Tag Archives: existentially fraught free throws

in which my blog turns two

For the second year in a row, I totally missed my blog’s birthday. For shame.

But in the wake of that missed anniversary, I started thinking about what this blog is, exactly.

Lots of people start blogs, post twice, and then abandon them because, let’s be real, blogging is a lot of work. Lots of people think blogging will be easy, but it’s not. I hear a lot of writers express how much they don’t like blogging and so they don’t do it. I also hear people say that blogging is a waste of time because every word on your blog is a word not written in your novel. I also hear people say your blog has to be something. It has to have a brand. You have to be a book review blog, or a writer blog, or a personal blog, or a DIY blog, or a photography blog. You have to be a thing, or people get confused and don’t know what you are and go somewhere else where lines are more clearly drawn.

I admit—this blog is sort of confusing. It began as a chronicle of my days as an NPR intern, then transitioned into me as grad student, and now is sort of a chronicle of a writer’s life. I don’t totally know what it is. I might never know, and recently I’ve been trying to figure out what I want it to be.

“You should post more about writing,” I think sometimes. But then I think, “But everyone posts about writing, and I don’t really like writing about writing. It’s too meta.”

“You should post book reviews,” I sometimes think. But then I think, “But my opinions about books usually apply to me and no one else.”

“You shouldn’t post weird stories about your life,” I think sometimes. But then I think, “But I like posting weird stories about my life. They’re fun and different and sometimes too hilarious not to share.”

“You shouldn’t write such pseudo-intellectual posts, because they make you sound pretentious and insufferable,” I sometimes think. But then I think, “But sometimes I have to talk issues out with myself before I can figure out my own opinions, and a blog is a good place to do that.”

“You should be consistent and only write about one thing,” I sometimes think.

“You should make this blog a marketing tool,” I sometimes think.

“You should drink more water because all that Diet Coke is rotting your insides,” I sometimes think.

But then I think, “But I like Diet Coke so much better.”

What am I saying? I’m saying that I might be the last person on earth who sincerely loves blogging. I feel like I can be sort of unfiltered and unbridledly myself on this blog. This is my voice, a voice I don’t get to use in my fiction, and it’s very different than other things I write, in structure and tone and topic. I talk about what’s on my mind here. Sometimes that’s writing. Sometimes that’s anxiety. Sometimes that’s my family. Sometimes that’s traveling. Sometimes that’s getting my violin fixed by a Bond villain.

Maybe that will someday make me a PR nightmare. But for now, my blog will remain a really awesome mess. Thank you for being here with me, and I hope you continue to enjoy it.

Tagged , , , , ,

in which I hold my mistake up

Something I’ve talked a little bit about on this blog is that I, like many people, sometimes struggle with bad anxiety. One of the ways my anxiety manifests itself is by my brain wandering during a mundane task1 and filling itself with a fast-motion replay of everything stupid I have ever done or said, or every awkward interaction I have ever caused. Then, after playing these memories back to me in quick succession and excruciating detail, my brain reminds me that the reason all these horrific moments exist is because of me and my inability to function as a normal human being.

Then it laughs maniacally and walks away, leaving me wilting into a puddle of anxious self-loathing.

When this happens, the only thing I can do is stand there, helpless and immobile, and say things like, “Brain….brain, wut r u doing? Brain, SHTAP.”

As you can imagine, this is not very effective.

Another thing I have talked about a little bit here on the blog is my passionate obsession with the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Recently, a friend shared with me an amazing blog called Terrible Yellow Eyes, an art project dedicated to collecting artistic interpretations of WTWTA. Naturally, I spent a few hours looking at and drooling over all of them, and then proceeded to pin most of them to my Pinterest board2.

There was one in particular I fell in love with, this sketch of a defiant Max by artist Dustin Nguyen. I liked it a lot the first time I came across it in my casual scrolling through the blog. Then I read the title, and fell in love with it.

The sketch is called “Hold Your Mistake Up.”

