"This is Mel, and tonight she's going to voluntarily put on makeup for the first time." I nodded at Mackenzie. "Stage makeup," I added.

It was the last day of Modern I Dance Class, and we were introducing each other again, for the last time. Holly reminded the dancers that most of us would never see each other again - Purdue's a big school, the world's a big world. But sometimes that's the way it works, she said; people come together for a while and then they go away, but something still happened, lives were still changed. So take one more time to get to know your fellow dancers, and thank them today, and let's share this moment together as a class that's grown together through the term. (Mackenzie likes going to the movies.) I hope I'll dance with some of them again, though; it's a joy to dance with folks outside of class (Mallory's in my current piece, Scott was in the contact improv one, and they're both great).

It was the last day of Modern I Dance Class, and that meant I was nearly done with the semester. I've been slowly but steadily plugging through it; it's a heavy load, but a bearable one. Later that afternoon I talked with Jeff (who has been very kind; students of the future Dr. Li will be quite lucky) and finished my Statistics work for the term. I'm half-finished with my final Design reflection after talking with Robin, and hope to write up all my remaining Dance materials tonight so that only Hearing Aids work remains (there's a lot of it, though).

Yesterday in the clinic, Dr. Krishnan and Krista tweaked my settings, increasing the gain on both my hearing aids so that we hit speech targets for the first time. I'm able to handle more volume now than I was in May, and the boost gives me clarity instead of causing cognitive dissonance now. And we did turn on the two new features I'd found during my research for my presentation on Phonak technologies -- I can't figure out whether Auto ZoomControl is doing anything yet, but StereoZoom is holy crap. It uses the cardioid patterns of 4 microphones (2 per hearing aid) to achieve a tighter 30-degree directional beam (most directional beams are 60 degrees because they only use the 2 microphones on each ear individually). I flipped it on when we were in the pile of dancers warming up onstage and I was trying (desperately) to understand what the dance faculty were saying, and FOOM. Signal-to-noise ratio, as long as Sally or Carol or Mary Beth or Rebecca were directly in front of me and not too far away. Of course, this didn't actually help with the warm-up when everyone was whirling around and through each other, but I did my usual "fake it with a 1-second delay behind everyone else" technique and my muscles got nice and warm anyhow.

Today I've got to get into the audiology clinic and grab screenshots for my Phonak features so I can write the paper... but first, Design reflection, and tonight, Dance. Manage and juggle and interweave all your work, Mel. You can do it.

My department didn't finish all the brownies my mom had baked yesterday, so I took them over to dress rehearsal, and the dancers raved about them. (Mom, they send you compliments.) Yasmine borrowed Mallory's foundation and took my eyeliner and mascara (less than $5 at Walgreens that morning; I have now voluntarily purchased makeup) and spent a long time drawing it on a frantically blinking Mel. "Stop blinking! Mel, you're trying so hard to protect your eyes!" I rely on my eyes a lot, and the position of my neck so that I can lipread, and sometimes when I'm dancing those protective habits get in the way of good extension or posture or fluidity. (A telling moment: when working on inversions and being reminded to keep my head down, I blurted out "but I can't hear with my head down!" What I meant, I think, was "I can't lipread and get visual cues that auditory stimuli are going on!")

Lizzie finished the makeup job, putting eyeshadow and blush on me and showing me how to apply lipstick. Every time I looked in the mirror, I blinked and didn't recognize myself. Even this morning, in the bathroom mirror, I did a bit of a double-take; I couldn't get all the eye makeup off last night, so my eyes are a bit larger, my lips a bit redder... it'll take a few days after the concert for everything to wear off. I'm not making makeup a regular thing, but there are things it's useful for (like not washing out under stage lights), so on those occasions I can manage to stand it. (Eyeliner, though -- argh. Hate putting on that stuff.)

I'm so thankful for PCDC to anchor me this week. I'm almost reluctant to leave Lafayette next semester (I know, why am I saying this?) I wonder if it might make sense to only take the 2 graduate classes at OSU I need for my dissertation and actually live at Purdue and go in-person to the rest of my classes. Kelley is graduating, so there's an empty room in the Dance House that would love to have me; it's cheaper than the place I'm moving out of now, and the difference would more than pay for gas back and forth to Columbus. I could teach my signal processing class in person, actually go to Dr. Cox's course on Leadership, and be with people I really enjoy. Besides, I've been having so much trouble finding a place in Columbus; I was frustrated about that before, but maybe this is God's way of telling me "hey, keep this opportunity for staying open for yourself." And the 4-hour drive is a long one-way hike, but thanks to my hearing aids, I can actually listen to audiobooks now, and there are a lot I'd like to hear (I've never been able to do that).

So the way that would work... I'd live at Dance House and find a family in Columbus that would let a Mel stay with them 1-2 nights a week. I would drive out for my Tuesday class, sleep in Columbus Tuesday night, work in Columbus during the day on Wednesday, go to my Wednesday class, drive back Wednesday night.

Obviously I then can't take dance classes at OSU... but I could take a Tuesday/Thursday morning one at Purdue (Mary Beth's Jazz I?) and help out with PCDC even if I can't dance in a piece (I'd need to make either a Tuesday or Wednesday evening rehearsal, because each piece rehearses either Mon/Weds or Tue/Thurs). Keep going to dinners at the Huff household. Look for a house for next year with other folks in my department. Hang out with the wonderful audiology department and keep checking out my cochlear implant options. Do yoga with Kyler. Choreograph the piece I really want to do for XWorks. Ask Jamie if he gives piano/percussion lessons, maybe do some audio stuff for PCDC if I can find someone willing to let me apprentice under them.

Wow. I've learned to stay in a place. I know it's temporary -- Lafayette is never going to be home -- but I'm actually making connections and not running away from them or holding myself back because I don't want to have to rip up whatever I've put down.

Okay. Let me not get ahead of myself. It's time to hit the shower, and then Ritalin and breakfast and my Design reflection. Then I'll head to campus and get my screenshots in the audiology clinic, and then I think it'll be a day of working on campus until call time for the first show... I am a strange mix of tired and energized, deeply sad and warmly happy, foreign and accepted, lonely and lost and in at least a temporary home surrounded by people who are becoming friends.

I think this is what it feels like to be alive.