Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sucking and the Bumpy Road to Self-Actualization

At age 15 when I came up with the idea to write The Fire Outcast and wrote for hours that same night so as not to let the idea escape me, I thought I was an absolutely amazing writer. Nothing and no one could tell me differently. I'd hardly had creative writing experience, and my writing style completely mimicked the few YA novels I'd read. I sucked something fierce, but my ego was so large that I just kept writing at the time. I envisioned finishing The Fire Outcast (what I nicknamed in my head "TFO") by the time I was 18, and doing interviews and hanging out with my favorite YA novels for the rest of my life. The notion of "hard work" didn't compute in my teenage mind. I figured I was ready to publish my work NOW and the rest of my life would be a cake walk.

Now that I know what truly sucking at writing means, I've sort of been spooked into thinking writing's no good for me...or rather I'm no good for writing. Which is total Bolshevik. If once it honestly made me look forward to the rest of my life - made the rest of my life fit together so seamlessly - why have I not been following the same zeal with which I wrote as a teen and worked hard toward the perfect life I envisioned? I can still see fiction writing as the ideal way to spend my life, but I'm paralyzed by the horrible feeling that the only thing that kept me going as teen was the false confidence I had toward my writing ability, since I'd had so little exposure to good and diverse types of writing.

I have to set aside my feelings of doubt in my ability to write if I'm ever going to feel content again. This is the one internal area at which I know I can excel. There is a peace I find in myself only when I sit down and put together words in sentences that flow. If that does not constitute a niche, then I don't know what does.

I don't know how else to express myself in this strange world. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Where I Went Wrong - Writing to Make It Right Again

Because I write, I am a writer. That's all it takes.

Lately, I've been so burnt out and discouraged from writing. I've felt I've failed the main thing I was put on this Earth to do. I've let the shame of that weight wreck my entire soul - let it eat away at the confidence I had for being so well suited for a creative career. I cannot say where the depression brought on by these feelings began, but I know it will continue to push me toward emotional disrepair if I do not soon mend what first crippled me, and I must be content (at least for now) with the answer being that I went wrong when I quit writing for pleasure

My beloved aunt, author Barbara Esstman, once told me that she didn't know what to do with herself if she didn't spend at least part of every day writing. She uses writing as a coping device. Similarly, (and unfortunately I cannot remember the exact vlogbrothers video to properly source it) John Green said he writes because it gives him worth. To me, that sounds a lot like writing to cope. I must remind myself every day forward that my spirit for writing is just as hungry. Just as essential to the continual wholeness of my being. 

I journaled every single day from ages 13-17. I can remember distinctly being so content during that time, despite the devastation of my parents' divorce. At the end of the day, no matter how terribly I felt I failed at something, I could always put back together the pieces of my spirit by writing about what went wrong. I could step away from the day's events from a more objective point of view by forcing myself to end every entry with some sort of moral lesson the ill event taught me. I probably reflected the structure I learned from writing my school essays by ending each neurotic passage with at least a positive moral conclusion, "But, of course, I'm too strong to let that get to me." Hey, I may have seemed like a pompous teenager, but at least I was a happy pompous teenager. I know that the word "strength" (before I understood the more fitting word of "resiliance") always held a lot of weight for me, because I felt a physical and emotional boost when I wrote it. I know now that the words I wrote in my journals all those years ago were like armor. I was teaching myself to cope with the resiliance my daily written reflections provided me...until I stopped. I was content when I could by repetition write without worrying how my message would be received. Subconsciously I must have gained confidence from feeling my journals taught me to learn from my mistakes every day. Journaling was the main thing I felt I could do well because my emotions flowed through me onto paper in a way that made everything okay again; some days it was for the sheer fact that I had at least finished something that day.

I will not allow myself to sink so emtionally low as I have these past few weeks. I will continue to write and extract from every daily reflection what I need to find peace again. I will win back the confidence I once had in my writing, my passion for writing, and my self - as I've come to accept that confidence in myself will always be intrinsically connected to the progress of my writing.

My depression ends here with the new beginning of daily written words.

