world leaders rolling through campus, I’m never gonna stop appreciating just how cool it is.

The Beauty of Ignorance

It’s rather unquestioned at this point that college is the source of knowledge. It’s the place one goes to discover themselves through newfound information, and the beacon of intellectual achievement. The college experience is the rare landscape where academic exploration is not only accepted, it’s encouraged. To put it simply: “Girls (and boys) go to college to get more knowledge.”

But contrary to this perception, my college experience at Drake hasn’t been so much the discovery of knowledge, but more so the discovery of ignorance. My ignorance. Because I was a precocious (okay, annoying) kid, I believed if I just completed a checklist of reading materials, I would know it all. I would be educated. It’s taken me maybe my whole educational career to realize that I could read every book in the Western cannon and still have so, so much more to read. No matter how much I learn, there will only be a boatload more that I don’t know. And though I initially saw this ignorance as a hurdle to overcome, as a problem to be fixed, I’ve come to revel in it. The fact is, ignorance can be a beautiful thing.

I’m not saying we should all strive for stupidity or give up learning new things. Actually, quite the opposite. Becoming aware of how much I don’t know is the best thing that could’ve happened to me academically. In my last semester of college, I now know that a checklist of courses isn’t going to complete my knowledge. Thus, I’m free to learn and explore as much as I possibly can. I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity presented to me, and perhaps especially ones that emphasize my ignorance and challenge my abilities. So I’m taking classes this semester about African colonialism, Renaissance women, and European nationalism. In short, things I know nothing about. But, I’m learning, I’m working hard. And at the end of the semester, I’ll know a little more than I did before. I’m embracing the ignorance, even as I strive to eradicate it.

Doughnut Tour of Des Moines

This weekend, some of the best athletes in the nation have reached the pinnacle of their profession. After years of training and studying, injury and sacrifice, they’re playing in the Superbowl, the peak of American athleticism. Meanwhile, I too have achieved greatness this weekend. Like my comrades in the NFL, I’ve trained for years, and was able to showcase my skills in the best possible way: A Donut Tour of Des Moines. I know. Pretty impressive, right?

The thing is, I was craving a doughnut, but wasn’t quite sure where to go. So, like any good American, I just decided to eat all the donuts, to experience all that Des Moines had to offer in the field. I grabbed my roommate and we set off on a noble quest for fried dough. We decided to eat one doughnut at each place, and to keep going around the city until either time and/or sickness stopped us. And though we didn’t make it very far, we did experience some great, delicious, and unique doughnuts in the city of Des Moines.

They look pretty good, right?

They look pretty good, right?

Donut Hut

The first stop on our journey was also probably the best. A family-owned shop filled with homemade doughnuts, you really can’t beat the fun, community vibe of the Donut Hut. I had a Cookie Dough Donut and it may have been the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten. Seriously. It was good. The owners were really lovely, friendly people, and just made it an awesome experience. But honestly, even if they were terrible people, it would be worth it for those fresh homemade doughnuts.

Donut King

Our second stop on the grand tour took us to the Donut King. Majestic, right? Despite the royal name, Donut King was actually a really adorable, down-to-earth place. It’s set up like an old school diner with a long bar, swivel stools, and an old-fashioned cash register. Oh, and the doughnuts? They were pretty great too. My red velvet concoction was definitely worth the trip to West Des Moines.

Mahalo Mini Donuts

Our third, and sadly last, stop brought a little fun and diversity to the Des Moines doughnut experience. Not only does Mahalo serve batches of mini donuts, but they have island-inspired flavors and toppings like coconut, blueberry, and s’mores. Through the setting inside Jordan Creek Mall isn’t as charming as the other two shops, the donuts themselves were actually really good and fresh.

By this point, we were pretty full, I’m not going to lie to you. Although we had grand ambitions to survey the entire Des Moines doughnut market, alas, this was not the time. Nonetheless, we found some great new doughnut spots, and got a dose of inspiration for Doughnut Tour II, coming soon.