Learning to be Beyonc√©

Hey there.

I’ve been fighting the urge to fall off the face of the earth and drift into the abyss of time. It’d be so easy!
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When I first got to England, I was doing so many things! Now my life has fallen into a pretty solid routine. Not as many shenanigans to write about! But I like talking to y’all and I don’t want to leave this wonderful blogging community. So I’ve been hanging on by my fingernails, doing my writing posts here and there, but not posting much else. Sorry about that.

I’ve noticed that an integral part of my being, from the time I was little, has been the instinct to apologize. I apologize and explain as a way of curbing disappointment. Most people just live their lives without apology, which I’m now making more of an effort to do. But I still feel that tug, and hear that voice that says “YOU OWE PEOPLE AN EXPLANATION.” I’ve been doing it a lot at work, since this has been my first month working for this company, and I always feel bad when I can’t give someone the answer/info they’re looking for despite the fact that you can’t know something you don’t know. There’s a hidden object computer game called “The Scruffs” and in the second game of the series, there’s a character who freaks out whenever anyone even suggests that she’s made a mistake. “Freaks out” as in foams at the mouth and becomes almost homicidal. I’m kind of like that, except there’s less anger and more face-palming and curling up under the nearest desk when I make mistakes, so I avoid it whenever I can.

But I went to a work party last week (the mere idea of which typically terrifies me) and had a great time. I wasn’t at all apologetic — about how I look, where I come from, what I say, or how I say it — and people didn’t run away. It was fun and I felt floaty afterwards (the alcohol probably had a little to do with that, but…eh, why be picky — results are results). I’m really glad to have this job because, despite how little energy I end up with at the end of the day, I’d spent previous days isolated and writing. So it’s nice to constantly be interacting with new people. What’s really inspiring and wonderful about my job is how creative everyone is. There are a good few writers on staff (and on the list of former staff), a couple of whom are in post-punk bands (how cool is that?!), visual artists, classical musicians… it’s amazing. I’m in awe of my coworkers and it makes that flame under my butt burn hotter knowing that these people are accomplishing cool shit every day.

They’re also super nice. One of them ordered the book I contributed a short story to as soon as I told him about it; another bought me the cutest cookie sandwich ever when I told her I’d celebrated my birthday a couple of days prior.

It was Neapolitan (vanilla, strawberry, chocolate) and delicious.

I just watched a video on YouTube by another American living in London who mentioned that making friends in the UK is different than it is back home. She said she’s been here for 6 years and still hasn’t made a British friend. She has drinks with her colleagues after work and whatnot, but by “friend” she meant someone you invite over who also invites you over, or who you take trips with; someone you can get in touch with at any random time to talk to about personal/hard things going on in your life. It made me feel better to hear someone who’s been here longer than I have say that. I’ve been wondering why it’s been so hard for me to make that kind of friend here, and I’ve worried that maybe, despite the research I’d done on people in the UK before coming here, I was doing something wrong. But her video reminded me that it’s nothing personal; it’s just a cultural difference. Despite sharing a language, Brits and Americans are different. People here don’t give much of themselves away very quickly. But patience is a virtue, as they say (and has never been a strong suit of mine) so it’s just something that’s gonna take time.

I think getting older is a great thing, because now, finally, it’s becoming easier and easier to be myself with strangers (and very recently) without apology. And I have definitely met people here who make me feel like it’s OK to be me. People who I think I can eventually become close with. I like how that feels. ūüôā

This is one of those weird, ramble-y posts. I had a lot I wanted to tell you, so I did. But I won’t apologize for it, because:
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Peace.

P.S.
Happy birthday, Harry (and Ms. Rowling)!!! ūüėÄ

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Writing Wednesday: the beginning of the end.

Hey, everybody! Guess what? Today’s mah birfdae!!!

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It’s the first day of my last year as a twenty-something.

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I’m not sure how to feel about that. Of course I’m thrilled to have lived long enough to type this.¬†Being around to see¬†what the world has become so far is pretty cool (and sometimes frustrating as hell).¬†On the other hand, I really thought I’d feel more like an adult by now. And I do sometimes. Whenever I clean my flat, or de-ice my freezer, or pay my bills I think to myself, “Hey, that was kind of¬†grown-up, right?” Then I sit in front of my computer and laugh uncontrollably at my favorite cartoons, or squeal with glee because I opened a blind box and got the toy I wanted and I¬†think “Yeah…you’re more like Tom Hanks in Big. Better luck next year.” I’ve had this discussion with different people and many agree that “adulthood” is really just how old you are, not how you feel inside. You’re always going to feel like you. So it’s just par for the course that high school feels like something that just ended last year (and on some horrible mornings, like a thing that hasn’t ended yet). I’m still me. An almost thirty-year-old me (gasp!), but me nonetheless.

My mom is here visiting (YAY!) and today I have set her the task of coming up with a surprise plan for my actual birthday, then on Friday we’re going to do some stuff I’ve chosen. We’re operating around my work schedule while she’s here — doing stuff in the mornings and afternoons, then I go to work in the evenings. I’m trying not to feel like a walking corpse, hahaha. It shouldn’t be a problem today, though. Today I just feel good. ūüôā

So here is a present for you! A list of books I’ve loved and reread and wanted to live in while weirding it up here on Earth for the last 29 years. Some of these I have talked about here before. I was going to link those books to past posts and give you a short description of¬†why the other books are¬†important to me, but yesterday I got halfway through writing this post and it disappeared while I was writing it.¬†So¬†now I don’t feel up to¬†making the attempt again in case the universe decides it’s not done¬†pranking me yet.¬†I’ll just¬†give you the titles (I’ll come back and add the authors a bit later), and¬†if you check them out, maybe they’ll become¬†important to you, too.¬†Enjoy.