From now on, I will write to cope

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Continuing my Education with Library Science

Yesterday I sat watching "Game of Thrones," reading The Hobbit, and just thinking random Jenny thoughts, when all of a sudden I realized this time next year I would be thrust into the world of real. Real job, real payments, real living on my own - real adulthood. It was only at this moment that simultaneously I realized I would be finished finally with school, waving an English degree at any publishing company that would hire me. Then all at once I became disillusioned by this mere qualification because I realized how abundant is a BA degree in English. I hungered all of a sudden for the idea of something else I could do beyond this last impending year of my undergrad, knowing I would never be the type to have enough courage to go back to school later on in life.

I recalled then of Mrs. Oliva, the librarian who also ran the book club at my high school, incidentally the only club or activity of which I was ever a part in high school. I never had interest in anything in school besides the prospect of being able to read and respond to the events of a book I enjoyed along with other students. I always loved Mrs. Oliva's comments, and how excited she would get when we began a new book, even if we didn't get it or only a handful of us (or even one or two) showed up to the meetings. The way Mrs. Oliva's eyes shown so brightly when she was excited to share her fascination with some intricate detail none of us had noticed in our was all so inspiring for me. I wanted always after to be able to pick out the finer details of novels just as did our librarian. I wanted to be the one in the future who would make others excited to notice things in literature in just the same way.

My parents moved us around a lot growing up, but no matter how many schools we attended, I could always recall the way each school's library looked. Luckily and by coincidence it just so happened that I attended only one high school, and there I found my favorite library of all the ones growing up: The way Timberland High School centers on the library, with it there on the second floor, ceiling to floor windows overlooking the entrance. It made for such a beautiful view: a relaxing natural light that filled the entire room and glinted off the books nestled in their cases; the histories and biographies stole the greatest view of the woods to the west of the building.

I remember taking a photography class Sophomore year and having no talent for the camera eye, though I knew exactly which room of the building I would be focusing on for my projects.

The library was a place I thought of particularly on the longer days of high school, when I'd spent nearly 3 or 4 years walking the halls of the same building, thinking nothing would give me solace until I was through with the place. I would ride the bus and think of my day on autopilot, for I had walked the route to the bus stop and the way to my classes so often I became a zombie in my own shoes, willing to break the monotony the only way I knew how - by going again to the library and beginning to read the premises on the backs of other new, exciting books, where the stories would remind me of lives far more exciting than my own, and possibly ones similar to what I'd one day have in my own.

Libraries in their entirety meant for me solace and excitement in the school days full of monotony. I can see myself making a life in them for the rest of my working days, possibly using them to inspire another soul meant for a life surrounded by books, in just the same way Mrs. Oliva inspired me those seven or so years ago.

This is all why I've recently decided on continuing my education next fall at University of Missouri - Columbia (Mizzou), where I will take graduate courses to obtain my MA in Library Science. I've never been more sure of a decision because I've been so contented these two days through with the knowledge that I'm working towards a life I know will be perfectly suited to me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dear Jack

As I sit here cramming for my linguistics final, the last final of my junior year of college, I'm struck so suddenly by how quickly time has flown by. Looking past my left shoulder out over the university quad through the library windows, my favorite song throughout high school - "Dark Blue" by Jack's Mannequin - began playing through my headphones. I was reminded of a time I thought the world was out to get me. Until I would listen to that song again, I thought nothing in life was in my favor. I had the pleasure of meeting a couple times the lead singer of Jack's Mannequin, Andrew McMahon. The first time I was so starstruck that all I could manage was a brief hello and very shy "Can I hug you?" Luckily I had a better chance the second time I met him in St. Louis to tell him a little more. I felt it was important that Andy know just how much his music was an anchor in my life, during my parents' divorce, during the tougher classes in high school, during the boy troubles - all of it. I told him simply as I walked away after our second encounter, "Your music got my through high school." I didn't think the comment would mean much, as I suspected he heard many sappy or ridiculous things in his long past as a touring musician, especially for such a wide teenage fan-base, though after I turned around and walked away, he called after me with such unmistakable concern on his face, "Are you all right now?" It almost seemed to break my heart. His music allowed me to put away so much anxiety, but the look he gave me that night was paramount to any feelings of release his music provided me over the years.

