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Friday, August 20, 2010

[718] Orient(ate) me


In honor of my embarking upon the adventure of my grad school orientation this afternoon, I present you with my neurotic ramblings from the day of my CSUF interview. I wrote this while sitting outside the office of the head of the American Studies department, and feeling entirely inadequate. I'm pretty sure that there are two possible personality types for those of us who are more creatively inclined. There are those who are utterly convinced of their own greatness and entitlement - I know a few of those - and then there are those who are just as convinced of their unworthiness for even the most basic recognition or acceptance. Nine times out of ten, I fall into the latter category. While there has never been any solid evidence in my life to back up that ridiculous assumption, the insecurity is there, and it is pervasive. Exhibit A:

I'm doing my darndest to be confident, to appear as though I am certain I am qualified, and to convince whomever I come into contact with that s/he would be a fool not to take me under his/her wing. My heart is racing and my iced tea isn't sitting right in my stomach, but I'm doing the best I can.
It's 3:14pm. I am one minute early, and the professor with whom I am supposed to meet has not yet arrived. Perhaps he has forgotten. Maybe I came all the way here only to be completely and totally stood up. Well, at least then maybe he'd feel bad and let me into the program out of pity. I know. They don't do that. But I'll take any bit of encouragement I can at this point - anything to make me feel like less of a presumptuous idiot for even hoping in my wildest dreams that I'm worthy of graduate study.
Sometimes I wonder what I'd even do with an M.A. Yeah, sure, I know what I want to do. How likely am I to actually do it, though? What if I put an M.A. after my name and stagnate? What if I'm a waste of a degree? Oh jeez. Maybe they shouldn't want me after all.
Who am I but just a lowly B.A. from an unknown undergraduate university with no reputation? I shouldn't even be here, tapping my foot anxiously in the hallway outside this office. Should I knock again?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

[710] radio free age-gap


I rarely listen to music. I love music. I just don't listen to it.

I have this thing about any form of entertainment, whether it be movies, music, TV, books, historical reenactments, or what have you. I have to be in exactly the right mood at a given time in order to enjoy any particular type or genre of one of these things. Since I rarely seem to know myself well enough to pinpoint exactly what musical mood I'm in, I generally opt to save myself the frustration of poking the iTunes skip button on my keyboard for 45 minutes before I hit my stride.

That said, today I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to listen to.

If you live in Southern California, you've probably seen the KTLA commercial in which Sugarcult's song Los Angeles is used over some seriously epic night time footage. I love that song, and I love Sugarcult. They bring me back to my high school days, when Ben and I used to blast their song Pretty Girl on road trips to visit Jason at Master's, or when Jess and I would sit in front of the TV watching Much Music for hours waiting to see the ever-adorable Rivers Cuomo interact with Kermit the Frog in Weezer's Keep Fishin' video. I'm not one to claim that high school was the best time of my life, or to ever want to go back and re-live it, but, a few years out, I can now appreciate that strange era of my life. And it was strange. I don't care how cool you think you were in high school. You were embarrassing. If your current self met you, you would smack you.

Right. So. Today, on my walk through Back Bay, I created the ultimate high school playlist. It was precisely what I was in the mood for, and it got me thinking about how our musical memories date us -- how they can make us feel really old or really young, depending on who we're talking to.

On Twitter last week, someone posted something along the lines of, "Hey Ya just came on! Awesome elementary school memories!" I was about ready to crack out the Geritol right there. Elementary school?? I was a senior in high school when that was released (on my 18th birthday, as it turns out), and, being just shy of 25, I don't feel that kids who were probably still eating paste at the time could possibly be old enough to be tweeting.

On the other hand, I recently heard Chumbawumba on the radio, and excitedly proclaimed to Kyo that this was my jam in middle school. At that time, Kyo was about 26. Aaaand, the pendulum swings back.

I really do love the perspective music gives us on our age, though. I'm pretty sure we spend about 75% of our lives thinking we're old. Then someone comes along and talks about buying a Dylan record or hearing Dion & the Belmonts at a sockhop, and we realize we're freaking babies. We've been here for like, ten seconds. At my age, I've only been capable of any form of rational thought for like, three years. If I play my cards right, I've still got about 2.5 more of the life I've already lived ahead of me.

There are very few things in life that give me such perspective on the slow passage of time as music. Well, music and Bonanza. But I'm saving that for a post on how I want to be Ben Cartwright when I grow up.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

[708] my side of the mountain


I recently read this blog, which discusses solitude, this essay by William Deresiewicz, and, in particular, the profound impact the book My Side of the Mountain had on the the blogger's appreciation of spending time alone. Honestly, this blog feels like I could've written it, aside from the fact that, shamefully, I have never read Siddhartha. I've also never read Diana Michener's Catching the Sun, but I don't feel like anyone is gasping in shock at that revelation. (She hasn't read Catching the Sun? Was she raised in a barn?)

I have always been a bit of an introvert, and therefore a solitude enthusiast to some degree. My Side of the Mountain absolutely validated that desire within me to spend time alone with nature and my own thoughts. When I was in fifth grade, my teacher encouraged (see also: gave extra credit to) my classmates and I to spend 24 hours alone in our backyards after reading the book. For me, 24 hours was not nearly enough. I spent the better part of a month in a tent, reading, writing in my journal, and fancying myself a regular Thoreau.

Site of Thoreau's Cabin, 2007
Admittedly, I am a social networking addict, and often think that I cannot live without my cell phone and my Macbook. I find, though, that I am never more at peace and less stressed out than when I've spent several days somewhere without any connection to the thousands of acquaintances whose approval and constant feedback I so frequently think I require. A camping trip to Central California last weekend was one of many reminders of this, and, upon returning, I spent two consecutive afternoons sitting in Huntington Beach Central Park working on a short story with only my ugly dog for company. It was, in a word, liberating.

All that to say, it was a nice surprise to stumble upon a blog post that reflects upon My Side of the Mountain with similar sentiments to my own, and which serves as a little bit of a kick in the pants as I sit here with a zillion tabs open in Google Chrome, and realize that 3am feels lonely* to my generation because we don't know how to be alone.

*Apologies to Rob Thomas and the boys of Matchbox 20