I like to read. This is the reason I initially considered majoring in English. I entered college as an English/Political Philosophy double-major with a pre-law designation, and will graduate (Sanity and Health permitting) next spring as an English major with a concentration in Literary Studies and a Gender Studies minor. There have been six-or-so serious changes to my major between the beginning phase and the graduation phase of my post-secondary education, part one. Double major in English, Secondary Ed/Social Work. Straight-up Political Science with a Public Policy concentration. Peace and Justice Studies and German hybrid. Peace and Justice Studies and Literature hybrid. Philosophy and Gender Studies hybrid. English, with minors in Languages, Classics, and Gender Studies. Final Stop: current program. Woot. It has been a long, stressful journey, figuring out what to do with my life.
Anyway. I like to read. Most specifically, I like to read personal accounts. Essays. Memoirs. I like to read what other people have to say about their own lives. I’ve never been interested in capital-t-Truth because I think truth is relative, in many respects. But I am very interested in what others have to say about what is true for them. After all, that is what I write. What is true, for me.
Here is a list of things that are true for me, today:
- I stay where I am comfortable, even if safety or well-being are compromised for the sake of comfort. Dealing with what I know is easier than adapting to new situations.
- Being in a healthy relationship is the scariest thing I have ever done.
- My worst fear is being alone.
- I sabotage the good things in my life because I’d rather them end because of me, and accept that guilt/shame/responsibility, than for them to end due to circumstances beyond my control and not know how to cope with that.
- I cut my PB&J/grilled-cheese sandwiches into four triangles. My mom used to cut my sandwiches like this. I am emotionally attached to the way in which my sandwiches are cut.
- I tell people I stopped wearing makeup and doing my hair because I liked using those extra fifteen minutes for sleeping purposes. I just don’t know how to reconcile learning to love who I am with changing my appearance on a daily basis. So, I only do my makeup/hair on “special” occasions.
- This is going to be the summer I learn to wear shorts.
- I keep eating compulsively because I’m losing weight and I just bought fat pants.
- I’m putting off going to visit my dear friend and her new baby. I don’t plan on ever having children. Visiting Am and Miss B may result in me freaking out about never having kids. But I feel guilty for not visiting, especially because I love Am so dearly.
- This is the summer I learn to be domestic. Cook good meals (something other than pasta…I am really good at pasta), bottle, make jams, make breads, become inventive. And do so in shorts 🙂 perhaps an apron.
That is my capital-t-Truth. For today. 🙂
I used to love to read. So much so, in fact, that I majored in reading things. I mean, c’mon. Literary Studies. Fancy words for “reading really cool stuff.” And it isn’t that I don’t love reading, anymore. It is just a different sort of love. Sort of a compulsion to break ideas down into their basest components, examine them, put them all back together, and see what new ideas have been created in that process. I no longer read for the sake of enjoyment, if enjoyment is not to include masochism.
But I often think about what I read when I liked reading. And what I read that brought me to love reading. And how I love the things I’ve read because of what they’ve shown me about living in this complicated world of ours.
So, I’ve compiled a list, or two, of books that brought me to where I am now. (It is Spring Break. I am making to-do lists every ten minutes, so the brain is in listing-mode. My apologies. But then, no apologies, because I like lists.)
Stories I read when I was little that made me love reading:
- Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. I think my dreams of travelling the globe began with Madeline. She wasn’t scared of anything, and I thought that was so cool. Plus, she lived in an old house covered in vines. What isn’t to love about old houses covered in vines?
- Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. I didn’t realize how much I loved this story until I went to Boston. In the public garden, they have statues of the mother and the ducklings from this story. I cried when I saw them.
- What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss. My FAVORITE Dr. Seuss story. Which is saying something, because I love Dr. Seuss. Aside from learning to love rhyme and the ability to create new words and phrases, I loved how each conflict ended in reconciliation. Someone vowed to take care of the truffula seed. The Sneetches with or without stars upon thars became friends. And people decided that it didn’t matter if you ate your bread butter-side up or butter-side down. But this story was my favorite. I’ve always been easy to scare; a worrier; a paranoid. But this story reassured me that sometimes we just need to get to know the things we are afraid of, in order to realize how irrational our fear is.
- King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood. Sometimes, you have to join in the crazy. Embrace people in all their eccentricities. Like King Bidgood. Other times, you have to be the one to sneakily pull the plug–because it’s time for bed. Also, I love most everything by Audrey and Don Wood.
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. I still cite this story when I’m having an especially awful day. My desire to flee the country when things get tough probably came from reading this book. But it puts into perspective how everyone has tough days. Even in Australia.
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I have yet to see this movie, because I am worried it will ruin the book for me. But Max taught me that no matter where I go, it is always nice to come home again.
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I have this need to “sign off” when the day is over. I have to say goodnight to people. Oftentimes Jennifer is said people. But, it helps me to calm down. To end my day by wishing someone well for the night. This book is to blame for that.
- The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. The power of positive thinking. I don’t buy into it as much anymore, but I still find myself saying “I know I can” when things have been really rough and I need that extra push to get over the hill.
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. This is how I learned the alphabet. Well. This and Barney and Friends. He’s a dinosaur sensation. Don’t judge me. Anywho. Alphabet.
- Corduroy by Don Freeman. Even if you’re missing a button, you deserve love.
Books and things I have read throughout my life that have made me love reading:
- Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. I got the first book for my 8th birthday. It had only been out in the US for 9 months. I fell in love with Hermione, and also somewhat with Harry, and so I hopped on the roller coaster that was the entire series. But this is still one of my favorite literary experiences.
- His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. This is how I came to love dystopian fiction. It took me ten years to finish the trilogy, but I did it. And I love the way Pullman makes you rethink what we call God’s word, and shows how this line of thinking isn’t toxic…unlike C.S. Lewis and those who don’t fall in line for the cause of Aslan.