Andy was on my side.
And I knew undoubtedly that he meant his concern. I knew the struggles he faced by what was so keenly portrayed in the lyrics of his music. I knew the pain he endured as a survived cancer patient. I knew the support he was capable of not only with his music, but also his campaigns (e.g. the Dear Jack Foundation) for cancer research.

He was and still remains a huge inspiration in my life. Like Andy, I hope to write with my heart on my sleeve - or, more appropriately stated, my fingertips. I hope one day to write a novel that inspires another brave soul through the worst of times, whether it be internal struggles similar to mine, or physical struggles similar to Andy's. When one day a person comes up to me after he or she has read my work and says, "Thanks. You helped me through the bad times," I'll know, as I hope Andy knows, that I have succeeded in my life-long endeavors.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Overnight Outdoor Vigil Project

My final project for Nature and Human Nature class required that we students spend a night and morning from 6pm-6am out in the wild, with nothing but a tarp on which to sleep. We were completely exposed to nature and the elements throughout the night, and were told to document our experience in whichever way we saw fit. The following text is transcribed from my journal, written last night on the vigil:
Overnight Outdoor Vigil
La Plata, Missouri
3-4 May 2014
Start: 7:50pm, 3 May
I’m set into my designated spot for the vigil. I have a plastic tarp to lie on and a warm throw blanket from home. I have this small portable battery-operated desk on which to write the half-documentation, half-stream of consciousness narrative that is the final project for my Nature and Human Nature course. I have a running mind that is making it difficult to focus only on these menial descriptions.
7:54: Extremely strangely enough, I’ve only so far seemed to acquire a bittersweet peacefulness in this natural atmosphere. It hasn’t felt the same it did for me during my freshman year of college, wherein I took backpacking class, and the newness of the overnight outdoor experience provided me with enough enthusiasm to get me through the tougher parts, such as a storm and flash flood that late night in April 2012, for which my backpacking instructor had not anticipated. Now I feel only little sureness that I will be tackling tonight with enough adrenaline powered by enthusiasm to allow me to stay awake the entire night.
7:59: I’m finding I’m a bit unforgiving toward insects: I just spent a good minute trying to kill a tick that jumped on my tarp with insect repellant. I flicked it off my tarp with my pen and left it to die in the grass. I feel very little remorse as I continue to write – no sympathy for the parasitic creatures.
8:00: I’ve had a bit of a change at heart. Very recently I watched without distraction a bird picking its way through the brush toward me, just to my immediate left. I willed it to come as closely as possible by keeping myself still.
8:06: Now I’ve just seen a rabbit skimper away. The cottontail must have noticed my movements. I hope to get better at this stillness thing.
8:07: I do believe at this rate I could fill this journal solely with words about tonight. Without the distraction of modern devices, my mind is going a thousand miles an hour. I truly feel I’m just now discovering my potential. My creative mind has never felt freer.
8:09: So quickly these rural Missouri woods have grown on me. It even bothers me now that Alicia, my classmate closest in proximity to me, is so near to my right. I wish I couldn’t see her and the frequent shine of her light, despite the fact that I know my small light on this portable desk must feel a nuisance to her in just the same way. I’d prefer it if the only movements I were hearing right now were the movements of wildlife, as my main distraction now is the mere knowledge that I am placed equidistant from so many other humans. I find it odd that only fifteen minutes ago I half-heartedly felt I needed the proximity of other humans to get through tonight.
8:11: The sounds! I find it hilarious now that only last week I downloaded a white noise application for my smart phone. This app allows you to fall asleep to noises in wildlife. I was using electronic energy to fall asleep to a noise I could experience for free in the wild. So many little things can be accomplished simply every day if we were just to accept exposure to nature’s cure for them.
8:15: I’m now applying the first layer of clothing I brought: a light-weight dark green painter’s coat. If I remember clearly from the weather forecast, it should be about 62 degrees now.
8:16: I’ve applied so much insect repellent by now. I don’t know if I could ever see like Dr. Kelrick to go without any kind of repellent for a night out in the woods. I believe I may have developed a phobia for parasites after reading Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps two summers ago. All right, so other humans and ticks – those are my only current unwelcome concerns. Already I’m learning valuable things about myself.
8:17: I’m cautious now of some of the movements going on in the brush surrounding me. I want all of them to be movements of the wildlife, but I know how likely it may be that they belong to a human. I slightly regret that Dr. Kelrick did not place us farther apart.
            Though I know my creative mind will keep me up most the night, I wish I could use this night in the woods to recalibrate my circadium rhythm with the sun. I am excited to wake with the sun, but I wish to sleep while it too rests.
