Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Oxymoronic Statement

Oh, December, how long has it been since you’ve last flown by?

I think it’s funny, in an ironic and not so humorous sort of way, how fast December comes and goes. As cliché as it sounds, it seems  like only yesterday December 1st was staring each and every one of us in the face telling us there were only thirty more glorious days until December and 2011 were over.

I suppose the real reason behind December’s hit and run is the dreaded Finals Week. A person would think that after seven semesters of going through this process, I would be used to it. I would remember that Dead Week is named properly and my finals will slide by because I’m taming the exhaustion monster in between each test.

I say this because my roommates just told me to go back to bed for the second time today.

As much as I would like to just crawl back under my warm covers and not come out again until Christmas, I can’t. My mind just won’t let me.

ADD? Perhaps, ADHD?

No, not a chance. I just need focus. I need to be doing something.

Because of this my college dorm room, or rather my apartment bedroom, which by all accounts should be a pit during finals week, is spotless except for the shoes scattered across the floor from when I came back from lunch. My parents would be shocked to see that my bed is made and my clothes are actually put away instead of sitting folded in a basket.

Shocking, right?

I know my mind is semi-blown. When I go home in a couple of days things are going to be even worse because as time has progressed, I may have gotten worse. My work has become more meticulous.

However, in response to all of this, I am still a procrastinator.

Iconicity scale? The awkward little red needle is sitting on about an 8.5, pushing 9.

A procrastinator who has the unexplainable need to focus—that has to be one of the biggest oxymoronic statements out there. But, for clarification’s sake, I need to state that I’m only a procrastinator when it comes to writing a paper and usually it isn’t my fault. Well, it is but it isn’t. I write better under pressure. It reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. Several in fact, but the one I’m thinking of explains my mind explicitly.

Of course there are always the moments during that last-minute panic where my muse is gone anyway. All I have to say is that the next time it goes, I hope it take me with it. Hopefully somewhere nice. England. France. Italy. The list of possibilities is endless. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Perfect Fit

Some days I sit and ponder all the things I could be, all the things I want to be, and all the things I am. I don’t think I’m ever satisfied with the results. But I don’t think I want to be.

When I was little I wanted to grow up and be a famous singer. I wanted to be on stage and touring. I was going to see it all. I was going to live my dream.

How was I supposed to know things would change?

By the time I was in high school I became a little more realistic. I thought I could teach music. I could still share my passion for music with people, but I would be serving a greater purpose. When I was a sophomore in high school, I gave it all up. I quit choir for purposes I won’t discuss here. Some things are better left buried.

There was some light during that year, however. I was a journalist for the high school newspaper. The sky was the limit. Granted, it was during this time I learned of my displeasure in interviewing for journal articles, but I found writing as a release.

During my second semester of that year, I agreed to join the 10/12 Girls’ choir. Much to my displeasure, my friends volunteered me to audition for a solo I later received. It seemed that I was back on track to being a music teacher. My love for the subject had never left, it was newly affirmed, but it was my junior year that altered my thinking.

That year I was placed in an English class with a newbie. He’d just graduated from studying abroad at Cambridge. He was fresh from the commencement line and willing to teach a bunch of snarky high school air heads the classics of literature.

I don’t know how he survived that year.

I really don’t know what made him come back the next year.

But it was his way of teaching that made me think, “Hey, I could do this.”

My senior year of high school I was graced with the pleasure of being in one of his senior English classes. I was elated. That year we were introduced to MLA formatting, Hamlet, 1984, and The Lord of the Flies. As nerdy as it sounds, I was in heaven.

This year reaffirmed my decision to take up a double major. I was going to study English and go into Music Education. Sounds weird, exhilarating, and slightly mental, but I didn’t care. This was going to be my dream.

How wrong was I?

It only took me one semester to find out people do NOT double major in Music Education and English unless they are clinically insane. To any person who tried, I commend you. To any person who succeeded, you deserve a medal, possibly a Peace Prize.

I learned very quickly that though I may posses a love of music, I am not meant to study it religiously. For personal interest, perhaps. As a “This is what I Want to do With the Rest of my Life” kind of thing…no way. You could not pay me enough to go through that again.

So I dropped part of my major.

English isn’t so bad. Besides, I could still teach. Then I did some reflecting.