Image

Image Credit: Dustin Nguyen and Terrible Yellow Eyes

If you haven’t read WTWTA since you were a kid, you might have missed that at its core, it’s a book about getting angry, doing something thoughtless, wallowing for a while, then letting it go and asking for forgiveness. Pretty lovely and relatable stuff. But one of the key parts of this journey is the messing up, the saying or doing something dumb or mean or just plain stupid. Not necessarily because you’re angry or upset. Sometimes just because we all say and do dumb things.

So what do we do after we, like Max, have returned from our wild rumpus of stupidity or awkwardness or thoughtlessness? After forgiveness, then what?

Well then you have to forgive yourself, and part of that includes holding that mistake up and acknowledging you made it. We don’t have to hide it or let ourselves be shamed by it. We thrust it up and say, “Once I did this thing, and it was dumb or wrong, but now I’ve learned from it and will try not to do it again.” Will we do it again? Probably. But the point is that you’re trying not to. You learn from it. You get better.

I love this idea of holding up things in our life that made us who we are, good and bad, and this picture, with Max with that defiant look on his face thrusting up his staff, the memory of his wild rumpus, captures it perfectly for me. So next time my brain is a jerk and starts nudging me with its elbow while whispering, “Hey…hey, remember that time you made a complete idiot of yourself?” I shall fling my metaphorical staff into the air and say, “Yeah, Brain, I do. What about it?” Let’s see if that shuts the old brain up4.

 

  1. Something ordinary and harmless, like riding the subway or shelving books at work. Or occasionally something less mundane that I actually need to be paying attention to or devoting energy to, but I am then unable to pay attention or devote energy to because my brain gets in the way. Dumb brain.
  2. I’m sorry3, Pinterest followers!
  3. I’m not sorry.
  4. These are the weird musings I sometimes have about children’s books and life.  I think it’s a result of being a recovering grad student5. Alright, now go back to your knitting.
  5. More on the recovering part next week.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

in which people dislike me

Once upon a time in high school, I was sitting in the study room during my lunch period when a classmate walked up to me, looked me straight in the eyes, and with no prelude or explanation simply said, “I don’t like you.”

And then he walked away.

I was stunned. I just sat there for a minute. By the time I thought up a witty retort, he was gone. It shouldn’t have bothered me, but it really did. It still bothers me to the point that I could tell you exactly what I was wearing and where I was sitting when it happened–it is that burned in my memory. I’ll never forget this boy looking me straight in the eyes and saying, “I don’t like you.”

Because as far as I knew, I had never done anything to merit his dislike. This classmate and I weren’t close–I hardly knew him aside from the comments he made in class and sometimes ending up in the same room due to shared social circles. I couldn’t think of a single interaction we’d had just the two of us or a thing I’d done that would make him feel both a strong dislike for me and the need to tell me so. That, I realize now, is what bothered me the most about it. That I hadn’t done anything to him, meaning there was something about me on a fundamental level, something about just the way I was, that he did not like, and that made me feel like there was something wrong with me.

Recently I’ve been dealing with someone who, similar to this young man from high school, does not like me for no apparent reason. On a rational level, I understand that this is not something I can control and it should not bother me and there’s no way everyone you  meet is going to like you. But lately it’s been eating me up to think that there’s someone who I have never in my knowledge wronged, but who dislikes the things about me that make me me, the sort of things I can’t change. Maybe it’s the sound of my voice. Maybe it’s how I use my hands when I talk. Maybe it’s the combination of my voice and my hand-talking or the way I sometimes zone out in the middle of a conversation. But whatever it is, it’s not something I can change, it’s just me. And that bothers me.

Since I am a product of academia, I usually like to have some sort of clear concise conclusion to end my blog posts on, where I wrap up everything I’ve said in one sometimes cliched but usually relevant statement. Today I don’t really have that.

All I know is that sometimes people just don’t like you, and that sucks.

