My November 23, 2011 Resolution: Never stop learning.

So I was just reading this article, and I got a feeling I haven’t remembered feeling in a long, long time.

You see, when I was little, I read encyclopedias like crazy.  My grandmother bought me this really awesome, big encyclopedia in which I first read about the sun’s fate to become a red giant in 7.5 billion years, then cool to a white dwarf (which freaked me out as a 6-year-old, I tell you what), but I reread and reread it all the time, always learning things I’d missed the previous times.

When I would read these encyclopedias, I would read about places like Australia and New Zealand and their natives (for some reason, Oceania has always fascinated me as a place, who knows why?) and other places too!, and always get this leap in my stomach, almost, like it was something I wanted to learn about forever and ever.

Then I read atlases, and just studied my globe – another gift from my grandmother, I believe – all the time.  I would just sit in my room and stare at it.

And I just really sometimes (okay, all the time when I’m reminded of it) feel like I should have majored or should go back to major in archaeology and/or anthropology and linguistics and geography, because I love ancient cultures and indigenous stuff and languages and I always have.  I always get that feeling that I never want to stop learning and I love history, I’m so glad I majored in it, but almost everything I took was Western-biased, and of course not much at all was ever taught about prehistory or early-early history of these places and I know some of that is from lack of information but still.

This sounds so stupid but phrases like

Her speech was rich with words of the natural world, words of the forest and the sea that some linguists suspect date back tens of thousands of years to the first migrations of man.

and

Like some other indigenous groups on this archipelago

…I mean simple phrases (and words, like “archipelago”) like that just really get me excited to learn about this sort of stuff.

I really have always loved history, geography, anthropology, even from an early age, and I never consciously really thought about it.  I mean, I’d be a medievalist if I went into history as a profession (Ph.D.-level), so it’s not like I’m not biased toward the West, too, but reading stuff like this always makes me want to become a prehistory-historian (does even such a thing exist?) or anthropologist or archaeologist and I probably never will, and it makes me sad.

The world is so full of depressing things and I think it made me so sad when I grew up and realized all of these things that went on, like British colonialism – and other colonialism of course but Britain was like, the Queen of Colonization – and world wars and all of that, that it’s very easy to forget the feeling of loving to learn these new things about an indigenous people, even if it’s a sad fate – like the one of the article.

I just love the study of human culture and humanity and its earliest days and it’s so fascinating to me that we’re all from one part of the world yet we all look so different and speak so many languages and I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling like this when I read about this stuff that I love.  I think that’s why the quote at the top of my blog is one of my absolute, all-time favorites, and why I’ll never stop quoting it — “What invisible strings connect us all,” from Avatar: The Last Airbender. This is the kind of stuff that will forever fascinate me.

I just want to get the motivated to want to read about this stuff again, to just spend an afternoon in the library reading encyclopedias, looking at and studying atlases, looking up recent archaeological digs, that sort of thing.  But it’s hard in the day of the internet and working and paying bills and just “being an adult” things that really take so much joy out of the life I had as a child.  I hate being cynical and hearing about depressing current events and being a (mostly) responsible adult, but things change, I guess.

But maybe one day, I’ll spend an off-day at the library, doing these things, feeling that new fascination and leap in the pit of my stomach at all of the new information I absorb.

We’ll see.

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“He’s a character in your blog.” -or something like that, as wisely stated by Kevin

Reason #564 why grief sucks: sometimes it hits out of nowhere.

I just got out of the shower.  While I was in there and washing my face, suddenly I remembered this project I had due in sixth grade.  We’d just finished reading The Secret of NIMH (a great book I intend to reread over Christmas break) in my Literature class, and we had to do a diorama of their little house.

My dad ALWAYS helped with school projects; he probably really did too much for me, I think because he hadn’t been able to be around his first children as much as he was around me.  But, anyway, I did do some work on the project, I promise.

But to help me with this project, he took little pieces of wood (he was a patternmaker so he made all the furniture in my room — even my bed — with heavy-duty wood that will last FOREVER, sort of like Amish furniture) and made tiny bookshelves, tiny chairs, and a tiny table.  Then, for books, he cut the tops of legal pads and glued the “loose” edges and they made little books by themselves.  Then he stacked them, having some leaning on others and some shelves full.

It was the coolest thing ever, and I’m sure we have pictures somewhere, but God only knows where.

But anyway, that just randomly popped into my head and I have no idea why and I almost started crying while loofa-ing my face.  It made me so sad, because I don’t know if I ever properly thanked him.  At that time I was hormonal and bitchy and miserable and so I don’t know if my pride let me thank him then — I probably got mad or something, even though everyone loved it at school.  But I just wish I could thank him for little stuff like that.

