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Let’s Try This Again, Shall We?

Hello interwebs!

Consistency and gumption are not my strong points, as you may be aware.  I have started and restarted and re-restarted this project for…oh, going on four years.

But I think I’m really going to do it this time.  Full speed ahead.  As soon as classes are over.

Here’s where I am in my life:  In the past four years, I got my bachelor’s degree (in linguistics), moved back to Kansas City, started working on my master’s (not in linguistics) and secured a pretty baller job.  I was in a relationship for almost two years, which met its messy demise about one year ago.   I’ve had some fledgling attempts at romance since then which haven’t really gone anywhere.

My mother lives in Arizona, my father lives in the Middle East, my brother lives in my hometown and my heart is scattered all over the globe.

I rarely write anymore (in fact, I write so infrequently that I almost forgot how to spell ‘write’ when I was typing the prior sentence! For shame!) and I want to get back to that.

This project fundamentally changed me, even though I only stuck with it for such a short time.  Without a doubt, it absolutely changed me.  In retrospect, I notice a remarkable difference between the person I was before the summer of 2007 and the person that I transformed into during my senior year of college.    For one, I’ve become less introverted, which has both positive and negative consequences.  I’ve become more uninhibited, less afraid of being judged.  At the same time, though this sounds counter-intuitive or contradictory, I’ve found that I crave validation from external sources more than I used to.

When I was younger, I was very creative.  I was constantly writing songs, short stories, novelettes, choral works, plays, musicals, you name it.  I developed websites, dabbled in digital photography and cooking and sewing and fabric design. I was content creating things for creation’s sake.  I found validation in my work.  Now, I create less and when I do, I feel the need to subject it to other people’s approval.  Everything is in the light.   I waste time consuming instead of creating.   I want that back.   Hopefully, this project will help me jump-start that.  I don’t care who reads this.    I’m doing this for me.
Ars gratis artis.

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Starting Over

Oh, how life has changed!

My brain has deteriorated so much since I last wrote here. I’m not used to writing anymore. It’s actually quite difficult. I’ll try anyway.

Obviously, I’ve abandoned my list, for reasons I’d rather not get into. Perhaps my fictive bubble popped and reality seeped in.

Perhaps.

I want to start over. Perhaps it will help me to regenerate my brain and my creativity.

I have never gone this long without writing. Even before I knew how to write, I was constantly practicing pretend cursive all over my mother’s checks.

I drink too much. I zone out. Conversations are hard. Math is impossible.

Love is real, though. I’ve been in a relationship for one year now. It is incredible and exciting and wonderful. I love this man. He challenges me and makes me reevaluate myself and the way I view the world. He inspires me to mejorarme (this concept feels better, lexically in Spanish than in English).

Look, even thinking of him makes my diction/writing ability improve, if only slightly so.

I’m starting the list again. I will return.

My extremities are always cold.

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The Doughnuts in Our Dreams are not Doughnuts, Only Dreams…

Hello my fantastic fictional audience,

How is life going for you? I have had my ups and downs, let me TELL YOU, Internet World! But I think that it’s safe to say that life is good.

I have been doing things on my list, unofficially, and in non-list format.

I took a shot at vegetarianism (#3) for a week (okay, I cracked after 5 days and gorged myself on turkey meatballs. Whatever. Screw you for judging me. It still counts as a week…-ish. A work week, perhaps?).

It wasn’t so bad; I discovered that garden vegetable couscous salad is The Truth™. Veggie sushi? Perhaps not The Truth™, but definitely quite high on the Hierarchy of Tastiness. The only bad thing about that week was that while I was limiting my caloric intake, I was increasing my activity level, which means I ended up losing a few pounds. Most normal people wouldn’t mind this, but I’m somewhat underweight already due to good genes and bad eating habits.

I’ve started learning/re-learning a few languages (for #26 on the list): Icelandic, Catalan (re-learning), Lusaamia (a Bantu dialect spoken in Kenya),
My favorite phrase is from Lusaamia: Okutwi nya endjofu, which roughly translates to: “Ooohhh, you got some big ol’ elephant ears!!”