Tagged , , , ,

in which I read Tuck Everlasting

One of the benefits of being a student of children’s literature is that you get to revisit a lot of books from your childhood. Some of these books I read so long ago it feels like another lifetime, but I remember the way they made me feel, and it’s interesting to compare that to how they make me feel now as a sometimes adult.

Recently, I revisited Tuck Everlasting1 by Natalie Babbitt, a novel I read for the first time in elementary school and have reread several times since then. Each time I revisit it, my affection for this skinny little book has grown, until this week it exploded in a mess of inarticulate feelings all over the freshmen I was supposed to be teaching it to2. Because every time I read it, it’s different. Or rather, I’m different, and my experience adjusts accordingly. In Tuck Everlasting, the difference stands out most strongly in the character I see myself as.

tuck

The first time I read Tuck Everlasting, I was Winnie Foster. I must have been around ten myself, with that same sort of righteous indignation3 stored up inside my heart. And I felt the weight of everything, the impossible weight of entering the double digits, or starting to understand that there were forces at work in the world that I could not control. Why couldn’t we all live forever? Why did beautiful things have to end? Why couldn’t you drink the water and live forever with the carefree boy you found in the woods? I understood that things had to die, but I couldn’t understand why.

The next time I read it, many years later in high school, I was Jesse. Barefoot, bounding Jesse, wildly in love with everything about living, even the parts I didn’t like. I felt like I was always bubbling up with something, like there was this fountain inside me that would never run dry. There was nothing at work beyond the confines of my small sphere of existence, which would never cease to be amazing. Time did not exist. I felt invincible. I wasn’t, but I felt like I was, like I could never be irreparably broken, inside or out.

Then the next time, starting my second semester of grad school, I was Miles. A little bit heavier with what I’d left behind and carrying around empty holes that weighed just as much as the things and people that used to fill them. Not quite certain what I was or where I was meant to fit in the world, and not sure how to go about puzzling all that out. And I had started to understand not just the forces of the world and how they worked on me, but that I was a part of them. Where I sat on the wheel. How it carried me. And that someday I’d fall off it, just like everyone does.

tuck everlasting

art by Jeremy Aaron Moore

And then I read this book last week, and I thought about who I am now.

Now I’m sort of all of them. I’m old and I’m young. One day I feel indestructible. The next like I’m already in pieces that can never be put back together. I am Tuck, with regrets and things I wish I had not done. I am Mae, trying to hold things together that maybe can’t be held. I am Gran, who hears fairy music in the woods. Some days I’m even the Man in the Yellow Suit, aware of the fact that I could exploit and hurt those around me if I wanted to.

While Tuck Everlasting is most often billed as a children’s book about the perils of living forever, really it’s a book about how we all live every day on terms with life’s big incomprehensible ideas, and it gives no easy answers to any of the questions it asks. Because in the end, there is no easy answer. To anything. It’s most truthful in that sense. I don’t understand everything about living and dying—no one does. Some days, I can wrap my brain around the immensity of it and have a few minutes of peace and clarity and understanding about how the earth moves. Other days, it totally freaks me out.

Today while discussing this book with my freshmen, some of them expressed dissatisfaction with the ending *SPOILER ALERT*—they wanted to know why Winnie didn’t drink the water and live forever with the Tucks. What happened between Jesse leaving her with a bottle of water on her front lawn and Tuck finding her tombstone eighty years later? They felt like something was missing.

For me, there is nothing dissatisfying about this ending. In fact, I think it is the perfect end for this perfect book. Because the answer to the question “What happened?” is that life happened. Winnie’s life. There didn’t have to be one big idea, one revelation, one moment of decision or impact where she realized truly that death and life are interchangeable. There didn’t have to be one thing that made her realize that life with death was better than life without it. Because life is that moment—life and its great bit pile of good things and bad things and the things that come in between.

As the Man in the Yellow Suit says, “Like all magnificent things, it is very simple.” And then again, it’s not.

