The stories others remember 

Today for class my professor had us text our friends and family and ask them, “what’s your favorite story about me?” She then had us put away our phones and wait.

After awhile, we were to pick one of the responses and think about why that person remembers that story, and what it says about you. The idea was to deconstruct why we tell each other stories–to see the stories we tell at parties as a (true) mythology of ourselves. This is how we cement our personal identity in a group.

My sister told me her favorite story was the time we were playing hide and seek in my grandmothers house. It was my turn to hide, and the grown ups were telling me ideas on where to go. Now, my grandmother collects dolls. Three-foot-tall, life size dolls that live in the corner of her living room. My sister is counting down, and I decide, hey, I’ll be a doll.

So I posed in the back, smiled, and waited. My sister hunts around the house for a long time–she even makes eye contact with me and keeps looking. She actually thought I was a doll.

I thought for awhile why she remembers this and what it says, both about me and about her. It was funny, sure, and I do love making her laugh. But why does she tell other people this story? What trait of mine does it show, in disguise? 

I realized that this story shows that I don’t shy away from a challenge. Yes, a “safer” hiding spot would have been under the table or in a closet. But I chose to be a doll, the more interesting and difficult path.

This class literally just ended about 10 minutes ago, but I can tell this will be something that sticks in my mind. Why d we tell stories? Funny stories, cool stories? What does it say about us and our relationships? How is it that we bond through storytelling?

Telling stories is, of course, what I plan on spending my life doing. I guess it had never crossed my mind why stories exist in the first place. It had always seemed so obvious, just an integral part of humanity. It is, I think, integral. 

Advertisements

A shelf of unread books

When the Used Book Superstore opened up two miles down the road, I began buying books by the dozen. Books I’ve never heard of, in genres I’d never read before. Classics, like Gone With the Wind. Collections of Shakespeare and the full Sherlock Holmes.

I don’t think I’ve read a single one of those books.

When I began working at the Globe, my trainer told me that if you walk by the arts section, there are always bins full of books you can just take. They’re books they’ve already reviewed or have decided not to review, and instead of tossing them they just let you take them. Advanced copies! Unpublished gems! I would take one every day, maybe two on Fridays.

I haven’t read any of those books, either.

It’s not that I don’t like reading–I LOVE reading. It’s just that it takes up a lot of time. I used to devour books, but now I read them at a snail’s pace. It took me six months to finish Life of Pi, only reading snippets while on the subway.

It’s not that the books are boring, either. They’re on subjects I like, like poetry, art, religions, even on writing itself. They’re fun fiction stories with grabbing back covers. I just haven’t gotten to them yet.

And so, I have a shelf of unread books. Well, shelf might be the wrong word…it’s more of a full bookcase. I have four (!) bookcases in my bedroom at home: one for my absolute favorite books, one for books I loved as a child, one for miscellaneous books and Harry Potter, and one for books I’ve yet to have read.

It’s a disease, really. I’m addicted to hoarding books.

I recently made myself admit that I wouldn’t ever read half of the books I have acquired, and donated about 15 to the library. At least there, there’s a fraction of a chance that someone will read them, as opposed to my room where the chance is practically zero. My next book won’t be Art: Unraveled, no matter how cool the cover looked while walking past the arts section.

I don’t know why I do this. I don’t hoard anything else. I go through my closet at least once or twice a year. I never buy anything I know I won’t use, except books.

Maybe it’s because I want to be a writer, and books fascinate me. Maybe it’s because I want to be the kind of person who reads everything, even though I just don’t.

Well. Maybe this summer I’ll be a big reader. If I have time, between work, Nano, blogging, German (am I still pretending to learn German? I haven’t practiced in so long), cooking, and everything else. Well, this is why I never get through books. They’re low on my priority list, even though I love them.

I think I put things I enjoy at the bottom of my priority list too much.

Loving English’s flaws

English is flawed, which is perhaps why I love it so much. It takes skill and patience to make words say what you want them to. It’s easy to use one wrong word and have your sentence get thrown completely off track.

The common grievances are the “there their and they’re” sort of thing, how read and lead and read and lead rhyme, how you drive on the parkway but park in a driveway…these are just failures of the language to be easy.

