“and when you hear a song or see a bird I loved, please do not let the thought of me be sad…”

(Disclaimer: sorry if I reiterate the same ol’ stuff I’ve talked about in posts before; it’s hard to keep up with what I’ve said about him and what I haven’t.)

Today marks five years since I’ve talked to my dad, since I’ve heard his voice in person in this house, not just through recordings.  Technically, it will be as of around 6:30 a.m. (my memory’s fuzzy on the exact time I went to bed), but it doesn’t matter.  October 6 will always be a day I solemnly remember, a day that will never go by unnoticed.

And so much about my life has changed.  The pre-October 6, 2007 Christina’s life seems like a dream sometimes rather than memories.  Or like a really elaborate movie I’ve had in my head all these years.  If six-year-old, even sixteen-year-old me looked at my life right now, she wouldn’t recognize much at all.  She probably wouldn’t believe it.  How could things be this different?  How could dark wood paneling become bright pastel walls?  How could the machine shop and wood shop in the backyard not produce the sound of hammering or bandsaws or the hiss of the air compressor anymore, but the former stand as a storage unit, yet both tombs of their own?  How could the sound of heavy footfalls in boots not echo through this old house anymore?  It’s unfathomable to the past-me, but it’s my present-me’s…well, present.  I can fathom it now because I had to.  Cancer doesn’t care.  It’s a learn-by-experience kind of thing; you can’t possibly know, really know–understand, comprehend, etc.–until you’ve been there.

I definitely think my dad would be proud of the woman I’ve become.  He would understand the mistakes I’ve made.  He would probably be surprised (along with a lot of other people who’ve expressed such) that I “kept on truckin'” as he often said–complete with silly motions–through college after he died, graduating in the projected four years, and with honors.  He would be happy I chose a field of study that makes me happy, odds of finding a job in that field just after graduating with just a bachelor’s be damned.

Sometimes I think his death even helped me blossom as a young woman, made me let go of stuff I realized doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things (though I am always still learning with this, too).  I’ve made the steps to mend friendships I thought forever broken because his death made me realize life is too short to hold grudges.

And he left me–us–in good hands.  Mom and I have such a strong safety net of family and friends, and we have each other.  I hope I help her as much as she helps me.  And our family and friends are wonderful to us.  I know without a doubt I could not have made it through college without their help and love and support and care packages and exam-o-grams and encouraging words (and I didn’t say all this when we were gathered in the Oak Mountain cabin on the lake the day of my graduation because I was so overwhelmed by it all–in a good way–but here it is now, and I hope they read this and know how much I appreciate them and all they did for me–us–over the years, and continue to do for me–us–now).

He was not overly-religious, never attended church in the years I knew him, at least that I remember, but he knew the Bible more than most Christians I know.  He always quoted and stressed the Golden Rule, and often bent over backwards for people who probably didn’t deserve it.  probably didn’t deserve it at times, but he was always there.  He led by doing instead of telling.

But I think it’s wrong to leave out people’s faults when talking about them or thinking about them.  It isn’t doing their memory justice, because it isn’t the whole picture of that person.  He had a short temper and would complain about Mom and me taking a long time to get ready and then make us late because he’d take so long getting ready when we were done and ready to go!  He fell asleep during NASCAR races, but when we changed the channel he’d wake up and gripe because “he was watching that.”  I guess snoring was just part of his Watching NASCAR Routine.  When he was working on one of our many used cars, he’d cuss and yell and get mad about the stupidest, littlest things (a trait I must have inherited).

But he was–is–my dad, and I feel his absence almost everyday.  It’s hard when I realize I haven’t thought about him in a day or two, like a fresh punch to the gut after the last punch’s wounds began to heal.  Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever fully accept that he’s gone.  One night recently Mom and I were laughing loudly in the living room late at night, and as I got up and walked to the bathroom–walking by Mom’s bedroom–I thought, Crap, we’ve gotta be quiet or Dad’s gonna wake up and be pissed.  And the second I thought it, I realized it didn’t matter how loud we got, because we only had each other to answer to.  It was a jarring and upsetting thought and brought me, face-planting and bruised, to the floor of fresh grief.

But, I’m dealing.  I have a nice little routine that doesn’t change too much day-to-day, trivia every week with few exceptions, and Limbo when I can get my lazy butt up early enough (it’s not my fault Sundays are supposed to be ‘lazy Sundays’, okay?), and writing stories, and watching lots of TV and anime and movies, and working somewhere in between all that.  It helped to have college to take my mind off it all sometimes, too; instead of crying and moping about Dad, I could cry and mope about papers due, or tear my hair out over lack of ideas for said papers, or worry about being late to a presentation in a class I loved, or making it to College Night Purple Orchestra rehearsals late at night.  It was a way to be stressed out about something other than something I could never change.  I had some control over school.