Did I want to stand up in front of a class room of people and lecture about things they have no interest in? Did I want to grade papers every night? Did I want to read essays of kids who were just breezing by?

Pardon my expression, but hell no.

That was when it became clear that my passion was writing. I’d spent two years on the newspaper staff writing columns about whatever I chose. I wrote stories. I grudgingly wrote poetry I shared with the world. Who was I to deny my real calling?

So I embraced it.

And I wouldn’t change it for the world. This is what allows me to be who I want to be. As much as I may panic about all that I need to accomplish for my degree, all I need to do is remember to take a step back and think about why I want to go down this path.

It isn’t because I can’t go anywhere else. (I could…I think).

It isn’t that I’m not good at anything else. (I hope).

It’s that this field is where I belong. I am allowed to have the freedom to do all the things I want to. I am allowed to be who I want to be and I have to opportunity to dream up whatever I think I could accomplish.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fearing to Live

Deciding how to live your life is easy. All you have to do is sit and ponder what it is you wish to do. The hard part comes with the execution. Will you live your life the way you planned?

For a few, it happens. They have little to no outside influence and are able to live the lives they wish without someone coming in and informing them how wrong their life choices are. For others, there is that outside voice pointing out every tiny flaw. The rest are left with something more devastating: the inner critic.

It’s completely possible and most likely probable that, at twenty one years of age, I have not learned all there is to now. It’s even more likely that I will be learning things until the day I die (which hopefully is decades away). But it’s moments like the one I am currently sitting in that I despise that little voice in my head.

For those of you laughing, I’m not talking about the crazy one who thinks standing on a basketball in rollerblades could end pleasantly. And for those of you keeping track of all the weird experiments I’ve done over the year, I was a successful eight-year-old until my sister pushed me over.

No, I’m talking about the inner critic who usually comes for a visit when my muse leaves on its world tour. Unfortunately, my muse likes to go on vacation when there’s work to be done and I’m left with this tiny little critic who plants little seeds of doubt that blossom into colossal mountains of terror.

Exaggeration? Possibly.

But why is this critic so vicious? What could I have possibly done to make it such a villainous character? The key? Choices.

The proof comes from my latest example. For my Creative Writing class, ironically the class I have to keep this blog for, we had to turn in a play. It was only one scene. It could be something simple. It could be as complex as we wanted it. There were no limitations. Everything was left open. Sounds as easy as taking a drink of water.

Four partially written plays later, I’m still choking on the water.

It’s not that I didn’t have an idea. I did, thus the numerous manuscripts running around. The problem with writing a play is not writing the dialogue, it’s what can and cannot be produced on stage. This is not a film, things don’t magically appear. There is a big restriction on space and time.

Eventually, I completed two different plays and chose the more lighthearted one for submission.

However, it never fails that when I want to send something for final marking, I have reservations. Emailing out a document is never easy. It should be. I know what I wrote. I’m content with this draft. It isn’t the final draft. It isn’t headed off to publication. So, what’s the big deal?

It’s the fear planted by the inner critic. Even before I click “Send”, my mind has begun to race. What if no one likes it? What if it’s not as funny as I thought it was? What if no one gets what I’m trying to say? What if they hate it? Is it possible to throw cabbages in class?

The insecurities brought about are endless. It’s rather unfortunate. But it’s just something everyone has to embrace. But there lies another problem.

To encourage someone who is feeling dejected about their work, we often use the words, “Embrace your trash.” It sounds funny and slightly encouraging, but at the same time, to someone exceedingly unconfident, it could sound demeaning. Suddenly their mind races. “I didn’t think it was trash. I mean it was bad, but trash? Is it really that bad? Maybe I really can’t write.”

It’s just another long list of more insecurities.

But how does one live with that? Or better still, how does one overcome that?

Unfortunately, no one can. You just have to find a way to cope. The concept, to each his own, comes to mind.

Ultimately, no one can tell you how to live. No one can legitly tell you what to do. You are influenced. The outside world can say they are telling you how to live, but, in reality, they are just providing you with suggestions. It is up to you how you choose to follow it.

As it has been written: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” (Shakespeare, Hamlet).