  1. If you don’t know or haven’t read Tuck Everlasting, please rectify that immediately. Not to oversell it, but it’s a staggering work of impossible genius.
  2. Contrary to how this makes it sounds, my freshers and I did have a very coherent and amazing discussion about Tuck Everlasting today. It was awesome enough to inspire this post, actually. But I do have a lot of feelings, which they were on the receiving end of in the last few minutes of class.
  3.  I was totally that kid who said “I am running away!” And then made it to the corner before coming back. It was the principle of the thing.
Tagged , , , , , ,

in which I celebrate valentine’s day

For the first eighteen years of my life, I lived in the same place. Same city. Same neighborhood. Same house. The biggest move I made was from my upstairs bedroom to the downstairs one.

But then I moved away to college, and never really stopped moving. In the last five years, I’ve moved five times. Salt Lake to Logan, Logan to England, England back to Logan, Logan to Chicago, Chicago to Boston. So I’ve lived in some great places, and had some great times, and met some amazing people.

But when you move that much, you don’t have enough time to really make friends. You find people you have things in common with, have some wild adventures with them, but then you leave and fall out of touch, only occasionally communicating on Facebook. I have friends from childhood I still talk to pretty consistently, the friends of the life-long variety, but even that’s different when you only have texting and emails.

This is not necessarily a bad way to live. I met some really amazing people and had some great times, but it also taught me to be self-sufficient—I learned to function independently, go to things on my own, and be my own emotional crutch when things went south.

These last two years in Boston have been the longest I’ve stayed anywhere in a while. And I’m starting to feel like I actually live here instead of just passing through. I know the subway system. I’m no long alarmed when traffic seems to be coming from twelve directions at once. I have heard the phrase “wicked hard” used ironically. I know what people mean when they say Allston Christmas.

And, as I realized the other night, I have friends here.

Image

Real, great, honest-to-God friends. Friends who I drag on my crazy adventures. Friends who laugh at my references even when they don’t get them. Friends who do more than tolerate me, friends who are friends for more reasons than just shared classes or living in the same place.

IMG_0548

Friends who sit on my bed and eat ice cream with me when I had a crummy day, or talk me down from my anxiety, or encourage my weirdness, or don’t make fun of me when I really let my fangirl show. Friends who pick me up from the airport. Friends who listen to me. Friends who like me.

IMG_1015

So this year, on Valentine’s Day, I’m celebrating my friends, who I love and adore and am so thankful to have in my life. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone—here’s celebrating all the weird kinds of love in your life.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

in which I say goodbye to January

THIS MONTH.

This stupid, schoolyard bully of a month keeps kicking me while I’m down.

And I am SICK OF IT.

I’m not frustrated anymore. I’m not sad anymore. I’m just ANGRY.

So this is me being a RAGE MONSTER and leading the villagers with torches and pitchforks and pails full of rocks in an angry mob against January.

Because January SUCKED. It really, really SUCKED.

In January’s defense, I sort of deserved it. December was essentially a perfect month. Even the things that went wrong didn’t go all that wrong. I had a perfect week in Boston with my sister1. Then I had two more perfect weeks with my family home in Salt Lake City. I had a good month at work with everyone being cheerful and Christmasy and lots of hand selling books I love to customers who were willing to take my word on everything. And I know you can’t have that many good days in a row without something inevitably falling apart at some point.

But then when things fell apart, they didn’t just fall. They collapsed. They imploded. January came in, as the poet hath wrote, like a wrecking ball.

And I am SICK OF IT. I am sick of getting up at six and getting home at eleven. I am sick of scheduling my days down to the minute and still running out of time. I am sick of my computer being broken, my cabinets falling off the walls, and the child in the upstairs apartment running laps at two in the morning. I am sick of falling behind and not being able to sleep and eating terribly and just being so generally unhappy all the time.

I am done with January.

Tomorrow is February. Tomorrow I’m starting over. I’m putting January at my back and kicking out the bad. I made it through January2, and things can only get better from here.