So many times I’ve needed to ask him a question only he would know the answer to, and so many times I’ve wanted his advice as I cried to him about whatever was ailing me at the time.  But I can’t have that, and I can’t have him back, and I have learned to let go of so many regrets and grudges and negativity I was holding onto because that’s no way to live one’s life.  He taught me so many valuable things; both my parents did (but one is still teaching me valuable things).

He encouraged reading and learning, soaking up as much knowledge as you can, and he and Mom both taught me the value of hard work and diligence and putting the best effort forward more often than not (of course, everyone has off-days, and I’m no exception).  Mom shares many of these good qualities, and I know she has just as much to do with how well I turned out as he did.  But she’s still here, I’m able to still learn from her; I don’t have that advantage with him.  Mom’s stress manifested itself differently and she and I are so much alike that we butted heads all the time when I was younger.  He always seemed to get me, even if he went and told Mom later.

The things he taught me are invaluable, and as much as I constantly wish he were still here, I’m so grateful I got to know the Dad I knew, and that I had so much time to do so.  Eighteen years is a long time, and I was able to say all the things I wanted to say (except ‘goodbye’) to him, apologize for how I acted in the past, share my early college experiences with him through photos and stories.  I’ll never forget texting him the grade I’d gotten on my German test, an A, and his silly response: “Guten Grade!” even while sick and feeling miserable, I’m sure.

Today, Mom and I plan on doing stuff he loved or would love, because what better way is there to celebrate the life of a loved one?  I’ve already cried many times writing this post, and I know I will cry more today, but that’s okay.  He’s still very much alive in memories, home movies, recordings on old cell phones, the smell of the inside of his tall rolling toolbox standing in our living room, my bed and dresser and ceiling-high bookshelf he made me, the computer desks he made my mom, the hardwood floor he laid in the living room, his favorite songs and records and CDs, and everything that makes up the remnants of my dad’s time here on earth.

Isn’t that all you can ask for when you can’t cheat death?

Here’s to five years, some of which felt like forever ago, some of which feels like just yesterday.  Everything changed five years ago  today, but doesn’t everything change at some point?

Goodbye, Dad.  I don’t know if I’ll ever say it enough.  Thanks for being there and for being you and for not hating me for being a little twerp when I was a teenager and for everything you taught me, from how to hammer a nail correctly to how to treat people with respect.

And thanks to you, reader, for letting me share my experiences with and stories about my dad, for helping me to keep him alive.  I appreciate it more than you can imagine.

-o-

“We’re meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?” -The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

whutevah, I do what I wawnt!

After making an emotional post on tumblr about my dad, I realized two things:

  • it’s been a hella long time since I’ve posted here
  • I should probably post here.

So, what’s been going on in my life since I made the announcement of my plans to do NaNoWriMo on August 2 (whew, okay, that’s not as long as it’s been since I’ve posted on Livejournal, that’s okay, that’s just a little over a month, right?), you may ask?  Well, a whole buncha nothing.  I’ve worked, gone to Texas (more importantly, a beach in Texas – most importantly, an island in Texas), worked some more, and oh, I started playing World of Warcraft…oh, and I went to a club for the first time.  That’s about it, though – as far as life-changing events, I have undergone few to none in that time-span and these days my life is spent on tumblr, WoW, worrying about money because god, paychecks sure do go fast, and picking up bowling again.

So, what do I have to write about?  Well, who’s surprised – it’s -dun dun dunnn- my dad!  Sort of.  He’s kind of just a mention in this post, which  instead is going to attempt to focus on my blog itself (and by attempt I mean the good ol’ “paper attempt” – that is, I start out with a topic, a rough idea of things I want to cover, and before I know it, I have eight pages of stuff I’ve come up with while attempting to write the actual point of the paper…much like this parenthetical aside. whoops!).

My friend and manager, Kevin, has this blog he is currently calling “Hannah and Caroline and The Little Kumquat and Me.” Now, he’s had this blog longer than I’ve known his brother-in-law/my ex-boyfriend and therefore his family/him, and has said multiple times he made it as something to give to his first daughter Hannah as a way to show her a glimpse into her father that she may not see during the day-to-day routines – and I certainly hope I didn’t butcher what he’s said before, and if I have, I’m deeply sorry – really!  It’s a really cool idea, an excuse to start up a blog, and an excuse to continue blogging.

But it got me thinking…or rather, thinking about my dad and this blog and how I’ve neglected it lately got me thinking.  If I showed my future daughter/son (I’m hoping I have one of each, so…both?) my blog from my college/just-after-college year(s, because I’d love to continue this for years, and I’m really going to make the effort to), if the internet is even still around, what would they think?

Wow, Mom, you sure do talk about your dad a lot.  Was Grandpa REALLY that great?  Christ, did you ever see a therapist?

NaNoWriMo? HAH, good one – isn’t this your ninteenth attempt?

