Posts tagged ‘me myself and I’

5 September, 2011

Embarking on a New Project…Boston 365

So, I’ve recently transplanted from upstate New York to Boston. Pretty much everything is shiny, new, and strange, and I’m doing my best to explore, adapt, and generally not suck.

One way that I’ve decided to get to know the city is by doing a photo project. So, starting on August 31, I began taking pictures.

August 31: Crossing the Hudson, getting ready to say goodbye to New York…

September 1: I found you some plants on move in day…

September 2: Scaffolding and construction on campus. My mother thought I was very weird for taking pictures of construction work. BC.


September 3: Dramatic tortilla chips and beer…and then a wall of rainbow Crocs. Quincy Market.

September 4: Went exploring… found lots of things, especially green things. Boston loves itself some green things. Also, BC at night.


September 5: My room is finally complete (until I decide that I’m bored and need to add more posters), so here is a view of my view. Window seat, overlooking green things, which we’ve already established Boston’s love for.


More later, that’s all for now. I’ll leave you with some Rumi:

“When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.
Praise God for those two insomnias!
And the difference between them.”

— Rumi



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6 July, 2011

Visiting Old Ghosts

It’s hard to go backwards in time. Memory is an evil, evil thing, and if you’re like me, your memory has the added caveat of not being very good. I remember faces, places, and bits of conversation, but I forget big things. I forget, years later, about the important conversations, the things that changed the world. The funny thing is, I can remember where we were when we had these tremendous conversations, but the content is often lost.

I remember romantically. I wish I had better control over it, and a lot of the writing I do is designed to help me see the whole picture, especially when it’s about something that I know I’m going to gloss over, or ignore altogether, ten years from now.

When I was a sixth grader, I remember the strange sense I had that people were larger than life, existed somehow outside of space and time. They were all powerful. I now see how tenuous control can be, and why it turns certain people into monsters, and others into mice.

I remember the tennis courts, and wailing on the tennis ball as hard as I could, missing half of the time, usually for the specific purpose of getting it over the 15-foot chain link fence.

I remember the library– the book displays are the same, even ten years later.

I remember the couch in my 6th grade teacher’s room, and the trolls and the castle she had in one corner, and the time metal vases that made me want to go to Greece for the very first time. She was the person that put the first spark of Greece in my brain.

Every day is a microcosm. Everything is a big deal. And no one gets it. And everyone is annoying. And bullying is everywhere, and you don’t know what to do about it. Weird thing is, a lot of those things feel the same way on the other side, as a teacher. This becomes your life.

1 May, 2011

Partisan

One of the questions I do battle with frequently is “Why read? Why study literature?

My answers vary depending on the day from a deplorable ‘I don’t know, best keep going so I can find out‘ to the self-indulgent ‘Life is short, best do what you enjoy‘ to the slightly less navel-gazing notion that ‘It’s a useful lens to view the world through‘ to what is currently my best answer– ‘It reminds me that there is a world outside partisan beliefs. There is something universal, and you are a part of it.

It is disconcertingly easy to get ensnared by the us-versus-them mentality that’s everywhere. Sometimes as Americans we think we’re the special snowflakes who have more opinions and chosen-sides than others, but in reality I’m pretty sure partisanism is pandemic.

I’m not above being partisan, mind you, far from it. I am, however, conscious of three things: (1) that I am partisan, for deliberate, researched reasons; (2) the “other side” is rarely composed of morons– they, too, are thinking, researching people, who frequently are separated from me by their priorities and beliefs; (3) these “sides” are often artificial– they are gross simplifications, and very rarely does the world fit neatly into two or even three “sides” of thought or action.

The second realization is especially important. It is easy to pick sides, and even easier to denigrate the worth of the other side. It is essential that we resist the temptation to do so. So much of our world could be improved by respect for differing perspectives. So much could be improved just by moderating ourselves.

You don’t have to agree. You just have to strive to be respectful– something I fear is becoming a more and more distant, abstract concept in digital culture.

Though the second is arguably the most important point, I think the third is the one that gets the most frequently ignored– it’s too easy to fall into the mythos of us versus them, too easy to buy into the oversimplification. I believe that most people, myself included, have to actively fight partisan thinking in order to see around it at all.

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

18 April, 2011

The Villain Talks Babies

I make little bones about the fact that wee wee beasties and I REALLY don’t understand each other. We have no natural chemistry. That kid that smiles shyly at you and runs away? I’m the adult version of that, with small children. We make eye contact, smile at each other nervously, then decide (wisely and in perfect unison) to run the HELL away.