8:20: I didn’t know the train was so close here. It’s extremely comforting to hear, though. I imagine now this time last week. I was with my friend Tim, showing him for the first time the hidden treasure of the “train bridge,” located very near here. He absolutely loved it. I know there is something special about him, especially when I saw the way he reacted after the first real rush of wind hit us from the under-passing train. I felt the magic and reacted to it, too, just the same way he did, and when he later told me he wished he had kissed me there on the bridge, I wished he had, too.
8:22: The brush on my way to finding a good area for my bathroom breaks was very unhappily thorny. My experience here tonight would have been much less pleasurable had I brought any less heavy-duty gear.
8:29: The sun is a very dull glow in the skyline. I am facing south south-east, with my face pointed slightly right to catch its last dying breath here on the third of May, 2014.
8:31: I feel the need now to do more listening and observing and less writing.
8:38: It’s funny now to think I thought the university farm was nature. Now, in comparison to these woods, I feel it was too manicured at the farm – so touched by human hands.
8:39: I’m in a state of peacefulness I know I’ve never before achieved. I don’t want to spend my time documenting all this anymore – I just want to live it.
8:44: Knowing that the Mississippi River is so close by, being so close to a train, and sleeping on the forest floor in Missouri makes me feel like Huck Finn.
8:45: Time is going by so slowly. I can’t believe it’s only been five minutes since last I put pen to paper. I want to set aside time to do an outdoor vigil every year. Everyone needs to experience this recalibration of natural peacefulness frequently in their lives, and I know as a writer possibly fated with the lifelong task of writing indoors and at a desk it will be doubly so important for me to continue this vigil throughout my life.
8:51: I’m thankful for this clear night, and the knowledge that comes with modern science.
8:56: No matter if it is a void into which we are writing and talking – I think we continue to do so because it is all our species knows to do.
9:05: As I lie, the Big Dipper is immediately above me.
9:10: The train passes by every fifteen minutes. I wonder if it’s a nuisance for anyone. For me, it means comfort; it means home. It means Valmeyer, Illinois.
9:51: The stars are all so incredibly visible, though it’s difficult to see the constellations through the overhanging tree brush. I doubt I’ve ever seen a clearer night sky.
9:52: Some small creatures seem to be attracted to my desk light. There are positives to living in this particular part of the continental United States – one largely being the threat of large animals on a camp site.
9:54: The cold doesn’t seem to bother me as much as I thought it would. It should be about 59 degrees now.
10:39: The rabbits are incredibly enthusiastic this time of night. Their thumping is keeping me from napping. One is close by the head of my makeshift bed. Now is time for another run of the passing trains. The cold is finally beginning to seep its way through my clothing layers.
10:42: I just shined my phone light on an extremely close rabbit. It just stared. I may have just learned I am frightened by wild rabbits: Donnie Darko now comes to mind.
11:26: Still trying to catch my breath after the rabbit incident. Another train is coming.
11:44pm: For the past hour, I’ve been too wrapped up in my own diverse array of random thought to remember I’m out here in the great outdoors. My mind has shifted from what I plan to do this summer – see my Montana friend, take care of my great-grandmother, finish writing my book – to an earworm of a song called “The Rainy Season” by Hunter Hayes. Hopefully I’ll not recede into my mind too often the rest of the night.
12:04am: I’ve gotten up to pee three times and every single time the jagged silhouette of the dead tree at the foot of my tarp bed has scared me to death. I am glad for the view the glow of the moonlight casts on the trees. The shading contrasts provide a beautiful pattern of intricately woven branches, like lacework.
12:06: Still trying to get a nap in. My mind is running a thousand miles an hour.
12:55: Feet are freezing. My only regret is not having brought an extra pair of socks.
            The rabbits still have not settled down enough for me to sleep, even if my mind would allow for it.
            The stars are more beautiful than ever.
2:02: I’ve never been so worried about keeping my feet warm. My toes have gone numb. Took of my shoes a bit ago and brought my knees up to my chest to keep them as warm under my throw blanket as possible. They seem to be warming up little by little.
2:08: I started to feel a little lonely until a heard another train going by. I wonder how many different trains pass through here every day.
2:30: Still feel extremely cold. A story my friend told me about getting frostbite during our semester in Northern Ireland comes to mind. It’s beginning to seem completely unviable that Bear Grills does the things he does. You couldn’t pay me enough to subject myself to this more than once.
2:52: Another train. More peace from the restlessness.
2:53: I think again of Tim and the train bridge. I think of how fortunate I am to have these comforts.
5:52: I am finally beginning to feel hungry. I am comforted by the fact that we will be leaving the woods soon. My body aches a bit from contorting under the small blanket to fit my long body.
5:56: My visible right hand neighbor is waking. I was hoping to use the bathroom soon without paranoia of an audience.
5:58: Through the brush, I can see that my classmates are beginning to make their way back to camp.