But I haven’t written solely about Dad.  I don’t know why I’m even remotely self-conscious about him being the subject of so many entries – I suppose because I don’t want to rehash the same stuff over and over again without coming up with new thoughts or feelings or realizations.  I guess part of me doesn’t want to seem fixated on it all, because if I have to be honest (and I do, I mean it’s my blog holding me accountable, right?), I don’t think of Dad very much in the grand scheme of things during my everyday routines.  Don’t get me wrong – I think of him at some point everyday, whether it’s something someone posted on tumblr that reminds me of him, or a South Park episode about NASCAR, a sport he loved (the only sport he loved that much, probably?), or a song that plays in PSP that reminds me of him.  No matter what, there is always SOMETHING that reminds me of him or makes him pop into my head.  But in terms of getting depressed about him, crying about him – these things happen rarely these days.  In a way, I’m glad, because it would be awkward of me being in customer service to start bursting into tears every single shift.  It helps that I have amazing family and friends to keep me from fixating on being sad, too.  It’s good that – no matter how much I complain about customers – I have work to keep me busy.  And tumblr, and WoW, and drawing, and writing – all of these things are great.

But I wonder how much my future children would see of my general moving-on-from-Dad’s-death I’ve done.  Would it seem overwhelming?  Do I really care?  His death defined my life in a way – it’s not the only thing that defines my life, I mean I’m not Taylor Swift whose songs pretty much only have to do with being a teenager and dating someone and he broke her heart and she’s not a cheerleader and blah blah blah predictable – but it’s one of my biggest life-events, right up there with graduating from IB and then graduating from college and my seizures.

But I’ve realized something.  My fear is not that my children won’t find another topic than my father in this blog – because my categories to the side of this “post an entry” page prove that there are other topics – but rather, I fear they will see it as a negative thing.  That they will see it as “our mom obsessing over losing her dad/our grandfather” instead of how I want them to see it, how I want anyone who reads my blog to see it – that I was lucky enough to have such a wonderful, caring, good man of a father, who still had his faults (because please, god, let me never completely sanctify him like people are wont to do about deceased loved ones – the man had a temper, and a terrible habit of falling asleep during a NASCAR race and then getting pissed later if we turned it off since he wasn’t watching it), that I wanted to share with the world some of the light he brought into my life, and to share how deeply it affected me.  He meant that much to me that I write about him often; he is remembered and loved still in my mediocre blog-writing, which can hardly do him justice but attempt to do so.

I want to teach them that all fathers out there aren’t horrible, because they will almost surely meet somebody or hear of somebody whose father abused them, who is no father to a daughter or a son.  The amount of poetry discussing abusive (sexually or otherwise) fathers to the amount of poetry discussing wonderful fathers, fathers like mine – is extremely disproportionate.  And I get it.  Writing is a wonderful outlet for pain, but sometimes the good guys need to be highlighted too.  More than anything, I want my children to know how great their grandfather was, how he was one of the kindest souls one could ever meet.  I want them to have a glimpse of him, and not just think, “Wow, Mom really should see a counselor about her obsessing over Grandpa.”

He’s just a character of my blog…but he’s a major character.  More people than I think realize are major characters of my blog in so many ways, and I hope my children get a picture – no matter how brief – of how their mother never allowed her sad experiences keep her from enjoying life, because despite the number of entries involving my dad, they are ways of keeping him alive and sharing his love with as many people as she can.

Isn’t that a fair reason?

“we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.” -Looking for Alaska

I just finished Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan, the second of two books I checked out from the Springville Road Library – the first books of many I will be reading during this year off between school and life experiences.  The first book I checked out and read was Looking for Alaska, by John Green, the same John Green who collaborated with David Levithan for WG, WG.

And wow.

These two books were amazing.  I’d first heard of them through tumblr, but especially Looking for Alaska (which I’ll abbreviate as LFA from now on).  Everyone on tumblr seems to worship this book, and I’d seen a few excerpts from it and thought there might be a reason behind this holy love for the book, so I checked it out with WG, WG, and began reading.

LFA takes place in Alabama, at a fictional boarding school called Culver Creek, and although the geography is a little strange (Montevallo is mentioned and the mileage from Birmingham and Culver Creek and Pelham doesn’t add up, but it doesn’t matter), Green himself went to Indian Springs, and so his descriptions of Alabama are pretty perfect.  For instance, the main character is from Florida, and in discussing the head there versus here:

This did not prepare me for the unique sort of heat that one encounters fifteen miles south of Birmingham, Alabama, at Culver Creek Preparatory School.  My parents’ SUV was parked in the grass just a few feet outside my dorm room, Room 43.  But each time I took those few steps to and from the car to unload what now seemed like far too much stuff, the sun burned through my clothes and into my skin with a vicious ferocity that made me genuinely fear hellfire.

Pretty true, right?  Apparently John Green lived in Birmingham, Alabama, and attended Indian Springs, so he has firsthand experience with the heat of Alabama, and I thought while reading that he might be from here or have lived here because of his knowledge of this sort of thing.

