Monday, January 31, 2011

BAM, i'm purple!

What was I born to do, asks the Born to Write, Save the Children Blogging Conference? Well, I can tell you what i'd like to do. You know, write. But was I born to write? No way. I wouldn't have nearly as much trouble with spelling if I was born to write. I would have never been put in the team-taught, super slow English classes in Middle School if I was born to write. But, then again, what does it even mean, to be born to do something? Is anyone born to do anything? When I was younger I was convinced I was born to get the TV remote control for my parents. "That's why you had kids isn't it?" I would ask. They just laughed at me, but never denied it.

I don't necessarily think that what your born to do is what you happen to be good at either. Like, if people said Bobby Darin was born to sing or Michelangelo was born to sculpt and paint (Bobby Darin was actually a mistake, so really he was not even meant to be born at all). If this were the case, I could say I was born to procrastinate, start projects I never finish and occasionally dress silly. When I think of people born to do a certain thing, I think of people providing a service, like if they were not born, so and so would not happen, or be saved, or created. SO in that way, I guess Bobby Darin was born to sing. Born to struggle through his 37 years of life with a heart condition, give us beautiful melodies and then die young. So what does it all mean? Oh no, not another silly identity crisis based on nothing (see previous blog post on horoscopes). How am I supposed to know when I'm alive if I don't even know what it means to be born to do something? 'What's my purpose?' (Oh Princeton. That little puppet and I have a lot in common.)

Not being able to figure out what I am born to do plagued me for the last few days. Plagued is probably too strong of a word. More like it bugged me. A deep bugging. But, today I figured it out while checking the signage in the shop.

So, when one checks the signage, that just means going around and making sure all the signs and labels for all our products make sense, are in good shape, not repetitive, or think of ways to make them better. Usually i'm clueless, but today when I hit the children's bay I felt inspired.

There were no signs about the Very Hungry Caterpillar games and puzzles, or the lovely editions of the Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen and The Secret Garden OR even anything about the awesome Little Red Riding Hood pop-up book. This bay is normally over-looked and it's products rarely sell. So I decided to make some new signs, thinking that maybe if there were an exciting sign, someone might be more inclined to buy a puzzle.

I divided the stuff into games and books. The books were then split into 'classics,' and 'fun new titles.' The games turned into 'Adventures with the Very Hungry Caterpillar' and 'Imagination Builders' for the other fun things. When it came time for me to explain myself and my new sign designs, I started getting probably a little too animated about how awesome our classic books were and how cool I thought these Story World card packs were and the importance of imaginative play for kids. I got to the point where I could tell no one was following me or cared and could read in their glazed over eyes, 'God Maria, chill, you just had to make a sign.' Except in a British accent, thus not using the word 'chill.' That's when it hit me, I cared a lot about this stuff. And thus, I was born to care.

I care about a lot of things. YA literature and it's importance in kid's and adult's lives, the responsibility YA authors have to their audiences, imaginative play, beautiful book cover art, old buildings, red things, Harry Potter, Twilight (in an, I HATE IT sort of way), remembering things, taking pictures, graveyards, banned books, movies and how they make you feel, soundtracks, Star Wars. I'm asked often when I start to ramble on about things (mostly Twilight and Star Wars), 'but who cares about that stuff?' The answer is ME! I care! I care a LOT, because, to me, it matters that Bella Swan is a horrible role model, so I'm going to talk about it because I CARE about how she is affecting the youth of today, aka the next generation! I care that 'Lost' is over because I loved it, even when the plot got ridiculous, because it's characters stuck with me. I care about the Star Wars Prequels although I recognize and acknowledge their faults. I love them anyway because they are a continuation of the story world I love so much. I can't help it, I get so worked up about things because I care. Why? No idea. I just do.

I care about people too, sometimes too much. I think one of the saddest things of all time is when a little kids gets an ice cream cone and then drop it on the ground. I want to get them another one immediately, but even that wouldn't make that one awful moment of joy to devastation go away. It will always have happened. When we were little, I used to feel guilty whenever my brother would get in trouble, even when it had absolutely nothing to do with me. If a close friend is upset about something that I can't help them with, or is just having a bad day, I have a bad day. I'm a fixer, I like to fix things, including people.