I think that this coming weekend will count for #49 (Movie Madness) because my town is hosting the 5th Annual True/False Film Festival. From Thursday to Sunday, 30-some-odd films and shorts will be on display for the fine citizens of Columbia and whatever tourists dare to make the trek to the desolate cultural wasteland that is Mid-Missouri. I’ve got at least 10 films on my must-see list, I’m just trying to find a way to fit them all into my schedule. With the exception of my volunteer shifts for the Festival and a 90’s Party on Saturday night, I’ve canceled all my plans for the weekend. I’m balls-to-the-wall hardcore.

Here’s a fun fact: ‘An Alternative to Slitting Your Wrist’, the documentary that inspired me to create my own list/blog, will be featured there. Owen emailed me a few weeks ago with the good news. How exciting! Exciting for him, for me, and for the world in general. I’ve yet to see the documentary in its entirety; I only saw the sneak preview when Owen was touring this summer. I can’t wait to see the whole thing. I’m actually going to go see it tonight! For free! Huzzah!

I think that seeing the film will give me some clarity and some perspective. I’ve sort of felt guilty about taking on Owen’s idea as my own, simply because he and I were in two completely different phases of life when we both started. His catalyst for creating the list was a failed suicide attempt, mine was just plain-old boredom, perhaps with a bit of wanderlust. I just feel like I’ve sort of trivialized something that was very significant to him. It was his therapy of sorts. I’ve treated my own list like a hobby or a plaything. Granted, if I had more accountability or someone else doing this list with me, perhaps I’d be more serious about it.

But…I don’t think that I’m *not* serious about The List; I just think that I’m unstructured. I’ve been incorporating a lot of the activities into my daily life in a random, haphazard sort of way and it’s worked well.

I have scads of free time this semester since I’m only officially taking 7 hours of classes (and three of those hours are an independent study). I’m involved in a lot of other activities, but my time is ridiculously abundant, in comparison to years past. So I think I’ll start the list up again, in a structured manner. It will prevent me from wasting ample amounts of free time doing stupid things like perusing Cute Overload, Mental Floss or Metafilter.

Can I just take a minute to say that I freaking *love* Cute Overload? Seriously. What the hell. The cuteness is just ridonculous. It’s like cutecrack. Egads.

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In Spanish, the terms ‘to hope’ and ‘to wait’ are embodied by the same word: esperar. Distinction can only be made through context clues, and often, there is no distinction at all, much to the chagrin of many a Spanish student.

I’m a stickler for linguistic precision, and this little quirk has always irritated me. To me, ‘hope’ implies ‘desire’ as in, “I want this to happen; it may or may not”and ‘wait’ implies ‘expectation’, as in, “This has not happened, but I’m quite sure it will in the near future”. So this vague, imprecise term ‘esperar’ sends me into a geek-tastic mini-meltdown:
“Gaaah!!! They’re two completely different concepts!!!! Dammit!!!” *grumblegrumble*

But now, all semantic issues aside, I’m beginning to realize that maybe those loco Spaniards are on to something. I think my very life is the embodiment of the term ‘esperar’.

At some point in my life, I woke up in the morning , looked out my window, and realized that everything would turn out okay. And I think that the same thing happened the next day. Maybe the day after that too. Or perhaps it skipped a day; one morning, I woke up with an intense hatred of everyone and everything and an intense craving for a Dove Dark Chocolate Bar. Mmm.

The point is, this has been my modus operandi for some time. I’m so ridiculously optimistic, sometimes I make myself sick. Maybe examples are needed, for clarity’s sake. In my mind:

* funerals = opportunities to share memories with those loved ones that are still living

* cold, shitty weather = opportunities to engage in warmth-creating activities such as wearing cute and cozy winter coats/scarves/mittens, drinking hot cocoa (with marshmallows, please and thank you!), and snuggling with your boo under the covers

* lost/stolen property = one less material possession to worry about keeping track of and/or an opportunity to get something better

* failing at something, anything! = opportunity to learn and grow and perhaps try again later, if Life allows you the privilege to do so.

The list goes on and on. And this isn’t some new-age psychobabble, this is really how I think most of the time. No joke. Pretty gross, I know. This is not to say, however, that my life is not without its fair share of anxiety and pain. Waiting can make the heart grow weary. I get impatient. Sometimes I fall into a fatalistic funk (again, hating everyone and everything, still craving chocolate). Sometimes it lasts for a few minutes, sometimes a few weeks. But it only takes something small — a random song, a funny joke, a warm hug, a random smile from a stranger, an aptly timed word of encouragement from a friend– to remind me (or delude me!) again.