 

  1. I cannot emphasize how perfect this week was. Perhaps this picture of the MT blissfully devouring a canoli will give you some idea: Image
  2. Which I frankly deserve some sort of medal for.
Tagged , ,

in which I am grateful

Today, I am grateful for….

Diet coke
An apartment with both a washing machine and a dishwasher
Children’s literature
Goodreads
Sweaters
Instant yeast
Jayne Cobb
Steampunk
My fox hat
Frankenstein
Panera French onion soup
The Matilda the Musical soundtrack
The autosave function on Microsoft Word
Netflix
Where the Wild Things Are
Boston
Wellies
Twitter
Good books
Redvines
Benedict Cumberbatch
Fan art
Living three blocks from a library
My R2D2 iPhone case
Gifs
Friends I adore, family I miss, and the chance to study and write things that I am passionate about 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. From my couch to yours.

Tagged , , , ,

in which I don’t get an answer

Years ago, when I was in high school and my world spun on a different axis, I auditioned for a play. I wanted the lead role really badly. I was having the typical “what do I do with my life?” crisis and I thought that getting cast in this role would somehow confirm that theater was my place in the world I was about to enter. When I got a callback, I thought, I am going to get this part, and this part is going to be my answer to all the big questions I was asking about theater and the future.

But it wasn’t.

I didn’t get the part. And I was pretty sad about that for a while1. Mostly, I was upset because I thought this show was my answer—something that was going to set me on a course towards my destiny—and it wasn’t.

But it turns out, it kind of was. Because I wasn’t cast in that show, I had my first opportunity to direct a play, which set me indirectly on a path towards children’s literature2.

Fast forward a few years. Just before I moved to Boston, I started having Second Thoughts. You may be familiar with Second Thoughts. They are those niggling little worms of doubt that accompany any big change or decision you ever make in life. If you’re me, they also come with anxiety, nausea, and mild panic attacks every thirty or so minutes. How would I ever pay off these student loans? What was the point of an MFA when people get published all the time without one? Isn’t children’s lit just a stupid thing to study? Maybe this was a waste of time.

So the big question became, Should I move to Boston?

Then, a few months before I moved, I was asked to interview for a dream job. This is a sign, I thought. I am going to get this job, and I will not do my MFA and I will not move to Boston and I will not get up to my eyeballs in debt. This is my answer.

But it wasn’t.

Since you read this blog, you probably know I didn’t get that job. I was a sad over this for a while, and this was magnified by my anxiety over the move to Boston and the start of the MFA. But it turns out that job was my answer. My answer was moving to Boston, because now I’m exactly where I should be.

About a year ago, I got my heart broken in an “I will never love again” sort of way. But then I met a young man with whom I had Chemistry with a capital C. He was handsome and charming and we had the same favorite poem and affinity for jazz-age disillusionment. This guy, I thought, is going to counteract all the damage done by the first one. Even if we don’t have some epic love story, he is going to restore my faith in love and romance. This is my answer, I thought.

But it wasn’t.

He ended up being a tool, and I ended up seeing The Great Gatsby alone. But in a way, he was an answer. An answer to the question of, “Do I need someone to be happy with who I am3?”

This week, I thought I was going to get an answer.

But, as you might have guessed, I didn’t.

And it’s hard, in the wake of disappointment, to look at things not working out as maybe being an answer. I can tell myself these stories and still not recognize the direct correlation to my current situation.

But while right now I am lamenting the fact that I did not get my answer, a small part of me understands that in a way, I did.

  1. I was definitely pretty scowly as I sat in the audience and watched the performance.
  2. Via directing plays for people, then directing plays for slightly smaller people, and then discovering that those small people are usually the best people.
  3. Answer: No.
Tagged , , , , ,

in which some days are perfect

A few days ago, the MT and I were texting. As we do.

And we started talking about a day we had the weekend before I came back to Boston. The family, along with 14, went to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. The MT and I traded a few texts with quotes and memories of funny things that had happened that day, and it ended with one of us1 saying, “That was a perfect day.”