There are SO many topics in life where I just end up saying, 'don't get me started.' On the flip side, of course, there are lots of things I don't care about at all. Don't get me started.

I feel so lame, being born to care. It's like having a super power, only it's the ability to turn purple on command, so good for nothing. Unless you're... no, there are no situations where the ability to turn purple would give you an advantage in any way. You could not even make it in the Blue Man group! Lame! One shade wrong.

So that's that. I was born to care about a great many things that many would deem unimportant or useless. But this is never true. Everything is important to some extent.

I would love to hear what my readership were born to do, all five of you. Just do yourself a favor and don't over analyze what it means to be born to do something. You can leave that to me, I've got you covered. Because I care.

~major7th

A Glimpse at my FUTURE.

First of all, the other night I listened to Eats, Shoots and Leaves on tape as I was falling asleep (someone had it lying around the house), a super witty book about the power of punctuation that made me ashamed to have ever spliced a comma. Now, for some reason, when I read my own writing to myself, my voice sounds like Lynne Truss, making life just a little bit funnier. I’m sure it will wear off soon.

Shobha and I just signed up for the gym; we’ll see how long that lasts. I had to actually pay for it, so it better. Things taken for granted while at WVU: free amazing rec center, free busses and PRT (when it worked), the glorious downtown library, computers that worked and a campus that stayed open past 5pm. Not that I want to go to the Brookes library from midnight-2am, but I’d like to have the option thanks. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love it here and all, but they make you pay for it (pay an arm and a leg at that). So yes, this gym membership will be used. We went for the first time tonight. Exact same equipment as at WVU, minus an Olympic sized swimming pool. I guess you can’t have everything.

This is the first year (I think) since making New Year’s resolutions that I have not made one about either getting in shape or taking better care of myself, that kind of thing. This is because, if I’m being honest (which I am), those resolutions are usually the first to go out the window every year. It’s not that I take awful care of myself or anything. I’m…you know, whatever. Average. But when you come to the realization that your parents are definitely in better shape than you are, it’s time to get off the couch. Metaphorically speaking (I’m sitting on my bed).

I read a book last semester that I did not like very much called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami about his life as a writer and a runner. First of all, I didn’t like it because he ripped the title from Raymond Carver’s short story, What I Talk About When I Talk About Love, which I adore, but I later found out that he got permission from Carver’s widow. So I guess that’s ok. But still, I did not really like the book, one reason being that he said that being a writer is unhealthy. Here is exactly what he says:

“When we set off to write a novel, when we use writing to create a story, like it or not a kind of toxin that lies deep down in all humanity rises to the surface. All writers have come face-to-face with this toxin and, aware of the dangers involved, discover a way to deal with it, because otherwise no creative activity in the real sense can take place . . . No matter how much you spin it, this isn’t a healthy activity.”

Come on man, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. If you think writing, or creating a story, is a toxic experience, go away and don’t do it. I have heard from some reputable sources that his fiction books are actually really good, so I’ll try to save my ultimate judgment till I read some. But really dude, not helping your case. I am not diggin’ Murakami the person.

I just finished another book yesterday for my course called This Is Not About Me by Janice Galloway. First of all, yes it is. It’s a memoir. Secondly, I was not a huge fan of the book over all, but look what she had to say about reading (this is turning into the blogging equivalent of a clip show):

“Books were anti-social, my mother said and I knew what she meant. To read them properly, you had to ignore other people. Books made you unselfconscious—it was their chief delight. In bed at night, open to talking trees and never-ending ice-creams and all sorts of daft tosh, you could believe what you liked. The words had shape and order and did not change their tune according to the weather. Books made solitude into intimate company and they did it best in private. I’d no more have read in the living room than bent over and touched my toes naked.”

This, I actually do like, because it’s so true. I especially like the bit, “Books made you unselfconscious—it was their chief delight.” First, I like the idea that books find delight in being read. I mean, of course they do right? Why wouldn’t they? And the unselfconscious part of that too. Nothing can touch you when you’re reading a good book. Not people or weather or bad feelings or low self-esteem or anything. When you read a good book you are in it, nowhere else, living it and the book loves it, and I love that.