6:00: I enjoyed getting to have this natural experience, to think as well as be out in nature for such an extended amount of time, and with such a brilliant stellar view. Not many people my age today have the privilege to say that. I encourage all who read this to do the same. See what you can get for ditching the American lifestyle for a bit. Just once.
End: 6:04am, 4 May

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Amorous Abyss

This style of poetry was inspired by my recent reading of Sarah Kay's poetry compiled in No Matter the Wreckage.

It's difficult to gauge exactly when it was
I drowned in my love for you.
You thrived on nights upon nights of flirtatious messaging
where I found proximity in the few moments 
we spent together in person.
Your honesty made you into a person
I wanted to be.
Your intellect made it challenging to keep up,
and perhaps that is when I fell 
into the amorous abyss,
only ever able to swim 
when the distance created by our typing fingers 
was our means for surviving in the depths.
Together in person I choked and blew bubbles.
We laughed at the irony of my having spent college
working with words, 
yet with you, mere coherent speech eluded me.
It's difficult to gauge exactly when it was
you broke my heart,
though I must say the ocean floor looks
impossibly dark
now that I can see the sun
through the surface 
of the amorous abyss.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thinking Objectively for Our Future

I suppose it just wouldn't be humanity if everyone was an environmentalist. There's such diversity of thought and personality that must go along with such a large population. Of course I feel like an outlier being a hippy in that respect (as Dad would say), but it's selfish to think other people don't feel just as sad when others aren't also as passionate about what occupies their thoughts.

One thing I realized lately is that Christians believe God would make a species more than capable of wiping out his creation of planet Earth. Not only do they have faith in that, but they're just okay with the fact. And maybe the Christian environmentalists believe that it is one of those innate flaws with which humanity was born, like the sin of the taking of the forbidden fruit in Genesis. I won't be so delicate as to believe that. If God provided us with the capabilities to create sonar, telescopes, personal computers - he made us with the ability also to learn from these tools (developed by humans - the great scientists) how to explore the world.

We should be using science and technology to enlighten us further on even better ways of understanding the universe and our existence. Yes, so much already has been discovered, but as Neil deGrasse Tyson's documentary "An Inexplicable Universe" suggests, we have so much yet to learn; even a man with a degree in astrophysics from Harvard can tell us that.

I am not okay with sitting back and letting theology explain away so many of the questions we have for our existence the way I did for 20 years of my life. Since opening up my mind to new ideas and seeing with my eyes scientific analysis and data, I cannot imagine going back to my previous state of mind.

I am excited to see what more is discovered in space over the course of my lifetime. Just as Bill Nye mentioned in his recent debate with Ken Ham, I will reiterate to say I also believe we should be raising our children to value science for its true merit, not forcing organized religion on young minds so that they are unable to think objectively in ways that benefit our understanding of the universe in the future.