So, LFA, by pure virtue of taking place in Alabama, fifteen miles south of Birmingham to be exact, drew me in almost immediately.  While it helps in a book to have landmarks or places or names you know – such as I-65, Pelham, Birmingham, etc. – that’s not the reason I love this book.  Green just has a way with words, and both LFA and WG, WG made me think about authors of ‘teen’ books – or at least John Green and David Levithan – and how amazing they are at describing the teen experience.

There are things both LFA and WG, WG have described that I can relate to so well because I am like a character or see some of myself in a character, but it made me wonder just how much each of us is in a character.  We were all teenagers once if we are no longer teenagers, and we all have struggled with various things these characters have struggled with, and the wonderful thing about Green and Levithan is that they haven’t forgotten this in their age (both in their 30’s, far enough removed from their teen years to perhaps be disgruntled with teenagers as I already am at the age of 21).  Reading these books – especially WG, WG, as I related more to both the Will Graysons than I did Pudge or the Colonel from LFA, but of course could relate to them too – threw me back to the teenage experience, to the almost overwhelming of emotions and hormones and the irrational thoughts that “NO ONE KNOWS HOW I AM FEELING! NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME!” – yet I am far enough removed from that to say, Wow, I sure have grown a hell of a lot from that person.

How do young adult authors do it?  Do they just channel their teenage selves?  Yet, these kids have individual qualities, they are their own person, and each have different struggles.  I related more to the non-capitalized will grayson than the capitalized Will Grayson because he also struggles with depression and feels many things I felt as a teenager (though he is also gay, and that comes with its own struggles as well), but there were parts of Will Grayson that I could relate to, especially with relationships.  The teen/young adult author is one to be respected, and especially a good writer of young adult/teen books.  Teenagers are hard to deal with, much less write about, but Green and Levithan are amazing at it.

I think young adult/teen books are good for adults to read, especially I would think if one has a kid that age.  I plan on buying both these books and revisiting them over the years to see how my perspective on them and the characters changes, if it does at all.  I think it’s important for everyone to revisit their teen years to an extent, especially when dealing with current teenagers, to really understand why they act the way they do and how to deal with that.  I’m not a parent, so I don’t know firsthand, but I know from my own grief-causing stints as a teenager and looking back on them now how infuriating it must have been to deal with that.  For a kid who never did things like get detention, do drugs and alcohol, run away from home, I certainly did my own share of horrible teenager-y things.  But reading these books made me realize I wasn’t alone in feeling so many feelings, that it’s really a universal sort of thing.

So, this post kind of went in a direction I wasn’t thinking about or planning, but my writing tends to do that (if it’s not for a paper).  The point is that I think every adult can gain something from reading good teen novels, like Looking for Alaska and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, as well as current teens and young adults.  I don’t know if I’m still considered a young adult fiction-wise, but I didn’t find the writing to be below my level and I laughed and cried at both books – laughing aloud and getting the question, “What are you laughing at?” multiple times.  I would recommend these books to anyone, because although some of the character may drive you crazy, I believe anyone could benefit from them.

There are so many quotes I could quote as my favorite, but I’ll save that for another entry because this one’s long enough.  However, I’ll leave with one of many great quotes from Looking for Alaska.

“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. […] You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining the future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.” -John Green, Looking for Alaska

Books down for the year: 2
Books to go: ???

PS: This books counter will become a new thing for my blog; I’ll use it to track just how many books I read during this year and to serve as a topic to write on, since I’m so bad at coming up with things to write about!

thoughts about life and life’s hardships, from a 21-year-old, whatever worth that may be.

When I was eighteen I lost my dad and it was absolutely the most life-changing thing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve always been kind of morbidly fascinated with death, but having it hit so insanely close to home, it just changed my life as quickly as turning a completed puzzle upside-down and letting the pieces fall.

I took a week off, as he died on a Saturday morning, and while we prepared for the memorial service (he was cremated) on the following Saturday, I slept a hell of a lot, most often characterized by mostly-sleepless nights and impromptu naps on the couch when my mom and grandmother (who stayed with us that week — I had to sleep on my dad’s side of my mom’s and his bed; it certainly didn’t help my sadness but oh well!) would be watching the 6 o’clock evening news, lasting until 9pm or so.

Anyway, I was able, after that Saturday of his memorial service, to bounce back into school, and I made the Dean’s List that semester. The following semester that very same grandmother died, and this became my second most life-changing moment.

The point of all this is that I don’t like to be defined by “my dad died when I was eighteen and just 3 days over six months later, my grandmother/second mother died” but it’s hard not to be. Such huge events have to impact someone a hell of a lot — and I was no exception. But I’m a strong person, apparently, because I pulled through, and I’m still in college and yes I still cry a lot, but I’ve dealt with it pretty well.

