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.

The Green on My Thumbs

By default, I am a tree hugger, a hippy in this society.
I am a crazy person on a vegan diet.
I am an annoying dinner companion.
I do not eat "normally."
I feel physically pained when my plants are unhealthy.
I skip class or arrive late if the weather is too nice
(I have never actually been sick this semester).
I feel restless when I must be in class on a nice day.
I feel guilt and shame when I have been on the computer for too long,
despite the fact that I love gaining from the Internet new knowledge.

In all honesty, I wish the answers were written in the trees.
I wish it were made necessary for education to be gained only
through outdoor classrooms.

I can remember a time I felt more in touch with nature than ever before.
It was when we lived in Florida.
My elementary school was built with a courtyard in the middle with beautiful trees,
flowers, and paths through a garden.
It was necessary to walk through the courtyard to move from
any classroom or building on the large school's campus.

I remember doing a lesson on bio and then walking outside to go to another building.
I saw and just needed to feel the parts of the flower we had just learned.
I remember feeling so happy that we could be surrounded by such vibrant, living things.

I never felt as close to animals, I must say. I don't know if my love of plants stemmed (pun intended) from this time of awe as a child, but I do know I'm on track for a life of growing many of my own plants. My own plants from which to gain nutrition, and my own plants from which to experience awe as I continue on in my adult life.

I can see the green on my thumbs now, and it's a happy feeling indeed.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Changing My State of Mind - We Are Stardust

Distractions surround my very existence by consequence of merely living in this age. The technology, the simple availability to educate oneself at the click of a mouse, the few taps of a finger on a smart phone, and updates from NASA on Twitter. There is an endless array of possibilities for new information, and I am swimming in it all. Diving, soaring - sometimes screaming into the chaos of it all by means of social media. Sometimes hoping others will find value in what new, insightful (I hope) things I have to say. Always hoping someone else will gain from my sharing of this knowledge something new that, in turn, inspires them.

Is social media the right place for this knowledge? Please let it be, for I can't find refuge and solace in the cat memes and these redundant pictures of weddings and babies. Let there be another soul which hungers for more than these things.

I want another piece of knowledge that will keep me up at night. It may sound insane - I've already spent the last week in a daze from the repercussions of a knowledge hangover. I indulged for a long spell in Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and How the Universe Works documentaries, and it put me behind in my school work, but I won't say I feel worse for the wear; my experiences have been absolutely the contrary. I can only say I feel I'm getting somewhere - somewhere in my conscious I didn't know was possible a year ago.

It's a funny thing when you start really to open up your mind. More than anything else, I've felt a huge divide from the person I was only months ago. I feel what a peculiar thing it is to go from one state of mind that feels in hindsight as though I was restrained, to feeling now as though the answer is at my finger tips. It's in science in the millions of articles and data for which I decide to browse.

Before I would tip-toe the Web - take any scientific research with a grain of salt, subjecting any "facts" I saw to verses I remembered from the Bible. Very little made it through to my critical thinking processes while in this sort of paranoia.

I know I can't and won't go back to Christianity, no matter how I will be viewed by members of my family. I cannot fathom believing again that the universe is only thousands of years old, or that our species came to be from one mature male and one female.

As far as I am concerned right now we are all stardust, with the potential to become something much bigger than our current physical, human forms millions of years from now. And if one in my family tells me that this afterlife is bleak, I don't know what in his or her argument could make me think otherwise.

A Review of Mike Falzone's "Never Stop Shutting Up"

I just read Mike Falzone's Never Stop Shutting Up, and though I love the man's presence on YouTube, I have to say that I found very little takeaway upon finishing reading his book. In his short book, he gives brief anecdotes of mistakes he's made and learned from in his life, along with lists of advice to his readers. This was all well done as far as his getting across what needs to end in relationships, what insecurities are impeding one from self-confidence, etc. But the book seemed to lack a central theme that would have tied it all together to make a memorable experience for the reader. Already I'm finding myself forgetting what was supposed to be the point of a few of his brief rants and anecdotal experiences, and I only just finished reading it all an hour ago.

The man definitely has an apparent poetical presence and wisdom that is seldom found in the community of YouTube vloggers. He still remains one of my favorite YouTubers for the passion he brings to the camera. Unfortunately, this passion just didn't seem to translate well for me to the page. As an English major, I found myself highly distracted by the number of mistakes in the editing and the lack of a central theme.

