Friday, March 26, 2010

Dear Diary...

For as long as I could write, I've written in a journal or diary. But it's been on and off. Sometimes I write every day, and then there are years that went by undocumented (a terrible loss for posterity I'm sure). Taking the time to write out what I'm thinking about or what's going on feels absolutely necessary at times and a complete chore at others.

I wonder if the hassle of journaling has anything to do with the fast pace of today. It seems as though in the time it takes me to write out just one sentence, my mind has already worked through the entire paragraph, and finishing the entry just becomes a boring dictation from my mind rather than the rapacious writing flowing seamlessly from thought to page.

Recording my voice would be faster, but listening to it years later wouldn't be as interesting. I think most people cringe when they hear their voice, because it never sounds the same as you perceive it as you speak. So though I experimented with 'Felicity'-style recording sessions (that I never sent to anyone), it never replaced writing, despite the speed. The other difference is that, as long as they can't see onto the page, you can write with other people in the room and jot down whatever you feel. You could be critiquing the outfit of the girl sitting in front of you and she'll never know. However, if you try to make a voice memo, you will never get away with it. For audio diaries, you need to be alone. And then, there's the battery requirement.

So paper it is! But not just paper. I have a long list of requirements in my notebooks and journals. I don't like words on the cover. Inspirational or not, they don't belong for me. I also prefer something closer to college-ruled. It just feels neater. I've gone with blank before, but though that opens up the page for doodles, I'm just not a free-form journaler. I have visions of myself doodling and jotting down random things, but the pressure to make it pretty means I generally do better keeping within the lines. Getting a diary is not about just grabbing a book and pen. There are important requirements involved.

In high school I tried to write a page a day, and was able to do it until I started falling behind. First one day, then another. Soon I was catching up for entire weeks. And then, I stopped all together. There are several stories like this in my past. Lots of writing, usually on a schedule. Then my discipline slips, my life becomes less interesting, and my writing stops. In trying to restart my journaling, I'm hoping that keeping it casual will extend the habit. Of course, writing this blog and daily articles for Examiner have drained me a little of my literary tendencies, because I find that after hashing something out in my brain, then on my blog, and then possibly in conversation, I don't really have the energy to put it down in a formal journal. I end up repeating myself and just going through the motions. And cramping my hand.

I'm also exploring some more technological routes, like journaling software. It's still just sitting in my laptop, yet to be utilized, but the beginning is always the hardest for some reason. I always want something worthy of an opening line in a novel, despite the fact that I never plan on letting anyone else read it. Maybe I just have high standards for my having to re-read it in the years to come!

I want to keep a journal because I think it's important to remember how you felt at various points in your life, to be able to revisit them and learn from them, however embarrassing or hilarious. I'm nostalgic to the point of sentimentality, so having a record of my life is fodder for many hours of reminiscing. Even if I am just recording my lost years between college and career.

So we'll see if I can keep up a log of my life. Because, though I love you, blog readers, I don't tell you everything. And it's got to go somewhere.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The First Bluebonnets of Spring

Two weeks ago, as I drove to work, my normal route was given a burst of seasonal specialness. As a looked forward at a T-stop, I saw tiny bursts of blue in the grassy ditch ahead. The first bluebonnets of spring. I've spotted a few more groupings since then, pretty blues and even one side of the road field of Indian paintbrushes, the other wildflower that takes over this time of year. Other patches are still in the leaf phase. But soon, there will be bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes speckling the sides of almost every road in the heart of Texas.

It's one of the things I love about this state. It almost makes up for the absolutely offensive things about it. For instance, the fact that it is now required by law for a woman to have a sonogram before undergoing an elective abortion. This state flower is the only thing which can make anyone think of Texas as a blue state as it covers each grassy knoll. There are certainly plenty of things that can grate on my nerves about being somewhere so politically lonely at times. But for just a moment, bluebonnets almost make up for all of that. Maybe that's weird, taking flowers as concillation for some very real issues. Hey, I'm a girl, what can I say?

The thing with the bluebonnets is, it signifies the beginning of spring, as does the fact that this week is spring break for most Austin students. Yet another blip on the timeline that was mine just last year. This time twelve months ago, I would be right where I am now, but just for two weeks before returning to campus to get down to the business of finishing up a semester. It's a strange reminder that time is passing by faster than I would like or can even believe. Even though that's is something I'd rather not think about, the flowers still make me smile, because they also make me think of the countless childhood photos I've taken amongst the wildflowers, annual portraits my mother took to mark another year gone by.

So for me, bluebonnets are one of those little things that make home home. Like Big Red soda and Blue Bell ice cream, it's one of those background details that comforts me just by being there.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Getting Spellbound, or: A Late Night Blog Post

Just finished watching the 2002 documentary 'Spellbound', and decided to wax a little nostalgic.

I doubt there are many of you who have never been part of a spelling bee. I remember one at school when I was in 4th grade. I don't remember any of the words I spelled correctly, but I'm sure I made it through a few rounds. In a cruel twist of fate that is likely the rule for most, I remember the one word which tripped me up: cafeteria. It's the only moment I can remember perfectly. I just remember standing in front of the microphone and hearing a ding. It's not emotional at all; I don't remember the feeling of losing. It is literally just the sensory memory of that moment. And the word.