But instead of being defined and crippled by these moments, I chose to use them to realize not only the fragility of life and the suddenness with which it can change in ways one can never imagine, but also the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

I have life experiences few others my age do (though perhaps more than one would think, as sadly enough, I’ve helped both my former roommates with the death of one of their parents, also from cancer because I had this experience) as well as talked to a professor whose mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of the semester I took her daughter’s class, as well as chatted with her again not long ago. She said we were “both sisters in this” and that’s something I’ll remember forever.

I’ll be the first to tell you, life fucking sucks sometimes. It’s horribly unfair. But life is worth it. You’ll experience things greater than you can imagine, even if they’re not overly outstanding. You’ll make connections and friendships and even just read a good book or a story that will really touch you and make things a little more bearable.

I understand things may suck now, but I truly believe in the saying, “Everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

Push through it. You’ll be a stronger person for the experience. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety and endured these losses, I can, with full confidence, say I’m damn proud of the person I’ve become despite, and maybe in part because of, these losses I’ve endured before I turned 19.

And if anyone ever needs to talk, I’m here. Please don’t think that just because I’ve been through such things that I’ll think your problems are trivial compared to mine. That’s not how I think at all, and if I bring up my dad or grandmother, or my depression or epilepsy (which, yeah, the summer of epilepsy was probably my lowest point, emotionally and physically) it’s only to help relate.

I know how much somebody just listening can help, believe me.  If you need me to be that person, I will.

with a dreamy far-off look, and her nose stuck in a book

As I sit here reading The Lovely Bones and crying, my glasses now speckled with dried tears that I can never clean off until I run them under water or something, I can feel myself slipping into my old reading habits, habits that I haven’t really had since Harry Potter in high school.  Even when I was reading Lolita, definitely now one of my favorite books ever that I need to buy one day, I didn’t feel the same as I feel now (and I suspect this is because I was reading it during school, near the end of the semester even).  Even with The Joy Luck Club, which I finished recently, I was interested and I loved it, but I wasn’t as deep into it as I am with TLB now.

I’m talking Harry Potter-level reading, or books I used to finish in just a few days reading, reading that I certainly haven’t felt in years.  I’ve already cried at least three times with this book — and everyone knows it’s not rare for me to cry at anything, but with books, I haven’t cried since HP and the Deathly Hallows came out in 2007.  I’m only in chapter three, and I’ve cried hard.  It’s not really the whole “family member’s death” thing, either; with my dad, it was a slow process, one we knew was coming to an end, and with my grandmother, the same thing.  But in TLB (spoilers but not really) the main character is murdered.  So it’s a sudden and untimely death at the age of fourteen, and not something I can relate to directly other than “my roommate’s best friend’s brother died in a car accident.”

But something about the way it’s written or how intriguing I find the story and characters (despite finding Lolita very intriguing) makes me revert back to my bookworm days.  By “bookworm” days I mean being quiet for hours at a time, not caring about  talking, immersed in the book with occasional interruptions to check the internet (something I suspect with this book will even lessen, which I’m sure is hard for my mom to believe).  I wouldn’t be surprised if I finished this book before school starts or at least soon thereafter (as I’ll be hanging out with some people this week and that will make it harder to read, obviously — and that’s fine, since they’re my friends).  But maybe this quiet phase has been coming for a while.

The other night at work, cleaning up after the Disaster of Inventory, Rondell and Vaughn turned the corner to aisle five (where I was) and Rondell said, “Whoa, Christina’s so quiet, I forgot she was here.”  I laughed and they went about their business and I mine.  But I got to thinking, and it’s been years since I’ve heard that.  I have no idea why people don’t think I’m shy when I know I am.  My roommate says I’m not shy all the time, but she’s definitely mistaken.  And that’s not to say that I don’t come off as outgoing to her, because I spoke to her first and am quite talkative.  But I think someone can be talkative and shy.  Once someone knows me, I’m talkative.  But it’s hard for me to talk to someone first, it really is.  College has helped me come out of my shell some, but I’m still not a social butterfly, nor do I think I ever will be.

I remember the first time someone ever commented on my quietness past “you’re so quiet.”  It was sophomore year in high school, and Jared Barton, who had been in my English class class the year before, said something like, “Why don’t you ever talk in class anymore?  You never shut up last year, now you’re all quiet.”  It wasn’t meant to be rude or anything, but it was strange to me, because I didn’t remember talking that much in class.  Now I answer stuff in class a good bit of the time and I’m not shy about class participation if I can do so without feeling like a dunce (although I do often have those “oh god I sounded like an idiot then” moments), so maybe that’s what he meant.  And I AM talkative with friends, as friends can attest to.

But, honestly, I’ve missed “being quiet.”  Part of it has to do with the fact that people find it necessary to ask, “Is something wrong?” when a person’s quiet.  That question makes me so angry, and I know whoever is asking the question means well, but I just want to snap back, “I just don’t want to talk, youwannafightaboutit?” (that’s a link by the way).  I feel like Charity is much more talkative than I am, and while we both interrupt silence to laugh about something or show one another something related to our mutual interests/fandoms/what have you, in general she starts conversations way more than I do (at least I feel this way).  And that’s fine, it really is.  And I love talking, just not all the time.