However, I still do believe Mike Falzone's book to be worth the read. For me, especially with my experience in a failed long-distance relationship, the bit he wrote on that inspired sense in me that I don't believe I would have gathered until later on in life, had I not read the book now. I feel that similar ah-ha moments could be gained by others who may relate to the diverse array of material Falzone covers in his wee book.

For another representation of Mike Falzone's work, I highly recommend his YouTube channel:
Or easily reach him on Twitter: @MikeFalzone

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What Is My Happiness

The following is my response to the prompt, "Happiness is..." for the book giveaway of The Big Tiny by Dee Williams from

Happiness is seeing the joy in my family and friends and, further, wanting to be a person who can forever contribute to their joy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

It Is Impossible to Live Without Failing

Today I sat and pondered the usefulness of my talent of writing: not only the fact that I could so easily call it a talent (if it is truly that) but also if I could save lives with it the way my parents do with theirs. Could I be so bold as to say that my writing would be as significant in another's life as was Jane Austen's or Scott Westerfeld's in mine? Would it be a shot in the dark just as good as any to aim with my pen and keyboard as high as do the students currently in pre-medical school?

All we have in our collegiate endeavors is the hope that all of us may save lives the best way to which we know how - and, for me, this is the best way. If my English degree and this time in school does prove all done for naught, I have a little quote by J. K. Rowling (from her 2008 Harvard Commencement Speech) to help me along my later years:

"But some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Never to Steer"

The following is a free verse “poem” I wrote after reflecting a bit on the journal entry from 11 April at the university farm:

Never to Steer

I sit here and wonder where else I could be,
Saving lives the only way I know how,
Being for someone else the
Scott Westerfeld, Jane Austen, and Cassandra Clare
Who saved me,
Teaching others in the way literature taught me
Never to fear, never to tear, and from the light

Never to steer

"Blades of Grass Sing"

The following is a poem I wrote after closing my eyes and listening to the surrounding sounds of nature for a few minutes:

Blades of Grass Sing

The horses whinny and stomp in my periphery
The rest of the farm and land I can see
Dancing and waving to me in the spring breeze
Hoping I’ll take notice, the blades of grass sing

Hello, I say, I don’t mean to graze you as horses do
But I must be on my way to ponder a day
When I may take from this land much easier courses

Never to Steer: Fulfillment in the Practice of Saving Lives

Nature and Human Nature
Dr. Kelrick
11 April 2014
A slight irritation struck me today during my linguistics class – one I’ve never been accustomed to feeling. It was that I pictured in that class my mother when she was at this moment in her life, aged 20-going-on-21, and how she was learning and practicing to become a nurse. I then looked up (or rather resumed my full attention) to the lingual reconstructions lesson my professor was teaching. I thought how useless this time is being spent in my life. Not that linguistics is a particularly useless thing to learn, but it is when I think about the ways I hope to aid others in life. I know I won’t be able to save a life learning linguistics – especially with my mediocre proficiency and comprehension at the subject. But I may in fact save a life by writing a novel the way novels saved my life during my parents’ divorce. I may save many lives doing work as an environmentalist. I may make someone’s life as an editor or publisher of an author’s work, which may in turn create of her or him the opportunity to save lives through literature. I want no longer to be sitting in classes which make me feel little fulfillment.
            Though I understand the importance of a liberal arts education, as well as the importance of finishing this education and furthering my chances of having a “qualification” to make a difference in the world, I wish I could be spending this time in practice towards doing good. I would rather spend my time practicing these life-changing experiences than spending it on useless (in my opinion) linguistic study.
            I can see myself enjoying the beautiful, ever-changing seasons the way I do here and now while I do good in the world. As long as I find my way aiding another brave soul in need, and I am able to incorporate my love for writing, I know I will be fulfilled.       