I also remember the next year, telling my teacher in front of the class that one word I could definitely spell was cafeteria. I'm not sure why, I think we were talking about spelling bees for some reason or other and a few of us were in front of the class as an example of how it worked. My teacher asked me to spell a word, and I offered cafeteria, saying that because I mis-spelled it last year I would always know it. Of course, I instantly felt the panic of how awful it would be to then incorrectly spell this word for the second time, this time after having promised I knew it.

Thankfully, I got it right that time.

It's funny the things you remember. It's also funny the things you think of when watching these kinds of things. Because, almost without fail, whenever I see anything dramatic which has to do with kids, anyone younger than a junior or senior in high school, I instantly think, "Well, that's going to make a good college applications essay." Everything. From this documentary about studying and stressing out to a degree which cannot be healthy for a twelve year old, to watching crime dramas where a kid makes it through safe and sound. It's a little weird, but watching an episode of 'Criminal Minds' about kids who are kidnapped and kept for years, when they were finally rescued I thought, "He could get into any college he wants with that story." Isn't that a sick tribute to how desensitized I am to violence? It's also a testimony to just how college-centric my life has always been. Everything is about getting to that one point. Might be why I'm missing it so much now.

So this is what you get when you watch a movie and write a blog post on the fly. Some memories, some disturbing insights, and yet another woe-is-me post-grad moment. Good night and good luck.

Oh, that's right. I went there.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

“How much did they pay you to give up on your dreams?”

Over the holidays, I went to see 'Up in the Air', thanks to the local radio station (shout-out Mix 94.7!) contest that allowed me to cash in on celebrity knowledge and deft Googling skills. My prize was two tickets to the movie, a copy of the novel it is based on, and a cap and tee from the film.

As a side note, I just finished reading the novel, and it's nothing like the movie. Sure, Clooney's character still fires people and obsesses over his frequent flier miles, but everything else is a twisted take on that foundation. There are fairly important characters who are not even in the book, and some who bare no resemblance to their ink and paper counterpart. In an odd twist, I think the movie is better, but maybe the book just isn't my style.

But moving swiftly on to the point of this post. The above title is the quote which stuck with me months after viewing. It's part of a monologue Clooney delivers to J.K Simmons, who plays Bob, one of the many employees Clooney must steer through being downsized. Clooney asks Bob about attending culinary school, and his dreams of being a chef (or perhaps owning a bakery. It's been a while, and though I remember the essence of the lesson, the details and sketchy). Soon after graduating, Bob took a job with this faceless firm in order to make ends meet, pay bills and feed the family. And somehow the years passed to find him sitting across the table from Clooney, losing a job he didn't particularly like and breaking down because of it.

How much is doing what you love worth? How much is paying the bills worth? The problem is that the credit card companies react quickly when you choose to forego money, and so that need seems most important. The ramifications of taking a job you hate for menial but regular pay are less obvious and take longer to surface. But that doesn't mean that they aren't just as scary, or just as important to avoid.

Being on the job hunt, I often face the dilemma of applying to a job I could probably do, but wouldn't really want. Usually I still apply, and so far the job market has kept me from having to choose whether or not to take it, because I never hear anything from them (blessing or curse, I'm not sure). I long for stability and security, but there is always that nagging part of my brain that pushes me to aim for something more, something I love. I know that no one's first job is their last, and that I can't expect to love everything I do. But I also know the slippery slope between taking a job just until something better comes along. It's the slippery slope that ends with Bob.

This week, I've been having some crazy ideas enter my head about projects and things I could do. We'll see how many come to fruition, but I think it's a sign of my thinking of this time less as a failure to be fully employed and more as an opportunity to try some new things.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Taking the Shame Out of Guilty Pleasures

Why are there some things we have to apologize for liking? Songs, bands, movies, television shows, books; it seems there is a whole category of pop culture based around making those who consume it feel ashamed of it. Guilty pleasures. I'm sure everyone reading this has one. I'm sure I have more than my fair share. But lately I'm just wondering: what's the point of feeling guilty?

Maybe it's because of my newly mature 23-year-old mind, but I'm starting to think that wasting time worrying about how the world feels about my taste in music, movies and literature is pointless. It seems ironic now that there seems to be just as much power pushing us to like the Top 40 pop singles as there is shaming us if we do. There is precious little middle ground of popular artists who have enough "cred" to be considered worthy of your iPod. I wonder what gets VH1 more ratings: the insane celebrity love shows, or the talking head shows which mock them? There's really no winning. Either you become part of the millions who like the popular, derided as lemmings, or you become the cynic with taste that isn't really allowed to like anything.

And when it comes down to it, what are we ashamed of? Food is the only arena of the guilty pleasure where the base act is necessary to life. We must eat. And so eating a HoHo instead of an apple can rightly bring on some shame just because you could have taken in nutrients that weren't invented in a laboratory (but if it's not a daily habit, there's no need to obsess). But when it comes to the food for our eyes and ears, it's all kind of superfluous. No one starves when they don't read, watch television or listen to music. And so whether you read Jane Austen or Danielle Steel, there's no quantitative difference, and there's nothing physically unhealthy about it. At least you're reading! Sure, PBS documentaries can give your brain synapses a work out, especially when compared to Survivor, but it's still you sitting down and watching television. There are levels of something being a "waste of time," but they aren't hard and fast and they don't lend you a heck of a lot of moral superiority. We're all still lazy, selfish no-good bums when compared to Mother Teresa and wonderful human beings when compared to Adolf Hitler. Everything in between is mostly grandstanding.

The bottom line is this: we all need something to take our minds off of things. We all deserve to indulge in the entertainment of our choice. And no one deserves to feel bad about it.