So, the two most important things a writer can do, says everyone, is to read a lot and write a lot. Both every single day. So, if I were to listen to Murakami, and kept Galloway at heart, here is what my future is looking like. I’m going to be an anti-social, sickly hermit who lives all alone in the woods, lost in daydream worlds created by books, whose body is rotting away due to the toxic activity of writing. Sounds lovely right? I just threw in that part about living in the woods for kicks. Where else would a poorly recluse go to shut out the world and make ‘art?’

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I need to go to the gym. And I am, with Shobha, as much as I can because I bought the membership.

~major7th

MAJOR PS. Go see Inception if you haven’t already. AND then buy the soundtrack. Old Hans has done it again, it’s fantastic. Just saying. Do it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fire Forever

Typical overcast, windy, English day. I kind of love it. As long as I don't have to leave the house, days like this are the best. And today I don't, so it's all good. I like sitting on my bed and watching the trees blow around. Not raining yet, but I'm sure it will. Being inside on a rainy day is great, something about it being so wet and dark outside and being able to watch it from a dry and well lit place is sort of fun. And relaxing. And good for reading. You know how I love to read. Started Good Omens today by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Hilarious so far.

I've had astrological signs on my mind lately. I'm sure you've all heard about how they have changed, supposedly, and that all our astrological identities have shifted. I cared way more than I thought I would to find that, according to the new stupid chart, I'm no longer an Aries but a Pisces. Fire to Water, awesome to lame. Horoscopes have always been something I've enjoyed reading about. I don't think they are THE word or anything, but they have always been an entertaining way to waste time on the internet and the page in the paper I tend to turn to first. I believe in them the same way I believe in fairies and ghosts and all matter of fantastical things in the world. However, I was still shocked at how upset I was to no longer be an Aries, something I've been relatively proud of as long as I've known about it. Then I started to read.

Here is, according to horoscopes.com, what Aries is all about. Symbol, the Ram. Element, Fire. Polarity, positive. Favorable colors, Red. Key body part, head. Lucky gem, Diamond. Aries are go-getters, courageous, determined, self-confident and enthusiastic. They are impatient, hate silly arguments and let fear limit their choices. They have a youthful attitude, like comfortable clothes and hate inactivity. Direct quote: "Best environment: any situation that requires action, courage in the face of fear, competition, and freedom of choice. Aries individuals are better outside being active than staying close to home."

To be fair, I've never really believed I was 100% Aries. My favorite color is red, I am super impatient and I do let fear limit my choices sometimes. Who doesn't like comfortable clothing? I've never pretended to be super outdoorsy, but I do like playing outside on a nice day. I go a little crazy staying home all day, love to travel. Here is the Aries Personality according to this site:

"As the first sign of the zodiac, the presence of an Aries almost always indicates the beginning of something energetic and boisterous. Not much holds this sign back. They're eager, dynamic, quick, and competitive. When it comes to getting the ball rolling, an Aries is the best. Pioneering everything from work-related projects to parties with friends, these folks go for the gusto."

Pretty bad ass right? This is why I always liked being an Aries, they just seem so cool. Nothing holds them back, they have gusto. Panache if you will (my favorite word, thank you Cyrano). And like I said, I have never thought this was totally me dead on, I just liked the idea that I was deep down inside as cool as Aries are supposed to be. Now here is what Pisces is all about.

Pisces: Symbol, the Fish. Element, water. Polarity, negative. Favorable colors, sea-green. Key body part, feet, immune system. Lucky gem, moon stone. Pisces are intuitive, compassionate, artistic, gentle and musical. They are fearful, overly trusting and have a desire to escape reality. Faces easily show emotion. They enjoy time alone, visual media, romance and music. They hate know-it-alls, being criticized and cruelty of any kind. Under best environment it says, 'the movie theater.' No joke, it really says that.