Blades of Grass Sing: My Desires and Nature's Desires

Dr. Kelrick
Nature and Human Nature
6 April 2014
It’s difficult to gauge exactly what we want in life. At any given moment this feeling - this desire - pulling on our conscious may be so daunting that we have no idea what to do with it. Currently, I see that the seasons have a way of mirroring this human tendency in a way we would call personification. For example, in lieu of the recent April rains, the university farm here at my “spot” is beginning to drink up the seasonal refreshments and in answer is happily sprouting some green. It feels to me as though the land has been wanting this moment for months, and now it is exuding its gratefulness in color. But the point I mean to arrive at is that this is one moment among thousands in a lifetime (for the land as well as for humans). Just as the beginning of fall gave rise to a desire for the land to change color in preparation for colder months, human desires change just as drastically.
Unfortunately, humanity cannot so easily change according to its desires the way the lands do according to the seasons. We do not learn anything by default, nor do we live a cyclical pattern like the land. In my opinion, this unpredictable aspect of our humanity makes us beautiful. What I mean by saying “unfortunately” in this context is that it is also what makes being human so damn difficult. I cannot forever sit in this grass - beside this beautiful tree, and live from the land, never to face my fears or figure the mess of confliction that is my deciding on a career path. Though I strongly want and desire to stay in my “spot” - only to change just as the seasons do – I know I must deal with the complications that come with being human.
So much depends upon the choice of a career path. It could be the choice of editing at a publishing house…but then possibly being confined indoors and making me forget how well I love nature. It could be working diligently on my own writing for a time…but then there is the same potential consequence as previously mentioned. It could be joining the Peace Corps…but then I don’t know if my heart could take two years of seeing potentially such misfortune and sadness. It could be nature writing and documentation…but I don’t know if I have the mind for science I believe would be necessary to write the material.
Do I want to seek a career with potential negatives? Can I really afford to be choosey as an English major?

Combating Depression Individually at My University

Nature and Human Nature
Dr. Kelrick
30 March 2014
Today, because I saw in Truman’s INDEX newspaper that Truman students’ rates of depression are higher than those at similar universities, I felt the need to take a day for myself. Not that I was feeling particularly depressed at the time of reading it, but the article made me aware of an earlier semester at this university when I felt so overwhelmed with coursework and student activities. Naively, I remember thinking I was the only one handling all the responsibilities so poorly, and so, even worse, I began to feel isolated.
            Since building much closer relationships with friends on campus and learning how to better manage my coursework, I don’t feel at all anymore as though I could fit into the statistic I saw in the article. But reminding myself of that time in my life, I needed at once to fill my day with all the things that have led to my ability to be truly content with my school life. The following activities I have completed or plan to complete today in my effort to remind myself what makes me feel grounded:
  •       -Cooked healthy lunch (didn't get lazy with it)
  •       -Visited a friend on campus and talked with them about how they were doing
  •     -  rec center
  •        -Classical music and yoga time.
  •      -  Sit at spot on university farm
  •    -    Wrote for fun
  • -Read for fun (not for one of my English courses) before bed

A Rant on the Environmental Awareness of My Peers: We Could Do Better

Dr. Kelrick
Nature and Human Nature
17 March 2014

At this point, I just need to rant. I need to rant because I know that we as a species are so much smarter than this. It’s understandable if the average American citizen may not know the impact of, say, drinking a bottle of water over getting a glass and filling it from the tap – that I realize is something very seldom mentioned in the news, or stressed as more important than the next environmental issue. But to watch my exceedingly intelligent peers continually throw out blatant recyclables and have no regard for refilling reusable tumblers instead of purchasing daily disposable coffee cups? These are such menial changes that make huge differences! The most frustrating aspect of all of it is that I know Truman students are consciously doing these things. They know how to live a minimal impact lifestyle, yet choose not to. And though I know I can’t spend my life correcting them or reminding them how large is the impact of their carelessness, it is still a recurrent nagging concern in my life (which is probably only exacerbated during and after my participation in my Nature and Human Nature class).

Often my attitude in Nature and Human Nature class is piqued due to the fact that I am clearly surrounded for 80 minutes by other good-willed environmentalists, and I heartily enjoy hearing their takes on the current natural world around us. However, after the class it ultimately highlights for me the other end of the spectrum: the people who couldn’t care less about the condition of our earth. I saw it in my friends when I went home for spring break; I saw it in my brothers as I went to visit my mom’s; and I saw it in the people who chose to order their coffee in a disposable cup at my favorite downtown coffee shop (where the mission stated on the shop is to be environmentally friendly), and they condone the option of drinking from the store’s beautiful reusable mugs.