This strange hope that I have, it’s not some vague, abstract belief, it’s not some passive, pie-in-the-sky wish; it’s what I know, and I live my life accordingly. I’m not just wistfully hoping that things turn out okay, I’m simply waiting for all the complex folds in the tapestry of my life to unfurl and display themselves beautifully.

Of course, the one fatal flaw in this manner of thinking is that it can lead to complacency. Too often I’ve found myself falling into the mind-trap of, “If I’ve already won the war, why should I fight anything or anyone?”, instead of, “If I’ve already won the war, why should I fear anything or anyone?” Why should I try vs. why shouldn’t I try.

Maybe I am making sense to you. Maybe I sound like a hokey motivational speaker.

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Chasing Windmills

All I want to do is sleep.

I’ve gone without a good night’s sleep for…almost a month now.

It takes me forever to fall asleep. My mind won’t turn off. My thoughts keep racing in my head. I feel dizzy and nauseous, out of control. I lie awake at night, breathing deep breaths, counting backwards in every language I know, even begging a distant God to let me sleep. All I want is sleep, not because I’m tired, but because I’m foolish enough to believe that sleep will bring some respite from the thoughts that plague my mind. The truth is, when/if I do manage to fall asleep, it’s a restless sleep. I wake up every hour or so, look at the clock, and am forced to repeat the same process again: Breathe in……breathe out….cien, noventa y nueve, noventa y ocho….God, please…Oh God, just let me sleep….

Even my dreams taunt me. They all have the same themes: rejection, betrayal, anger, bitterness, hopelessness.

I’m an emotional wreck, but I’m too proud to admit why, and too chickenshit to do anything about it.

I’m one of the most optimistic people I know, but after a while, the disappointment starts to wear me down. I’m tired of hoping, tired of putting my heart out there, tired of trying to convince myself that everything will turn out okay.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I pray for peace of mind, but I don’t think it will ever come to me again.

It’s 3:30 in the morning. Why the hell am I still awake?

I know this blog is supposed to be about the list of awesome things I’m doing, but I don’t care about the list now. I’m sorry to disappoint. Apparently, it’s the only thing I’m any good at…well, one of two things. If that’s the only way that people see me, then I don’t want to be seen at all.

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FOCUS!

These are my main concrete goals in life, in no particular order:

*Get my PhD in linguistics, with a focus in sociolinguistics, language acquisition or phonology/dialectics, teach at a university

* Become a semi-successful singer/songwriter, perform in the community and beyond, release a CD under my own label

* Get out of debt, stay that way
* Buy my dad a condo in Chicago when he retires

* Fall in love, get married, have a kid or two, have a grandkid or seven

* Travel to a Spanish-speaking country, kick it for a few years

I’m writing these down because I lack focus in my life, which is why I’m at a standstill. I have a very laid-back approach to life, you know “life is about the journey, not the destination”, “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”, and all that bullshit. I don’t take it seriously. I never have, and I tend to look down on those that do.  For some reason, I equate “having concrete, attainable career/life goals” with “becoming boring yuppie scum”, so all of my goals are really abstract, like “learn to love myself”, “bring joy into the lives of others”, “make the world a better place”, and all that hippy-dippy crap.

There is a happy medium between living in a cookie-cutter suburbanite cardboard box and living in an actual cardboad box.  I’m determined to find it.

Goals are not bad, aspirations are not bad, working in Corporate America or even *gasp* for El Gobierno is not so bad.

Okay.  Reality check is over.  I’m going to go bake cookies!

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I have writer’s block. I’ve been trying to write this blog entry eloquently for the past 15 minutes, but I can’t even get past the first sentence. So please forgive my heavy-handed prose, I’m just here to state the facts.

One of my main “questionable character traits” (I prefer this term in lieu of “flaws”) is my lack of focus. Some people say this makes me unreliable. I say it keeps me alert. This week, I’m supposed to be working on #29 on my list (exploring), but I ended up working on #18 (spreading musical goodness to the masses) instead. Just by accident, I swear.

Wednesday night, after I found out that my beloved keyboard was no more, I went to my friend Gage’s house. He and his roomies have a potluck/jam session every Wednesday and there is always an interesting assortment of musicians: drummers, saxophonists, banjo players, guitarists, tromboners, washboardists, and on and on.