I am SUCH a Pisces. In almost every way, this is how I really am, as lame and timid as they sound, that's me. Basically the opposite of Aries. I'm artistic (or try to be anyway), super compassionate about people and things, I trust way too easily and duh, of course I want to escape reality. I'm a writer and I love SiFi and Fantasy, come one. I can't act because my face shows my real emotions too easily. I have hard core hermit tendencies. I HATE being criticized, even when I deserve it (which is usually). One of my all time favorite things to do is go to the movies. I am such a Pisces. Here is the personality:

""Understanding" is a most appropriate keyword for this gentle, affectionate sign. Easygoing and generally accepting of others around them, Pisceans are often found in the company of a variety of different personalities. Their willingness to give of themselves emotionally lends to an aura of quiet empathy. A Pisces is comforting to be around. While not likely to be the leader, this sign's presence is strong and vibrant in any cause they put their hearts into."

Yep. I'm a Pisces. But I liked being a strong Aries. This is like always thinking I'd be in Gryffindor and then finding out I really belong in Hufflepuff, what a letdown. Or if you're not nerdy enough to get that reference, it's basically like always thinking your cool, but knowing deep down in your heart that you're not, then being told in front of the world that your deep-down-heart was right. Why do I care so much about this? It's not even real! OH right, because I'm a sensitive Pisces and we like to escape reality with silly astrological sign knowledge. That's why.

BUT, then I saw these links.

CNN

Jezebel

So, maybe I'm not a Pisces. I'm a Westerner, and basically those articles say (if you don't feel like reading them) that most Westerners go by the tropical zodiac, which has not changed at all. And this is always how it's been; there have always been two zodiacs, so it's no big deal. I'm really an Aries still. But now I doubt it. My Aries faith has been shaken, my innermost Pisces won't shut up. Which do I choose?

Well, I've given it a lot of thought. And by 'a lot of thought,' I mean like ten minutes this morning. Here's the thing, I'm obviously a Pisces, but I want to be an Aries. Aries' go-getter attitude and courage in the face of diversity is what I want, what I need to be if I ever want to be what I want to be, a writer. I'm going to go through life hearing a lot of 'NO' before I get even one timid 'yes,' so I'm going to need to be an Aries. So while I am more of a Pisces, or have been my entire life, I always thought I was an Aries, and that's what really matters. What you want to be. I want to be an Aries, therefore I am. Screw the Ophiuchus Zodiac and the Babylonians, I am and always have been an Aries. Now get the Hell out of my way and watch me go. Go…somewhere. Fire signs forever!

Alright, if you haven't lost all respect for me for caring so much about something that matters so little, stay tuned for hopefully a few more random blog posts in the month of January, before classes start again and my life is consumed by reading a gigantic book a week and writing my final project. I have a new idea for a story I'm sort of excited about, but all I have solid is the title. It's a killer title, just need a killer story to back it up.

Working on it.

~major7th (As if anyone reading this doesn't know my real name.)

Ps. I hope I have not offended any of you Pisces out there. That's my inner Pisces talking, my outer Aries doesn't care. It's probably good for me to keep a bit of the Piscesness so my head doesn't get too big. So anyway, don't worry Pisces, you are all still cool in your own way. Everyone is! Bigoldcoolworld. DOT com. I should buy that.


Monday, January 10, 2011

I give people absolutely no reason to read this blog.


Pretty, but a pain in England's ass.

I realize I'm the worst blogger of all time. Don't think I don't know, because I really do. To say I've been busy is a lame excuse; I started this blog in the busiest semester of my entire life and still managed to get in a few a month. Now it looks like I'm down to one a month, if that. Not cool. Maybe one of my New Year's resolutions should be to blog more. Nah. If I did that they would just end up being picture blogs or me talking about how I have nothing to blog about. No one wants that.

So anyway, my December was really great. Everything I said was going to happen in my last blog happened, and all trips were successful and fun minus one 12 hour stay in Heathrow Airport, not getting to see a bunch of people at home (sorry if I missed you!) and seeing the people I did get to for like a day each, if that. One week at home was not nearly enough. Now I'm back in good old Oxford. The ceiling in my bedroom is freshly painted, I have a new curtain, new housemate, new job and two awesome new pairs of boots (I finally fit in!). Happy New Year.