It all comes to mind now because I am looking at a prime example of why we want to preserve this Earth. I’m looking across the beautiful expanse of prairie land that is my university’s farm, and though it may be my preferred happy place, the same could be said about the next person’s; be it at a mountain side, a lake, the beach, a log cabin in the middle of the woods – most likely your happy place lay outdoors as well. Do you want always to be able to think of that place as it was the very first time you imagined it? Or do you want over time to see that human hands have left a water bottle there in the distance, under that tree that stood for strength in your peaceful recollection?

Imagine for a moment that while your happy place lay at the beach, another person’s takes place in the middle of the woods. You go on a hike with your college backpacking class and accidentally drop the wrapper from your energy bar, but don’t stop and go back to get the wrapper because it would put you too far behind the rest of the group. Would it be safe to claim that now this very spot, a spot quite possibly the happy place for someone else, has been tarnished by a human hand? Had they known of the litter, is it not safe to say they would now wish to find a different place to direct their worried thoughts? But this is beginning to go beside the point.

We cannot continue to live vicariously through other people’s wasteful habits, only to do the right thing when environmentalist tendencies strike our fancy, or when they are brought to our attentions by the news. We are an intelligent people capable of so much more than that. In that respect, I know I can speak on behalf of my peers, because I know every Truman student has the awareness and exposure required to live a minimally impactful life. To see more of this conscious effort in my school and home and anywhere else that is not just inside my one university course would make me an exceedingly happier (and less frustrated) person.

Writing Outdoors and Feeling Truly Content

Nature and Human Nature
Dr. Kelrick
7 March 2014

Yesterday in class I remember wanting so much to talk about how physically confined I felt being an English major made me. It wasn’t until my sophomore creative writing class when a writing exercise forced us to take our notebooks outside that I realized how much of an inspiration the outdoors could be for my writing.

The prompt had us to write out on a sunny September day for the duration of an eighty-minute class. We had to describe in great detail the campus quad, proceeding to tell what those sights made us feel. What I found about my writing was not only that I found my descriptive skills to be improving, but my own myth about feeling I would only be distracted by some sort of natural sensory overload was debunked. I found the more I forced myself to write outside, the easier I could take those distractions, and actually use them separately to my advantage when I needed details of them described in my writing. Not only that, but ever since that first outdoor writing exercise, I truly have felt my attention has improved.

I remember distinctly on several occasions talking to other English majors in that class as well as to my author aunt that I felt what a shame it was that technology was forcing us into an innate need continually to be stimulated by entertainment. I felt that was the biggest impediment in my writing development. I couldn’t write more than four sentences without thinking of that episode of Scrubs from last night, or wanting to check my new smart phone to see if there was anything of importance on my Facebook newsfeed.

Foremost, I knew this state of mind wasn’t helping any progress I could be making toward my dream career, so at the time I was hungry for a solution (and preferably one that didn’t involve being prescribed ADD meds). Writing outside was that happy antidote.

I think this realization also ties into the proposed second part of the prompt Dr. Kelrick mentioned on Tuesday’s class: Have you recently felt the same childhood contentment (this being in accordance to the first part of the question that we did discuss in yesterday’s class)? I feel exceedingly content when I can derive a good idea in my writing from the surrounding natural stimuli when I do write outdoors. This is the only time during which I know I’m fighting the battle against technology’s hold on my attention. Though it is difficult when the harsher winter has made it so that the only time I do write outside is during this journaling exercise for my JINS course, which seldom requires more than two trips a month to write at the uni farm. I know the thoughts of contentment which occurred to me during yesterday’s class will keep me on track with writing outside, where I know I’m investing most avidly for the good in my writing capabilities.