It’s so stupid, it probably doesn’t even matter.

I just shouldn’t have acted like such a bitch to him at that time.  Apparently he would say to my mom, “What did I do?” and god that makes me feel so guilty.

Anyway, I think all of this is brought on by some combination of exhaustion and just general melancholy over winter like I talked about in a post on another blog last week.

But it really sucks.  And people have told me “oh he knew” or “he knows” or “you can still tell him” and yeah, all that might be true, but we don’t know what happens after life.  Maybe there’s nothing.  Maybe he can hear me if I talk to him.  But I can’t tell him in person, right now, and that’s the worst.

Maybe I’ll make a diorama over the break.  I think that would be therapeutic.  I don’t know what it would be of, but that doesn’t matter.  I’ll figure it out as I go along.

Isn’t that all we can do?

personality? check.

Before I get to the meat of this post, I know I owe at least three updates: the rest of LambJam 2010 (I can’t believe I haven’t updated since the second day of it!), the mosque controversy, and why less people are declaring themselves Christians than before.  However, I’m terrible at following through with planned entries that I’ve started, but maybe soon I’ll get inspiration for those.  Until then, enjoy some reflective rambling.

Ever since I became ‘aware’ of myself, I guess the onset of puberty and all that — which makes sense, since aside from growing taller a whole bunch of things start changing all at once — and when I have too much time on my hands, I think about ‘me.’  What makes me ‘me’?  What is my personality?  Writing “About Me”s never seems to answer that for me, and I usually just end up having fact-vomit spewed all over the little box.

It seems like whenever I used to hang out with friends I mimicked them, acted like them, used their phrases, and even took on an imitation of their handwriting for a while.  And I used to use handwriting as the best example of how I didn’t really know what my own personality was; I changed personalities as I changed handwriting while I tried to figure myself out.  Does that make sense?  Well, it does to me.  Whatever.

In the transition from middle school to high school, a lot changed.  After going to the same school for nine years, in the Birmingham City school system, where the biggest change was from fifth to sixth grade but even then a lot of the same students carried over, I was now thrown into the Jefferson County school system.  I knew only three other students from my days at WJC, none of whom I ever really talked to (sorry for the bad sentence structure).

But the biggest change for me wasn’t the lack of people I knew, but rather the lack of uniforms.  From the time I was seven and in second grade, to thirteen and in the eighth grade, I was victim to the B’ham City-mandated “white shirt/navy or black pants/skirts/shorts” uniform.  So, even though there was a bit of leeway with the style of the pants, shirts (sort of), or skirts, it was still very, very restrictive; therefore, I didn’t have to think about what to wear.  But in high school, I got to choose.  It was something that made me ecstatic at first — the ability to choose what I wanted to wear (within a reasonable dress code)!  What freedom! — but quickly I learned that I had NO sense of style.

But I never really gained it.  Sure, I went and bought some Hollister sweatpants (which are still some of the most comfortable pants I’ve ever owned) and a jacket that quickly became too small for me, some perfume, and some more “in” clothes, but I never really grew out of feeling like the best outfit for me was a t-shirt, jeans and/or sweatpants, and sneakers, and a hoodie for winter.  However, one of my high school friends told me once that I, and I quote verbatim since it was in text form: “have better taste as concerning individuality than most girls, i.e. you have style, which is hard to find these days.”

So, I guess style is what you make it.  I’ve never done anything drastic, like dye all my hair pink, or pierce every part of my face (or even any part of my face, but that’s not really drastic, that’s pretty common now).  But I guess I do have my own ‘style.’

As for my personality, I don’t really believe that anyone should change personality completely depending on who you’re around.  And I’ve been better about staying true to myself.  It’s been a hard thing for me to do, and sure, I tweak myself a little bit probably even subconsciously if someone’s really different from me, but never drastically.  I never change my sense of humor or my way of talking, or whatever.  At least, I don’t think I do.  I hardly wear makeup, a) because I’m lazy, and b) because I want people to see me.  And I know makeup doesn’t necessarily cover someone’s face up completely, but my opinion has always been one like, if I’m going to date someone, or even just be friends with someone, they’ve gotta like me for me — not me with foundation + powder on me, and not me pretending to be what they like.

So, I guess this entry is somewhat pointless in that no revelation is reached or no “new shit has come to light” or simply nobody really gives a crap about how I feel about me.  But, I like me, and college has really helped me grow out of my shell (at least, relatively — most of the people I’ve met in college tell me “you’re not shy!” but they don’t know just how hard it is for me to not be) and become comfortable in my own skin, in my own personality, even in my own weird — and sometimes vulgar — sense of humor.