Embrace the fear. Live your life and don’t look back. Insecurities will only hinder the progress you wish to make. It may sound like a fortune cookie, but better to live this way and know you tried than live in fear and know you could have been more.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Childhood Memories Revisited

Every few weeks there’s an incident forcing me to think back about things I’ve been through. Sometimes they’re positive. Sometimes they aren’t. Because of our human tendencies and the lives we live we cannot always walk around with a smile plastered our faces. We’d all be liars if we said there wasn’t anything hidden beneath the surface. This, however, brings me back to the thoughts I’ve been having.

Halloween is usually a holiday where children can dress up creatively and run around from house to house begging for goodies to rot their teeth out. It’s a beautiful tradition that has been continued for as long as anyone alive can remember. There are only a few things I can remember growing up and Halloween was one of them. I remember the weeks before as my mom would prep the house. We’d go down to the basement or upstairs to the hall closet (or my closet where we’d packed it all one year) and drag out all the decorations. Then we’d spend three days setting everything out.

There’d be witches placed around the living room. There were ghosts and spiders in the dining room. The bats flew happily in the hallway. After the cardboard skeletons were taped to the wall and mirror in awkward positions, Dad and I would head outside with the remaining boxes. Our lawn would then be decorated with tombstone cutouts as ghosts glided across the front porch. In my mind there was nothing better, nothing could come close; not even going through the same procedure with the Christmas decorations.

The second best part of Halloween was the costuming of it. A strange term, but fitting nonetheless. It’s a complicated and vexing decision, deciding what to wear, how to wear it, to make sure you don’t look like any of your friends. This is where the hilarity of the holiday comes into play; this is categorized as a children’s holiday, but adults have just as much fun dressing up while teenagers frown on anyone who does.

This brings me back to the point of this post: the last time I unintentionally celebrated the holiday. Now some of you might say, “Didn’t you celebrate Halloween last year?” I did in a manner of speaking. I went to the Halloween party. Our apartment handed out candy. I personally decorated our apartment, but for a purpose, a distraction.

Six years ago was the last time I enjoyed Halloween for its festivities and not for the distraction it provided.


It’s because this time of year is more than a little depressing for my family. Although we celebrate Halloween and the birth of someone who means more than words can express, we also mourn the loss of someone important, someone we lost six years ago. I’ve heard it said that as time goes by, the pain begins to lessen. Each year is supposed to be easier than the next. Sometimes I feel like people just say things they think are going to make a person feel better, they don’t step back and assess that this probably isn’t going to make this person feel any better.

For reference, the first date is October 31st, Halloween.

The second date I am referring to is my older sister’s birthday, November 5th.

The third date I refer to is the day before, November 4th.

It was on this day in 2005 that our family lost someone important—the only grandfather I’ve ever known. This year will have been six years since I last saw his mostly toothless grin smiling at me. Ironically, that is the most important memory I have of him.

Many grandchildren who lose their grandparent at a memorable age can remember all of the sadness and deterioration time inflicted on this person. Thankfully, that isn’t the case with me.

I can remember walking into the nursing home, walking past the nurse’s station, taking a left and walking down the hall to the third door on the left.

I remember watching them take him to dinner.

I remember his smile as he flirted with all the nurses.

I remember laughing at all his jokes.

I remember this being one of the only times in the last six months he called me by name.

I remember promising to see him later that week.

I remember saying goodbye.

I remember his smile, his voice telling me goodbye.

These last three are important because we never said goodbye. Whenever we left it was “See ya later, Alligator”; “After while, Crocodile”; or “Goodnight, See you in the morning.” It was always something of that nature. We didn’t say goodbye. Goodbyes are too permanent. Goodbyes meant forever.

But this was our goodbye.

It’s funny how we remember these things afterward when everything is said and done. My dad says that one day things will get easier, that it will be easier to remember. I can’t help but agree. Every year it becomes a little easier to get up. It’s easier to look at pictures. It’s easier to celebrate my birthday. It’s easier to remember all the good things, open the mahogany box of memories, and smile.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's Self-Dependence Not Stubbornness