- The Giver by Lois Lowry. Another dystopian piece. Let us think about memories, and how important it is to remember where we come from.
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. My favorite novel. From Billy Pilgrim’s adventures being unstuck in time to the narrator’s description of the bombing of Dresden…this book changed my life in ways I cannot convey. I think I owe my academic preoccupations to this piece.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A dear, dear friend gave this to me, just weeks before I graduated from high school. It is heartwrenching and beautiful.
- Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. I read this on assignment for my Honors English class, junior year of high school. I always believed that literature had prophetic properties, but that belief was reinforced by this novel. Now it is less of a belief in prophecy, and more a profound respect for those who can observe the workings of the structure they have been in and predict accurately where things are headed. Regardless. Paton does some great work in this novel.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. SO many people interpret dystopian literature as the nay-saying against communism or godlessness. I have always just seen it as arguing against totalitarianism of any sort, or fundamentalism in any regard. But Atwood’s world illustrates a system that is more within our grasp than Huxley’s or Orwell’s, and more sinister in many respects. I hope to someday teach a course on dystopian fiction, and this will definitely be on the syllabus.
- The Midnighters series by Scott Westerfeld. The same person who wrote Uglies and its sequels. Major guilty pleasure. I loved the idea of an alternate dimension. People with different powers. Creatures for whom multiples of 13 are kryptonite. I read these while my friends were reading the Twilight series. (To be fair, I read all but the last book in the Twilight series. I just liked The Midnighters better.)
- Richard III by William Shakespeare. I was six years old (not exaggerating) when I read my first Shakespeare play. As You Like It. I thought it was boring, but I kept reading the Bard’s works anyway. In second grade, I recited the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet for show-and-tell. Now you know why I have so few friends. As time went on, I became more involved in theatre. I learned to love Shakespeare by performing his pieces and approaching the text as an actor, rather than a reader. The last Shakespearean piece I performed, as a solo actor and not as part of an ensemble, was a monologue from Queen Margaret in Richard III. I read the play after I had performed my monologue and fell in love with Richard’s lines. Such an eloquent villain. I still have great respect for people who can write villains that I love to hate.
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I don’t believe in “aha!” moments, but I sometimes have them anyway. I was sitting in my Introduction to Literary Criticism class, part deux. Retaking classes has been a habit of mine, because I have a tendency to break down partway through the semester and then never show up to class again. Anyway. I was sitting in Intro to Lit Crit and I read on the syllabus that we were to read Hemingway. It was a summer class, so there were only 7 weeks in the semester. However, Hemingway was the only non-theoretical text we were reading. “How the hell are we supposed to focus on one novel for 7 weeks?” I thought, and then later asked Jennifer. But I started in on my first Hemingway. I was only two chapters in when I felt this feeling of contentedness settle over me. It was through Hemingway that I found myself committing to English as my primary discipline. He holds a special place in my heart.
And now that I have sufficiently bored you with the listing of things I have loved reading, I am going to return to Supernatural before sorting laundry, and watching Slavery by Another Name. Heavier things.
Now, go away. Read some books.
Spring Break. Slept until 4pm. Went shopping with Jennifer. Well. He went shopping with me. Found a new Chinese restaurant that is bound to become a favorite. Watched Atlantis: The Lost Empire at Jennifer’s. Home by midnight for a Supernatural marathon. Good day. Not many of those come around, so we’re taking stock of the situation.
Things I learned, today, that I already knew:
- I am less impulsive when I shop with someone else. Hence Jennifer.
- Whether it’s a bag of mandarin oranges or a bag of potato chips, compulsive eating is still compulsive eating.
- I am so much like my mother, and in all the ways I want to be. And I am so, so happy about that. Don’t tell her that, though.
- Sometimes, impulse is a good thing. When your brain tells you that it’s time for Disneyland, it’s probably time for Disneyland. (11 days. I don’t even like California, but 11 days.)
- I need to get a passport.
- I will always be a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of person. And you can never have too many black items of clothing.
- It’s fun to be a tease. But know when to stop.
- Giving a person a uterus is a cruel punishment.
- Believe in yourself. And when that voice in the back of your head tells you that you’re not worth believing in, tell it to shut up and pack that voice back in its box.
- Love yourself. Because you deserve to be loved, and it is no use waiting for someone else to come along and do it for you.
A little mushy, I know. But, really. Good days hold good things to remember. Now, I think I’m going to call it a night…or watch one more episode of Supernatural. Either way, ta-ta for now.
I put things in boxes. I make lists. (I am definitely more like my mother than she knows.)
One of my siblings turned 14, yesterday. I celebrated by making a list of things that happened in my 14-year-old life, while he was playing Halo 4 with his friends.
When I Was 14:
- Had my first kiss. First “boyfriend.” Awww. He did change my life, though.
- Stopped using a Sharpie as my preferred writing utensil.
- Participated in my first theater competition. Shakespeare festival. I was Viola, from Twelfth Night.
- A rumor was spread about me secretly being a prostitute. Which some people believed.
- Eyeliner! Black. And black t-shirts. Became acutely aware of how much I hate wearing floral prints.
- Started eating. Lost 2o pounds.
- Found Korn. Judge me all you want. I love Korn.
- Flew by myself for the first time. To Long Beach, from Salt Lake City. I felt pretty special, walking across a tarmac.
- Cast as a 40s secretary in two plays. Hyperventilated on stage — on purpose. The skills I learned during those shows have stuck with me, but apparently my roles don’t count as work experience.
- Played poker for the first time. Had some major beginner’s luck. Have never won a game since.
What were you doing, when you were 14?