Honestly, I hate that so much of my job entails actually interacting with customers, making small talk that’s not cliché or that is cliché but you have to ask or say something because you can’t just stand there in silence waiting on the first debit/credit card receipt of the day to take its sweet time printing, because that’s ‘socially awkward.’  I’d rather have it that way, honestly.  And that’s probably why I have what my psychologist called “social withdrawal.”  It doesn’t mean I like a person any less because I don’t want to talk that day — it simply means I don’t want to talk, or be social.  Don’t ever take it personally if I’m “abnormally” quiet.  I love to joke, laugh, have fun, talk, whatever — you all know this.  But sometimes, I want some “not gonna talk” time.  Unfortunately, I guess as one gets older, there’s less of that time.

I wonder sometimes, too, how much of this came from me being an only child?  Of course I had friends and of course I had my parents, but more often than not, I entertained myself through video games (before the world of online multiplayer) and board games and TV and reading — god knows, tons of reading.  And none of these are really conversation-required activities.

But, no matter what it’s a result of, it seems like I’m starting back into my social withdrawal stage, and honestly, I don’t feel like it’s a bad thing or something I need to immediately adjust my medication to prevent.  I don’t feel it’s a “depression thing” or an “I need to get my thyroid checked” thing (although I do, but that’s beside the point).  I think it’s a “this is really who I am, and I really value my alone time” thing.

Sometimes, I like being left to my own thoughts and imagination.

“Feels good, man.”

my love-hate relationship with college

Three years ago I started school at the University of Montevallo, and now that I’m due to graduate in May, I’ve been thinking some about the last few years, and decided that as much as I love college, I’m glad to be almost done with my undergrad career.  Why?  Well, I’ll outline the reasons for my love-hate relationship with academic life after high school.

I love the environment of a university, but especially this university.  Especially when I was dating someone who went to school in Tuscaloosa, at the University of Alabama, and I would visit, there wasn’t a week that went by after my return to Montevallo that I didn’t think or express aloud, I’m SO glad I went to Montevallo.  It’s not that I think Alabama’s a bad school; however, I couldn’t handle having to leave super-early for classes because of the huge campus, or dealing with such crowded parking (and oh my GOD is the parking crappy at UA), or not having a personal relationship with the majority of my professors.  I definitely feel like I benefit more academically from a small class size, as I don’t know if I’ve had more than 35 students in any of my classes, and if I have, it was Geology, a class offered for a gen-ed requirement.

Additionally, smaller class size encourages more discussion on reading material or lecture topics, depending of course on the professor but almost always present in Montevallo classes.  Students readily ask questions and are often encouraged to offer input or criticism; sometimes class veers off-topic because of the path a conversation took, but that can be just as enriching as a lecture, if not more.  UM’s classes, overall, really do teach one how to think critically, and I know for a fact that I think far more critically than I did in high school at JCIB, although I’m sure the foundation for that was laid there.  Still, I think I’ve really flourished in college as a critical thinker, and it is no doubt because of the encouraging and open professors I’ve had.

Another thing that bothers me about Alabama that we don’t have the problem of here at UM is the lack of advisor.  I got lucky with my advisor, as he’s one of the most encouraging and sincere professors on this campus (as evidenced by his acceptance of Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award at Founder’s Day this year), and one thing that I’ll always remember is that the week I was out because I was spending the night at the hospital by my grandmother’s side, I was supposed to meet with him for registration-advising for the next semester, and obviously had to cancel.  I let him know via email, and he responded back with some advising on which classes I should take — through email.  Even a small gesture like that kept me from probably taking unnecessary classes or going into full panic mode because I didn’t know what to take.

He also informed me of his French Revolution class when I told him I’d taken French in high school, and through me being made aware of that course and then taking it, I quickly found out he was undoubtedly my favorite professor because of the environment he creates in his classroom. (And if I ever publish a book, he’ll definitely be one of my acknowledgments, if not the first one.)  But, from what I understand, Alabama’s advising system isn’t like this, and doesn’t allow for a student to get to personally know one’s advisor.  I’m sure it’s on a personal basis, too, depending on one’s advisor, but I love Montevallo’s advising system.

However, the hate-side of my relationship with college comes from being unable to read during the school year.  Then again, this is probably because my concentrations are in two areas that require heavy reading and writing — history and English.  I read a lot during the school year, but never stuff I pick by either random chance or ones I have on my personal list.  I just never have time.  For instance, my roommate let me borrow Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, and I’m only about halfway through even though I’ve had it since the end of last semester.