Babies and I do not speak the same language, and probably never will. I would seriously consider adoption simply for the perk of being able to skip the first two years.

There’s just this intensely uncomfortable part, for me, as a person thoroughly wrapped up in expressive language, about communicating with babies. You’ll sooner get a straight answer out of a Magic 8 Ball. For as much ambivalence as I possess about the staring, gelatinous lumps of flesh that babies are, they steadily grow on me as they get old enough to actually express themselves. By the time they make it to middle school I think they’re really and truly brilliant (they agree– this is why middleschoolers and I have always gotten on famously.)

Hurk. Small children...

space

Both sides of the political spectrum have questions...

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Shopping for babies, however, is the worst. They have no personality (sorry, doting parents, it’s true), so shopping for them– especially for baby showers, when the kid isn’t even born yet– is horrible for someone like me. I  work very hard on presents, generally speaking. Thus, shopping for gelatinous lumps of non-personality is the bane of my philosophical existence. Also, marketing for children is basically designed to drive me over the edge.

To illustrate the level of my little kid and related shopping anxiety:

(click more)

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12 March, 2011

Memento Mori

I think I have at least alluded to the pathetic state of my memory– it’s one of the reasons why I write. I write to remember. My brain is very, very good at forgetting. It has relegated important conversations to the space of dreams, and sometimes erased them all together.

Strange things get burned into my grey matter– I remember learning about cavities in kindergarten, and clouds in first grade. I remember being outraged at my kindergarten graduation present (Barney cookie cutters), but none of the names of my classmates. I remember learning the meaning of the middle finger, but still know the name of my first grade crush only because I wrote it down in a Lisa Frank diary with a bubblegum-dispenser-shaped lock on it. Needless to say, I broke the lock years later and devoured the memories hidden there (and then promptly forgot most of them again.)

I often wonder if there is a logic to what we remember and forget, or if the resonance is too abstract for even us to understand why some things get dutifully filed away, while so much is lost.

What will I forget, in a year? In a month? In a day? How long will it take me to forget, for example, the color of your eyes, or the incident with the cell phone? The time(s) time stopped? How long before even these obscure references don’t ring true? I leave myself these breadcrumbs back to my memories, hoping (usually in vain) that years later I’ll know. I’ll remember what I felt so strongly, what shook me to my core, and what adventures I had. Or, at least, that’s what I hope.

“Your memory is a monster; you forget—it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you—and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you.” –

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

19 February, 2011

In which we are chased by the bliss…

I love how sometimes people and things sneak their way into your life. This is a very Campbellian “Follow your bliss” kind of moment for me, so I hope you can bear with me here. Sometimes you just have to let go and let the world take you where it is going to take you, and accept the fact that your input, at this point and time, does not matter in the least.

Is this an invocation for fatalism? No. There’s a difference in not having freewill and not having control. We rarely have control. Control is collective. Right now control rests with five grad school committees, two hiring committees, and people I never have and never will meet. What I can control is myself, the number of books I read, the number of tea cups I empty, the number of walks I take, and other microscopic things.

That being said, in the dozens of touchy-feely conversations I had about life and its direction last year, all of them inevitably mentioned that the right path will seem easy– it isn’t the easiest path, but pieces fall into place. The path feels right. There’s a part of me that feels like that’s happening right now. I’m not following the bliss…it’s kind of stalking me. One of the things I continue to be is an artist, and I keep selling stuff, and showing stuff, and making stuff. Seems pretty natural, but I never intended to be a professional artist– I actually turned my back on that avenue with all the venom I could manage. Now I’m beginning to wonder if that was the right choice. If the bliss tackles me and beats my head into the pro-art direction (why not, I’m going to be poor anyway), I’ll let you know.

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.

I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.
-Joseph Campbell

Also, Adele has been sneaking into my life for a while without me realizing it. Every time I saw the I Am Number Four trailer, I went “I like that song a lot.” I finally looked it up, and found out it was hers. Then I looked her up, and discovered that I knew five or six of her other songs, too. I’m being stalked by music! Blissful, bluesy music!

Anyway, enjoy.

Here’s the official video. It won’t let me embed it, but the official video is nice and pleasantly bizarre (there are ninjas and lots of broken white things.) I actually went through about twelve videos before I could find one that would embed. By the way, no one seems to know what she’s saying in the “lay your ???? bare” line. I’ve seen ship, shit, and sheet.