The view from the seat in the coffee shop where J.K. wrote the first two Harry Potter books.

Since I've been back I've been busy. I worked 4 of the last 5 days which has been great. I've missed having a job more than I thought. It's been great having so much time to write and read and do school stuff and explore, don't get me wrong. I realize how lucky I am right now, and that things will never be this great again. But I really have missed working. Having a job makes me feel good. I like having somewhere to be and a job to do and being in charge of things, no matter how small. For those of you who missed the memo, I'm working at the Bodleian Library in the gift shop. That is THE library of Oxford University, and one of the oldest in Europe, the second biggest in England. It's freaken' sweet, my favorite place in Oxford I think.

This is the shop, a picture from the website. I'm not allowed to take pictures, lame.

The room that the shop is in used to be the Council Room (later called the Curator's room) where the governing body of the Library used to meet. There are 16 paintings of old librarians along the walls. They remind me of the portraits of the former headmasters of Hogwarts in Dumbledore's office. Because you know, I've been in there. I swear they wink at me sometimes. Those cheeky librarians.

It's a pretty fun job. I basically restock merch all day and talk to tourists. Met a couple from Dallas today, they were very nice. Some aren't, but you'll have that. After working at my last job, I think I can take anything. As far as I'm concerned, there is no way you could possibly be unhappy when in the Bodleian. It's seriously a magical place.

I get access to the New Bodleian, the building where they are moving lots of the books to while they do renovations and the like, which has a little canteen and common room for employees. I got to see the underground stacks of books the other day, it smelled awesome down there. It makes me feel sort of cool hanging out in the common room with my little Bodleian staff card clipped to my shirt and my magic keys to get me into all the buildings. So thank you again Beth Pieper for finding me this job, it's perfect for me. Just what I needed.

Unfortunately I can only work 2 days a week. Thanks a lot border control. My student visa only allows me to work 20 hours a week which just makes me feel lazy. When I get a job, I want to be there every day. I want to know everything there is to know and I want to move up and I want to be the best. There is a LOT to know working at the Bod. Two days a week is killing me. Well, not really, I've just started, but at least for the rest of this month before classes start again, I will always be wishing I could go in at least a few more days a week. I'll probably look back on this time in my life later, a time where I have one day of classes and two days of work and get to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and will want to slap my past self for wanting more work. Whatever. Shut up future self. I'm sure you're happy doing whatever you're doing, leave me alone. I hope so anyway.

One of the first things I did in the New Year was visit Nicole, naturally. Guess what she gave me for Christmas? GUESS? A jar of peanut butter and a royal BLUE WIG. Basically the coolest Christmas present of all time. I put it on immediately and could not stop saying "I can't believe you got me a wig!" Also, while visiting Nicole, we came up with some new year's resolutions. I wasn't going to bother this year since I never do them, but they're fun to come up with so whatever.

Here they are, for 2011 I want to:

  1. Not fail out of Grad school.
  2. Try REALLY hard to get published anywhere.
  3. Wear my new wig for Halloween (who can I be?).
  4. Travel as much as I can.
  5. Not get fired.

Those sound pretty reasonable right? I think they are all very doable, not like previous years where I vowed to do stupid things like get healthy and, I don't know, finish things. Lame. And you know what I realized? I actually have a whole year left in England. All this time, in my head, it was like Christmas was halfway, but that's never been true. I just never thought about it. Classes are over in May, final project due in September. Then, legally speaking, I can stay in the country for 3 more months without extending my visa or anything. I think I'm doing that, staying as long as I can on my visa. It's never going to be easier for me to live in this country than it is right now, so I might as well stay as long as I can. So, 2011 is going to be spent in England in its entirety. How exciting. Yes, I'm going to miss everyone at home a ton, that is very true. But when I leave this place for good, I'll miss everyone I've met here just as much and those goodbyes will be worse. I don't want to think about it.

I need to clean my room. And the house smells like homemade bread a la Rose. And I hear she is making chocolate apples downstairs too, so I've gotta go.

Finished my book today, what should I read next?

~major7th