“Why didn’t you read it over the summer?” you might ask.  Well, I wanted to read Dearly Devoted Dexter more, and work and the internet just kind of replaced reading for me (especially the internet, which is such a trap).  I also didn’t read a Star Trek novel Charity lent me, or the X-Men comics she lent me.  Reading just fell out of habit for me, I suppose.  Honestly, when I read Lolita last spring semester during the term, I felt extremely accomplished and excited that I read something I’d been wanting to read for a long time while I still had school.  The summer between my sophomore year and junior year of high school, I stayed for a week with my aunt and uncle in Dahlonega, GA, and put a sizable dent in my reading repertoire by flying through books such as Dan Brown’s collection (aside from The Da Vinci Code, which I’d read before, during the school year)

Another reason or area academics have stunted me have been in the speed of my reading.  As I’ve mentioned before in my Harry Potter post, I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the longest of the series with 870 pages, in 22 hours.  Now, that’s probably not that good a thing as I don’t remember too much of the book that the movie didn’t rehash, but I used to read like crazy.  When I went back to visit my elementary/middle school (as they’re one in the same, K-8), I had a conversation with my old principal that went something like–

Me: I used to get in trouble all the time for reading in classes when I wasn’t supposed to.
Him: I wish we had more kids who got in trouble for reading when they weren’t supposed to.

And it’s true.  Everywhere I went, I had a book.  Usually on the way to the lunchroom or really any class change, if I weren’t talking with friends, I had my “nose stuck in a book” like that Beauty and the Beast song.  I wrote relentlessly in both middle and high school in classes when I wasn’t supposed to — which is probably why I didn’t do half as well as I should have in high school, that and general laziness — and I read relentlessly, too.  I got in trouble on more than one occasion for reading in math class (which shows you just how much I love math — that is, very little).

I’m ashamed to say that, either with high school or college or physiologically, my inability to multitask as well, my reading speed has dropped significantly and while I still read pretty fast, it’s nothing like it used to be, and that makes me sad.  I probably absorb more, but as a result I don’t get to read as many things as I’d like to.  However, some of the blame I think should go to the internet, which has just gotten me out of the practice of reading as much.  And yes, I’m a huge proponent of real books as opposed to online reading.  There’s just something about holding a book that makes it awesome, and I think online reading (at least of books) takes the ‘magic’ out of it (as dumb as that may sound).  I think things like the Kindle are cool, because it offers a wide range of books you wouldn’t have on hand normally, but I think nothing can compare to reading a physical book with physical pages you can turn.

Things I also can’t do as much of with school weighing on me that I don’t feel like talking about more because I’ve pretty much exhausted myself on the stuff above include: crocheting, video gaming, drawing/painting, writing creatively, and sleeping (the latter of which work will still impair, but it’s worth it for the money, I guess…right?).

So, all of that having been said, because of the way the GRE scoring works, in order for me to get funding for grad school at the grad school I want, I have to take a year off between graduating in May and getting into and going to grad school.  During that year I plan on catching up on reading things such as The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold), The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde), The Brief History of the Dead (Kevin Brockmeier), Lullaby (Chuck Palahniuk), the sequels to Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest, collectively known as the ‘Sevenwaters Trilogy’ which are Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy — aka books I’ve been meaning to read since I fell in love with Daughter of the Forest in eighth grade — and finally finish Kushiel’s Dart (Jacqueline Carey) and the other books in the Kushiel’s Legacy series.  There are more, but I plan on starting with these.

However, I’m going to miss college terribly.  I’ll miss having to walk only two minutes to get relatively-healthy already-made food, or lying out on one of the quads and reading or listening to music and soaking up the sun, or going to work out at a ‘free’ gym five minutes away, or camping out in the library, or the satisfaction of getting back a paper with a good grade on it.  Plus, after graduating, I’m just one step closer to the Real World (and not that show I used to watch back in middle school) and Life.  And that’s a scary thought.

As I get closer to graduation, I’ll make a post of things to remember from my college experience, so that by probably even next year, I’ll be able to remember things I would have otherwise forgotten.

College, I’ll miss you, but in a way, I won’t.

Love,

Christina

i’m weird ’cause i hate goodbyes

I really wish I could fully love October.  I love the cooler-but-still-warm and windier weather, the changing colors of leaves, piles of raked leaves that look oh-so-tempting to jump into, Halloween, and justified purchases of candy corn and especially those candy corn pumpkins that are made of pure diabetes.   However, October is also a sad month for me — though, to be fair, I guess mostly the beginning of it.  October 11, 2005, my aunt died.  October 6, 2007, my father died.  Someone I know lost her brother on Halloween of 2008.

That having been said, because this does have a point, this year I will observe my dad’s death-iversary by living my regular Wednesday routine, going through my two classes as per usual, maybe with a nap in between.  The night of October 6 will be a good one for me, however, as the mid-season premiere of South Park comes on at 9pm then.  What a nice end to an otherwise somber day.  And, talking about this with Charity earlier this week, it got me thinking about how two of my favorite things were there or are there for me to turn to when I’m otherwise tempted to mope around.

***

The first: Harry Potter.