I’ve been a semi-frequent participant this semester, and when I go, I rock out on keys with a bit of vocals on the side. As far as singing goes, I think I’m not too shabby, but I’ll be the first to tell you that my piano skills are absolute shyte. As a result, I’m quite insecure, so I’m prone to sort of fade in the background and let the other guys take the lead (I’m usually the only girl that participates in the jam sessions, and I think that sometimes affects the dynamics of the group as well).

This week, however, there were more new musicians in the mix, and fewer people in general, so I had an opportunity to let loose a little bit more than normal. I’ll spare you the details. In summation: woot! Good fun! Definitely helped me get over my keyboard-separation anxiety.

The next night, I ended up in front of yet another keyboard, playing and singing to whomever cared to listen. Thursday nights = Karaoke night @ Eastside Tavern. It’s kind of a hipster haven, but it has a comfortable feel to it. There’s always an interesting assortment of people. Anyway. Thursday night. Eastside. Karaoke. That was the plan, but when I showed up, it hadn’t quite started yet and I didn’t see any familiar faces, except my friend that is in charge of the Mighty Karaoke Operation, so I decided to go exploring(!!!) and wander the mean streets of downtown Columbia for a while to waste some time.

I ended up at Sapphire Lounge. I knew (and still know) absolutely nothing about the place, save the fact that a guy named Todd runs Open Mic Nights there on Thursday nights. He’s invited me to play a few times, but I’d never taken him up on his offer, until last night. When I wandered in, the place was almost empty and no one was playing. There was a beautiful keyboard set up on stage, so, after telling Todd the sad plight of my keyboard, he let me fiddle around with that one. It was pretty damn sweet, if I do say so. I think I was intimidated just being around it, at least, that’s what I’ll tell myself to excuse my pathetic piano skills. I decided to play ‘Let it Be’, easiest song EVER! and I still screwed it up. Oh well. Something good came of it all, because Todd invited me to sing with his band in the near future. Fantastic! We’ll see what happens with that.

I made my way back to Eastside, which, in retrospect, might have been a mistake. Usually when I go on Karaoke Night, I run into at least one person that I know. In fact, no matter where I go in Columbia, I’m bound to run into at least a semi-casual acquaintance. But this night? I had got no one, except Meredith, who was bartending, and Skip, who was busy working his magic as the karaoke DJ. I should’ve left, but I’d been looking forward to this all week and I’d promised Skip that I’d be there. We always sing Elvis’s “Suspicious Minds” together. It’s tradition, you know. So I stuck through it, tried to initiate some awkward conversation, and when that didn’t work, started drinking.

Blerg. I’m a little disappointed that I turned to alcohol so easily. Number one, I am super-broke right now; even a few cans of cheap-ass PBR are a luxury that stretches my poor little budget. Number two, I hate using alcohol as a social crutch. I didn’t start drinking until well after I turned 21, which means that I made it through three years of collegiate social situations completely sober…and I still survived! Imagine that. Not that it matters anyway. Alcohol doesn’t really affect my behavior in terms of social inhibitions (those are already naturally lowered or non-existent); it just gives me an excuse for my behavior, I suppose. Awkward conversations are slightly less awkward if you have a Bud Light in my hand, regardless if that bottle is empty or full, because people will write off your behavior as a result of your (apparent) intoxication. And you know, that’s really quite sad.

Anyway! Eastside! Karaoke! After a while, I decided to stop being a self-conscious little Nancy and just started enjoying the various performances without worrying about my status as a solo dork. And the performances were really great! A crowd sing-a-long of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”? Great! Channing Kennedy singing “My Sacrifice” sans various articles of clothing? Also great! (I’ve decided that he is magic. Pure magic.)

Again, details, bla bla bla. I sang Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (P.S. Love Crowded House! Love their newest CD! Yay!), Skip and I rocked out to “Suspicious Minds”, and a splendid was had by all.

So I did more music-ing than exploring this week, but I’m sure it’ll all even itself out in the end.

It all seems very strange though: the same week that I lose my keyboard forever is the same week that I’m uber-active in the musical realm.   When I first discovered that it had been stolen, I wondered if this was God’s way of telling me that it was time to let go of my silly dreams and start pursuing something other than music.

Now I’m starting to think that maybe it was a wakeup call to help me realize how much music really means to me.

Strange.

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