So, yes, I am an individual.  Maybe you think I have my own style, maybe not.  But I like it, whatever it is.

i sha’n’t be gone long–You come, too. -robert frost

(I want to apologize in advance for any cheesiness that abounds, which I’m sure will happen. Just thinking “aloud,” as usual… Also, I use parentheses quite a bit. Sorry.)

As we get older, we tend to romanticize things — we, of course, being people in general. Perhaps the royal we?

Anyway, but one of my very fondest memories from the tumult that was middle school and most of high school is from the summer of 2003, the summer after my eighth-grade graduation and before my ninth-grade year of high school.

My “boyfriend” at the time (who, coincidentally, works at the bowling alley where I’m spending more of my Thursdays; boyfriend is put in quotes because it wasn’t really a relationship so much as it was being friends but with holding hands) was helping his father out with some kind of camp at the Jeff State park. They did mostly archery — actually, it may have been an all-archery camp, I don’t remember, maybe I’ll ask him one day when he’s inevitably fixing a lane — but his dad pretty much singularly ran it, so it gave us a lot of time to hang out.

The fondest memory particularly is walking through fields and fields of tall grass (tall being knee-high at the highest point, really I’m talking ankle grass for the most part though). Getting itchy grass on our sweaty legs, rolling down hills much like in The Princess Bride (except the falling on top of each other bit, which could’ve been awkward — actually, it most definitely would have been since I never even kissed him), swatting at bugs, climbing random bleachers around the ball park, dropping found batteries off the bleachers (I don’t know why), listening to my Walkman with its separate headphones — these were the days.

I even realized it then, loving the days and the walks through the fields that would make my leg muscles ache and twitch afterward, but would feel so amazing. And recently I realized it’s been entirely too long since I’ve done that.  I’ve never been much of a “girly-girl”; that is, I rarely wear makeup, and when I do, I always end up rubbing half of it off because I’m so unused to it; I don’t mind getting my hands dirty; I enjoy mowing the lawn, and so on and so forth, blah blah.  I don’t think I’ve gotten prissy, either, so that’s not it.

What happened?

Oh, yeah. The internet.  Many times I find myself browsing and refreshing the same pages over and over again, or mindlessly watching episodes of a show I’ve missed out on by a few years, instead of getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D, instead of remembering why I love being outside.

In one of our many workday conversations, I was talking to my manager/mentor, Kevin, about the double-edged sword of cell phones. He said something that hit me as pretty perfect in describing the technological age — “I think we make ourselves too available.” Too available — that pretty much describes it. We don’t have car phones, we have phones you can take with you to the bathroom, without having to worry about a base that must be no more than 20 feet or 40 feet or whatever it is away. And it’s ridiculous that we can be reached in the bathroom. IS NOWHERE SACRED?!

We even have text messages, for when you just need to know something that doesn’t really require a call. (And yes, I think texts are great for that reason, or if you’re awkward talking on the phone for some reason like I can be, depending on the person.) But at work, if I took a shot for every time someone walked in on his or her cell phone, I’d have alcohol poisoning by the end of a shift. While driving, if I had a nickel for every time I pass or see a driver on his or her cell phone, I would have “a shitload of nickels,” as Trey Parker’s character says in the movie BASEketball. It’s ridiculous. And I’ve found myself in this trap, too, for years. But lately I’ve gotten much better, even if it doesn’t seem it. I really, really have.  (However, it’s more often than not my mom — I’m really not popular, so it’s not a social status kind of thing with me.)

Don’t get me wrong; cell phones are wonderful. Especially for worrisome parents (my own mother being a prime example), and for women who, because of pop culture and news stories, sometimes are wary about going out alone in a secluded area (like myself; however, I’m cautious but not paranoid to the extent that my mother is, although I understand, since she’s, you know, my mom). They’re great for teenagers learning to drive so they can call or text their parents when they arrive at their destination to let the parents know they got there safely, etc. They really are good.

But one day, and hopefully before the end of this summer — no, it will be before the end of this summer, and hopefully more than once — I will turn my phone off but have it in my pocket (just in case that rapist is lurking in the bushes as “Law and Order: SVU” says will happen), I’ll stuff my keys in another pocket, and I’ll find a park that has connecting fields, and just walk. Walk until my legs are sore and the sun sinks lower in the sky and I get grass stuck to sweaty me, until my ponytail’s drooping and I’m red from the sun.

Time to be unavailable for the better part of a day.

Anyone care to join me? Don’t worry — we won’t have to hold hands if that’s not your thing.