I barely want to touch on how dumb spelling is. Acquire, believe, calendar, cemetery, eighth, embarrassed, guarantee, license, maneuver, privilege, receive, rhythm, vacuum… what the hell, English?!

Worse than spelling is grammar. How do you write it: Douglass’s or Douglass’? I never know. Do you say “Aerosmith was” because it is a singular band, or “Aerosmith were” because the band comprises of more than one person? When do you use lay vs. lie vs. laid? When do you use “that,” and when do you use “which,” and when do you use “that which?”

Mostly, I long for a more extensive language. Why, for instance, is there no stronger word than love? Why does romantic love and parental love and friendly love and familial love and object love and concept love all fall under the same category of love? The word that I use to describe my feelings toward pizza shouldn’t be the same I use to describe my feelings toward my loved ones.

However, I do appreciate this flaw in English, as it is this flaw that allows us to be creative. Since the beginning of writing it has been used to romance others. People use sonnets when a simple “I love you” just won’t do. The limit of “love” allowed us to create metaphors, to amaze our significant others and parents with stories and rhymes and humor and heart.

If there was a word stronger than love, we’d just whip it out when things needed to be more serious. Like a strong swearword, it would be a simple, common way to show emotion. The overuse of the word love lets us get creative, and it is this creativity, this drive to work harder to prove the extent of our indescribable love, that shows just how loving we are.

In the end, I love English. Warts and all. I do wish spelling and grammar were easier, though.

“Conscience?” Really?

Top 5 places for a restless introvert to go alone

Just because we’re introverted doesn’t mean we don’t like doing things! Here is my list of the best fun things to do when you want to get out of the house but don’t necessarily want to talk to anyone.

  1. Shopping. For the ambitious introvert, shopping can be a lot of fun alone. I do my best shopping when I don’t have to worry about other people judging my purchases. Plus, you get to spend as much or as little time as you wish in each store. Shopping is low on the list because it often involves a stressful environment with a lot of people, and there’s a high chance of running into someone you know. However, more often than not it’s a fun break to do on your own.
  2. Nature. Grab your favorite copy of Walden and spend the day outdoors. It’s easy to feel comfortable in your favorite outdoors spot, whether that’s deep in the woods or your own backyard. Bring a snack, take your bike out. Your heart and your soul will thank you for it! Just remember to stay safe when alone in the wilderness; don’t try rock climbing by yourself, for example, and don’t get lost.
  3. The Movies. I know, it seems lame to go to the movies yourself…but think about it. What is social about going to the movies? If you’re going to sit in silence for two hours, might as well take away the social stress of being around people—and yes, there will be others in the theatre, but they’ll be quiet and ignorable. Plus, you get that whole popcorn to yourself.
  4. The Gym. Though not my personal preference, the gym can be a great way to get yourself active without being bothered. Plug in some headphones and enjoy some music all while getting that blood flowing. Many gyms also offer calm classes that involve little interaction, like yoga. The best part about the gym is that if you run into someone you know, there’s no obligation to talk to them. A quick smile and wave and you’re back in the zone.
  5. The Library. Many of you may be saying, duh. The library is practically introversion incarnate. Well, yes, it’s great to curl up in the comfy sofa and read a rented book, but libraries are so much more than that! They offer art and cooking classes, book clubs and author readings. They give discounted passes to local museums, they host farmers markets on the front lawn, they have cafes with rich coffee and scones. What’s not to love about a library? Whether you go with a book and a chair in mind or you go looking for inspiration for another activity, the library is the top hub for people who want to do things but would prefer to go alone. And the best part? Quiet is mandatory.

James Patterson and the State of Fiction

Hello again! Today I bring you my final Emerson Pub Club book review of the semester, about James Patterson.

As a teenager I loved James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series, but as they went on (and as I grew older and more interested in books) they began to frustrate me more. Going into this post I intended to pick Patterson apart, to list his inadequacies, to rant about how I couldn’t believe people think he’s a good author. During my research though, I had a change of heart.

Turns out, Patterson may be a genius.

You can read my post here.

Potterheads Rejoice! (But Maybe Not so Much)

Check out my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them:

http://web.emerson.edu/undergrad-students-publishing/2016/03/25/alumni-author-spotlight-frank-gao-2/