Earthly Beauty

Nature and Human Nature
Dr. Kelrick
February 27

Today has been quite interesting. I started it off watching an episode of “How the Universe Works,” this one dealing with alien planets. To go from the state of mind it took to watch that show and then to come here to the farm, it sure throws one for a loop, brings it all into perspective. Though we have the insane capabilities to see with NASA telescopes even into universes beyond our own, we still have yet to find another human-habitable planet. Even just to think about that moment in time that we do find a planet similar to ours, and how amazing it will be for our species, and then to think back on an argument I recently had with a family member, I wonder how I could possibly have been so narrow-minded. So many human concerns orbit our lives, when the real concern should be seen at a grander scale. I used to think I was a “big picture” type of person before I recently got into the habit of letting little things get to me. I find watching documentaries like this every once in awhile a great way for me to keep grounded (even if it really means seeing humanity as a whole from the point of view of an alien galaxy).
            Sitting here and looking out on the still-dead February prairie landscape, it’s difficult still not to see the beauty in it. Yes, it’s completely possible that there is an identical planet out there just like Earth, but I like to think their humans (or what would be the cognitive equivalent) have few enough little concerns to enjoy their parallel Earth the same as I am right this moment. I care little for the notion that Earth is unique and we should love it all the more and yada yada. I agree with “the more the merrier” expression and how it may be applied here. I think it’s much more beautiful to think that there are other similar life forms in alien universes wondering the same thing about our existence, looking over a similar prairie to this Earthly one.
            I may be so bold as to claim that it is a greedy prospect to think that Earthly humans should be the only ones allowed this kind of beauty. Sure, the similar alien planet in question may have an arguably better view, possibly even with the freaking awesome ability to see x-rays and gamma rays in space, but there is also innate wonder in our specific version of the circle of life, the struggle of modern human life, and the ways these factors make Earthy life more precious.
            Perspective is such a fragile thing. Just one semester abroad in Northern Ireland, I believe, has changed my view of America as well as other cultures for the rest of my life. I will never forget the lovely nights spent walking for three miles to the nearest pub with my French and German friends, connecting one another’s culture as well as laughing at the key differences. But after seeing that documentary, again, I can’t help but look at this experience from a big picture. I notice now how those cultural experiences surmounted geographical, social, and cognitive lines. Geographical because most likely I would never have encountered these other human beings had we not met “half way” in Northern Ireland; social, because had we not been in the same international group of friends, I probably would not have found the guts inside my introvertive nature to otherwise approach them; and cognitive, because I was able to share for these few pub-going experiences a bit of what made me think the way these other humans did.
            To wrap up what potentially could be a life-long conversation (based on my interest in this discussion), I would have to say that human perspective itself is such a beautiful thing. And I hate to write some sort of variant of “beauty” so many times in this journal, but I don’t know how else to describe what is the make-up of our universe and the many other universes with which we are still unfamiliar. I sit here in our little earthly version of this beauty, and for now that is more than enough.

Nature and Human Nature Journals

I have been AFK and delving much further into some life experiences that I (sometimes) rather would prefer not to; but nevertheless, these experiences have taught me much more, and hopefully will bring to the (writing) table much more insight, especially here on my blog. I have recently written a few journals for my Nature and Human Nature class at university about which I am excited to exhibit, and I will post some of my favorites as the next few posts, starting with the following:

26 February 2014

I stare placidly at the snow surrounding me and the large oak tree at my back, wondering if I should have brought sunglasses – the sun shining on the large expanse of unbroken snow field is blinding. I’ve heard my relatives in Newfoundland, Canada generally often carry ski-type sunglasses with them in winter. How ill-prepared winter always seems to strike me in Missouri, though after twenty years I should be used to the extreme polar opposite conditions that occur over the winter and summer seasons in my native state.
Interesting that I’m making such simple realizations now…
I’m tempted just to put away my journal for a good amount of time before putting my thoughts together into something that does not just resemble stream of consciousness, though I’ve really put myself in a time constraint for the rest of the day’s homework; there isn’t much time to write outside of these thirty minutes I’ve allotted to write here at the farm.
They have the horses out today at the circular pin over to my left. Besides the building for the foals and medically treated horses – as well as the expansive ranch where they generally keep the horses – the only other things to break up the monotony of color in the landscape are those in that circular pin.
They really are beautiful, majestic creatures. I’ve never looked at a horse without thinking just how damn-near poetic anyone would sound trying to describe them.

The vehicles of earlier day,
Capable of making our ancestors’ flying dreams come true,
Horse-back riding with both sailing hair and mane.
Carrying our material burdens on their shoulders,
By a higher power rendered quiet and accommodating.
Trustee companions they were and always will be.

I say damn-near because I can remember from high school creative writing class that this bit of writing in no way comprises even the minimal rules necessary to be a poem. I enjoyed the poetry-writing assigned in that class, but haven’t quite indulged in it since. My first love in the field of creative writing is prose writing, though I do often find the need to describe things in writing in only a way that only poetry can express. Hopefully by my next visit here at the farm I will have a better grasp of my opinion on poetry.