Except it wasn’t.

It was really hot that day. I was really tired because we had to get up early and the drive was long. The chairs we had to sit on were super uncomfortable. Our sandwiches were squished. I’d just got my haircut and my bangs looked weird. I think my mom and I got in an argument at some point.  

But when I look back on it, even remembering all those things, it was still a perfect day.

Image

This is a photo of 14 from said perfect day. It is one of two photos I have of this day, and the other one is blurry.  

Most days are not perfect. Most days are not even good. But still, at the end of most days, when I turn off the lights and go to bed, the first thing I think is, “Today was a nice day.” Even after a lot of shelving at work and even if my knees hurt and even if the T was slow and I didn’t get as much done as I needed to, usually when I look back on the day, I realize it was nice. Even on the bad days, there are good things hidden inside them.

I know this world is far from perfect, and most days further still. But I’ve been thinking a lot about perfect days, and how they are possible. They happen in spite of everything.   

  1. Can’t remember which but it was probably me.  
Tagged , , , ,

in which I bid farewell to the Friend

Before we begin, don’t forget to read the Four Book Friday Wrap Up and enter my very first GIVEAWAY where you could win one of the Four Book Friday books and a $10 gift card! Click here to enter. 

As of last Tuesday, I am back in BOSTON!

It’s taken me a while to get this news on the blog because I have been occupied by the actual act of moving to Boston and getting things in order here. But I’m officially back on the east coast and excited to be here.

But before we talk about the return to Boston, we have to talk about what happened before the move back to Boston.

So you may remember about five months ago, I posted my “big news” about getting an internship with The Friend Mormon children’s magazine. And if you’ve been hanging around the blog at all this summer, I’ve told a few stories about working there. A few, but not too many. When I was first offered the internship, I was pretty excited, mainly because it meant I could save money while living at home and not have to cook for myself all summer, and I wouldn’t have to battle the humidity in Boston. That’s it. Sure, it would be cool working on a magazine, but I’m not a super churchy person, so I wasn’t excited about that. Honestly, I didn’t think working for the Friend would be particularly different than my other internships I had—a few months of some interesting work that doesn’t leave much of an impression. I especially didn’t think it would be life changing.

Surprise—it was.

friend1

Part 1 of the amazing parting gift the staff made me–a fake copy of the magazine with my picture on the cover!

Working for the Friend ended up being the most all-around amazing thing I’ve ever done. I got to do real work—not just usual intern work that could be screwed up with minimal consequences. Every day I got to throw myself into projects that directly contributed to the on-time publication of a magazine with over one million readers worldwide1. And I got to work on them with the most talented group of people I have ever worked with. I was in daily awe of these people, and equally amazed by their intelligence and their dedication to quality children’s literature.

I did not have a bad day at the Friend. I hardly had a bad moment. I had four months of hard work and happiness that I would never have guessed were coming my way on that rainy night five months ago when I got a phone call from Salt Lake City.

friend 2

Part 2 of amazing parting gift–the back cover!

I’ve been staring at this open Word document for like ten minutes because it really is just impossible to put into words my experience at the Friend. All you have to know is that when it was all finished, I went home and just cried for a while. I’m crying a little bit now as I write this because a part of my heart is still back in the corner cubicle on the 24th floor. The Friend gave me so many things, some of which are too personal to write about here, but mostly confidence in myself and my work, validation that I am in the correct field, and an arsenal of people on my side to which I wish I could offer some eloquent gratitude, but the only thing I can think to say is “I’ll eat you up I love you so.” And I think they’ll recognize what that means coming from me.

Thank you to the Friend and its marvelous staff for an outstanding summer, for letting me work on things I was passionate about and allowing me to bask in your brilliance. Here’s hoping some of it rubbed off on me.

 

  1. I also got to spend a fair amount of time on Pinterest and read a lot of picture books. Seriously, dream job.
Tagged , , , , , , , ,