I practically grew up with Harry Potter.  I was one, maybe two, years younger than Harry in the first book when I finally gave in and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a gift from my best friend and a book I’d previously scoffed at, claiming it was “a kid’s book” (what I’d like to know is what I thought I was at 9 or 10).  And I was immediately drawn in.  I was skeptical about the sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and while I didn’t like it as much as the first, it was still wonderful.

I was nine when Prisoner of Azkaban (my favorite) came out, and ten or eleven when I finally obtained and read it (I didn’t actually keep dates recorded, imagine that) but I was close enough to the age of Harry in PoA (13) to feel connected somehow.  It helped that Harry’s birthday is July 31, when mine is July 27, so I felt a kindred spirit in the fictional character who’s also a Leo.  While I read Goblet of Fire when I was eleven, I still felt close enough to Harry, Ron, and Hermione in age to relate.

I began writing tons of fanfiction (haters gonna hate), after being introduced to the possibility of Harry and Hermione forming a romantic relationship (I don’t even care, I still wish it had happened) through a series of stories by Mena Baines — I even still remember her web address, that’s how many times I read them.  But between GoF and Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in the seven-book series, there was a three-year lull as JKR penned the 870-page behemoth that would become OotP.  And by then, I was almost fourteen, and just as hormonal as Harry was at age fifteen in that book.  I sped through OotP and read it in twenty-two hours.

By the time Half-Blood Prince (my second favorite installment) came out, I’d finally caught up to the trio’s ages (well, Hermione’s a year older than them because of her late birthday — see how deep my nerdiness goes?) just shy of a few days; I turned sixteen that same summer.  And finally, this brings me full-circle back to the point I’m making all along — the release date of the final novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows coinciding with an extremely significant time in my life.

DH was released 21 July 2007, six days before my eighteenth birthday, the summer after my high school graduation, the same summer of my dad’s illness and chemotherapy trips.  The final book in the series is filled with deaths (many of which I feel were unnecessary and almost arbitrary on the part of JKR, as if she drew their names from a hat) and the greatest struggle of the trio but especially Harry, an orphan who has to deal with finally defeating the Dark Lord forever.  To me, DH really embodies the modern “coming of age” story, and really came at a perfect time in my life; Harry and I got to experience together a transitory period in our lives and deal with the inevitable loss of our loved ones.

And for a week or so (thanks to working at Starbucks, I couldn’t read it as quickly as I wanted, but still read in the drive-thru or behind the register; few things come between HP and me), while I plodded my way through the book, I could cry about a favorite character dying (which happened, ugh, thanks JKR) or Harry’s emotional outbursts and not about my own situation.  It really was an escape, but through DH I also found a sort of connection I hadn’t really had with any of the other books.  And while I was almost entirely unhappy with the ‘epilogue’ (another bad decision on JKR’s part in my opinion), the book was amazing.  It left me with the inevitable void that comes with being so attached to a finite series once it ends, but still symbolizes such an important time of my life.

And that’s why the journey and growth of Harry and me through eleven years means so much to me that I will most likely get a Harry Potter-related tattoo in the future.  It’s hard to explain to somebody who hasn’t loved something — a TV series, maybe, or book series, or movie or anything like that — that deeply or see it as “just a TV show/movie/book/whatever,” but I know it’s real for me.

You have no idea how hard seeing the HP films wrap up in parts one and two of the film version of Deathly Hallows will be.  Unless you do, and in that case, we’re kindred spirits.  Let’s hold each other in our Hogwarts outfits and sob together.  (I guarantee you this will happen with Charity and me.)

***

How does this relate to South Park?  Well, hopefully that’s obvious after the novel I wrote about loving Harry Potter.  No, I did not watch every season of SP since I first caught it on TV one night (the episode “The Succubus” was the first one I ever saw, quickly followed by “Trapper Keeper”) and therefore did not truly grow up with it, but got back into it in a big way after meeting Charity and especially after moving in with her the spring semester of 2009.  We watched marathons of SP online, thanks to southparkstudios.com, and just couldn’t get enough of it.

I watched more the summer of 2009 in the months I found myself without a job (which was most of the summer, I won’t lie) and kept me entertained and amused and my mind mostly off of how depressed I was that I didn’t have a job.  Charity and I became moderators of a South Park community that had untapped potential to be the awesomeness it grew to under our modship, and though it’s slacked off some, especially between seasons or during mid-seasons breaks, I’ve made a few friends who have definitely made my life a better experience and who make me smile everyday (as cheesy as that sounds) through hilarious texts or relating to one another in strange ways.

So, I won’t say that South Park is my next Harry Potter, but it certainly will have a helping hand in me dealing with my grief.  Thank you, Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  And the biggest thank you goes to JK Rowling, for your imagination, even though you made some really terrible decisions in the end.  What would I be without Harry Potter?  That’s a scary thought.

I’d like to make myself believe that planet Earth turns slowly
It’s hard to say that I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep
‘Cause everything is never as it seems