Recently I've been accused of being stubborn. Not that I will disagree with this statement because, in all honesty, when it comes to certain things I will openly admit that I am stubborn. Lately, however, it has been the manner of reference in which the term was applied that I tend to disagree.
My first example is in regard to letting someone do something for me. My best example was during Club Week. Our Brother Club was informed to practice their chivalry with activities like taking dishes to the wash and opening doors. Two things I have been doing on my own everyday for as long as I can remember.
Now I don't see any women objecting to this. But then why would they? It is nice to have someone open your doors and clean things up. It’s a nice change especially when it isn’t planned.
However, it would appear that some of my male friends would object to me taking my dishes and other things to the wash in the cafeteria. I understand that it is part of “the code” but to chastise me for taking my dishes is a bit (please insert your own word here). If they offer willingly, I have no objection but when I get up and take them back myself I'm considered stubborn for not waiting for someone to come around and retrieve them for me.
Sure, the squires of their clubs are required to do this for initiation week, but to call me stubborn because I wouldn't "let them" take my dishes is unfair. Did I say I wouldn't let them? No. Besides, I've just been doing things for myself for so long that remembering to wait for someone to offer is hard. And you know what they say, old habits die hard.
To be completely fair and honest, I’m not opposed to this idea. And it would be unfair to say chivalry is dead because it is not. In fact, I’ve had some recent experiences where all the events were completely acceptable.
My example of the chivalry they were trying to get across would be when I was standing out in the rain, holding the door open so they could load our choir equipment onto the bus. I’d already been standing there for some time and thankfully a good friend of mine loaned me her umbrella so I wasn’t completely soaked.
The bus driver, bless his soul, offered to hold open the door and requested that I go in and get dry. Graciously, I accepted. Later that night I was standing outside the bus procrastinating. It’s not uncommon as claustrophobic people tend to prolong being tucked into tight spaces with no immediate exits. I’m standing out there when the same bus driver asks if I would like his umbrella. I know I won't be out there much longer since everyone is almost on the bus, so I decline but he goes and retrieves it any way. Thank you, sir. I deeply appreciate it.
Now back to the matter of my so called stubbornness. Is this stubbornness? I suppose it is if they didn't know my back story.
But I disagree with this comment. I've been doing things on my own and for myself for so long that it's hard to let someone in. Especially if they're just trying to be helpful. Admittedly here in lies the stubbornness.
So this is me admitting publically that chivalry is not dead but this is me pointing out that chivalry is not chivalry if it's thrust upon someone. It's bondage.  And it's not stubbornness...It's self-dependence.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Beginning

I've never been much for blogging or for religiously keeping a journal, but since this is an assigned project I might as well get over it and embrace the concept with open arms. My teacher in high school tried to get me to write everyday (as it was assigned) and it stuck for a while, but it’s just not something I write down. 

I think it has to do with the idea that my personal thoughts are on record for everyone to see. Sure, sometimes there isn't anything incriminating going through my head, but other times I find myself thinking about something and pausing to ask, “Did that really just come from me?” I also made myself a promise that I wouldn't blog. I didn't want to be one of those people who constantly wrote out what they were doing. I really don’t think the world needs to know when I cook dinner and what I decided to do. The only reason I have Facebook is to communicate with people. 

And even then I find myself questioning all the people on my friend’s list and what they are posting. Take this one friend for example. I don’t need to know the details of her fight and make-up with her boyfriend. I don't need to see a new picture of her every few minutes. It's crossing into the line into the "TMI" category. 

In the end I suppose none of it really matters. People are people. They act the way they want and choose to do what they think will make them happy. 

It’s as a good friend once stated to me: “What happens here, goes on Facebook.”

Post Extension:

Because I recently looked at the assignment criteria (thank you syllabus), it has come to my attention that the goal of every blog is to write at least 500 words. Am I panicking? Yes, I think I am. So to fill this requirement, I decided it would be in my best interest, or at least my grade’s, to go back and expand on this blog. How will I do this, you ask?

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea.

But I am determined to fill this word count. So, since this is an assignment, let me explain what I tend to get out of this.

It is my hope that I will be able to continue this blog after my class ends. I suppose that’s the purpose, but it’s a good goal nonetheless. My second wish is that, by the time class is over, I will be comfortable (or a little more comfortable than I am now) with my thoughts being posted all over the World Wide Web for everyone to see.

It doesn’t seem like a big step, but as a friend of mine pointed out, it’s hard for someone who keeps everything bottled up to let people in. It’s scary enough to think about what I think about, but the possibility that someone else will read it?

Institutionalization sounds better and better all the time.