(lyrics after the cut)

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3 February, 2011

The Belly of the Whale

Six years ago (woah, that feels weird) I was writing a senior thesis for AP English Literature about Campbell and the Hero.

Every hero follows the same journey, according to Campbell. There are several pit-stops in the journey. Today, as I was doing someone else’s laundry and watching a rom-com, I started thinking about the Belly of the Whale– it’s the lowest point in the cyclical hero’s journey.

The Belly is the darkest place– its where all hope seems lost. It’s name, of course, comes from the Biblical Jonah, who was swallowed not by a whale but by a giant fish (being a pseudo-classicist means I get to occasionally be fussy and split hairs like that.) What makes this agonizing literary midnight interesting, however, is the fact that the hero can’t climb out alone. He needs assistance to get out of the disastrous mess he’s in. Theseus is dead until Ariadne gives him the string to help him navigate the labyrinth; Jason is dead until Medea gives him the tools and the magic he needs to get the fleece; Psyche is dead until everything from Cupid down to the lowest ant gives that dumb butterfly the assistance she needs.

I often wonder if there’s any parallel in real life. If mythology is a functional understanding of the world, surely its mimetic qualities are myriad. Sure, strip away the minotaurs and the Argo, but underneath, a lot of things hold true– team work, jealousy, interdependence, complicated family dynamics, angry mothers, chutzpah, fearlessness, and most importantly, the ability to take that hand up when you need it.

Maybe that’s what mythology’s most important lesson is– you can’t do this shit alone, and that’s okay. To any of you hanging out down here in the dark with me, it’s okay to accept help– if thousands of stories and, if the shared wisdom of the human race is any indication, you’ll need it in order to move onto what comes next.

3 February, 2011

Dark days, snow, science.

Today was feeling horrible until this:

I promptly got out of bed, went outside, stared at Mars (the only thing I could see around the clouds), and covered my face in snow. Yes, it was weird. But oh, it felt so good.

Tomorrow will be a little better.

“I stood still, vision blurring, and in that moment, I heard my heart break. It was a small, clean sound, like the snapping of a flower’s stem.”

~Diana Gabaldon

(re-blogged from goodmorningandgoodnight)

This might be the first flimsy piece of scotch tape on the flower’s stem.

I hope so.

8 January, 2011

Hmmm… transience

I am not promising a revival of this outlet, but I think there is something to be noted about the transience of time and, in related news, of my personality from time to time. (Please note the two year gap between entries…)

There is something inherently vagabond about my body, mind, and personality. I grew up knowing, more or less, that my people have no problem picking up and moving– across town, across states, across countries. I also grew up knowing what it was like to stare dramatically out of the back window of a car as you drove away from home for the last time. Over time I’ve grown to be better about accepting that “leaving feeling”– I can keep my stiff English upper-lip in front of others, then drive away screaming where no one can see me. I swear that’s better, really.

There are other forms of transience, too, though. Several of my friends are familiar with the odd habit I have of literally dropping things. It’s as if my hands are bored of holding onto something, so they let go. They move on– except, hmm, we weren’t supposed to let go yet. This happens a lot with pens. I have the need to walk around with pens in my hand (yes, sometimes more than one), especially while I’m lecturing or teaching.

Where jobs are concerned, I will say I tend to be good at what I do. I will also say I tend to not do what I do for more than a few months at a time. This kind of transience will probably have to end soon, which is regrettable. I’ve had a bizarre, wonderful variety in jobs– I’ve worked for a city historian, a zoo, a college admissions office, a professor as her personal assistant, a design studio, a library, three different schools, an art institute, a crisis hotline, and now a literary publisher. I learn wonderful things, I meet wonderful people.

In another way, I am anchored down, at least until June, waiting for the next plot point on my meandering life’s journey. In the mean time, friends are scattering to the wind– California, Las Vegas, Indiana, Massachusetts, Colorado, Sweden, England, Zambia… on one hand, it’s comforting to know that my friends are going brilliant places, seeing wonderful things, and spreading out to find their own niches. On the other hand, who will I eat Korean/Indian/Thai/Vietnamese/Moroccan food with?!

More and more, I’m accepting, I have little to say in the direction of the world. I can throw a rock, but with aim like mine there’s no telling what it’s going to hit.

They made us suffer for learning. That’s the way they wanted it.

-B.S. Johnson The Unfortunates.