  1. Lucky Puppy (Disney)
  2. Matilda (Roald Dahl)
  3. James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)
  4. The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales (Jon Scieszka)
  5. The Time Warp Trio series (Jon Scieszka)
  6. The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups (David Wisniewski)
  7. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (AVI)
  8. Dealing with Dragons (Patricia C. Wrede)
  9. The Giver (Lois Lowry)
  10. The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)
  11. The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  12. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
  13. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  14. The Vampire Lestat (Anne Rice)
  15. The Sandman series (Neil Gaiman)
  16. Crime & Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  17. Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  18. IT (Stephen King)
  19. Needful Things (Stephen King)
  20. The Green Mile (Stephen King)
  21. Going to Meet the Man (James Baldwin)
  22. Tekkonkinkreet (Taiyo Matsumoto)
  23. Andrew’s Brain (E.L. Doctorow)
  24. Busy Monsters (William Giraldi)
  25. TTYL (the Internet Girls series) (Lauren Myracle)
  26. 13 Reasons Why (Jay Asher)
  27. Beasts (Joyce Carol Oates)
  28. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler)
  29. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain)

Have you gotten lost in any of these books? What are your thoughts on adulthood?

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

What Grinds My Gears: Writing Wednesday edition

Hello, hello, hello!

Lately I’ve been making an effort to get back on top of my reading. There are currently 18 books in my To Be Read pile.

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But — butbutbutbutBUT — I’ve started every book in the pile (so I guess it’s really a “to be finished” pile…) and I’ve finished a few other books lately. The most recent one I finished was this year’s winner of the Baileys Prize, Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies (GREAT novel). I’ve decided to revert back to reading one book at a time because I was getting a little overwhelmed by reading, writing, and new-jobbing all together; it’s actually been nice settling into one book without switching to a new one. Especially when it’s a good book.

But I’m here to talk about the things that can make books bad — for me, at least — that I’ve seen in some of the fiction I’ve read so far this year.

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Here are a few things that grind my gears.

Overusing a character’s name in dialogue.
“Hey, Phil.”
“What, Ted?”
“I just don’t think going to the flea circus while a tornado’s ripping up the ground is a good idea, Phil. Know what I mean, Phil?”
“Yeah, Ted, I know you’re right but…I just can’t shake the feeling that I’d really regret missing it.”
“Yeah, Phil, I get that, Phil. But, Phil — PHIL — it’s just not worth risking your life over, y’know? Phil? Phil?! YOU HEARING ME, PHIL?!?!?!?!”
“Yeah, I got it! Geez! …Ted.”

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Once I’ve gotten to know someone, I don’t need to use their name constantly, or at all, while talking to them. Even if we run into each other somewhere. I’ll just say hi, not “Hi [insert name here].” But even if I let the “name as part of a greeting” thing go (because some people do that), the rest is just unnecessary. If the characters have been well-developed, I don’t need to be reminded of who they are in every line of dialogue, or of the fact that they know each others names, or that the dialogue I’m reading will cover a serious topic. Yes, you might have one character say another’s name for emphasis in the midst of making a point — this makes sense (in the right context). But four or five times in one conversation? No. Please stop. This is one reason why one of the books in my TBF pile has been moved down the list. I needed a breather.

Losing the plot.
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I hate when I’m giving 110% of my attention to a story — it’s got me hooked, I’m totally on board — only for it to veer in a compleeeeetely different direction. And I don’t mean an unexpected twist. Those are great, and hard to come by now as I think that technique was single-handedly exhausted by M. Night Shyamalan. But what I mean is, when you’re following the thread of one narrative only to find that the actual point of everything was over here in this other narrative that the first one lead you into against your will, and basically everything you learned in the story you thought you were reading is absolutely useless.

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It makes me feel like a fool. A fool who didn’t just have the rug yanked out from under me, but was pushed backwards (as the rug was being yanked) by the person who hates me the most, so I could trip over the person who hates me almost as much as the first person as they crouch on all fours behind me, giggling. Then they both cackle as I scream “NOOOOOOOOoooooo!!!” up to the heavens. Yeah. That.

Pointlessly withheld information.
You know those stories that relentlessly hint at something? Something Earth-shattering that the narrator reeeaaally wants to tell you, but it just isn’t the right time yet? But you gotta keep hearing about the thing you’re not allowed to hear about yet because they want you to keep reading. So you turn every page, your butt creeping closer and closer to the edge of your seat. By the time you reach the page with the reveal, you’re practically levitating in front of your chair. And then you read the words, “My grandmother’s middle name…was Mildred!” DundunDUUUU– wait. What? That was it? THAT was your big mysterious news? Really?!
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Often, the longer I’m forced to wait for the one juicy tidbit that’ll make everything else in the story crystal clear, the more underwhelming that tidbit is. Waiting pages and pages for something clever/weird/random/amazing, only to have it be something you predicted ages ago, OR something so overused you don’t even care about it, is kinda the worst. Withholding info can be SUPER effective when you’re not reminded too often of the thing you don’t know yet — just often enough for it to gnaw at your brain like a mildly rabid weasel. But if a narrator beats me over the head with “Ah, ah, AHHHH! Not yeeeeet!”, it just feels like they’re taunting me. In fact, I bet they’re in cahoots with those holes who tripped me in that other section. Jerks.

But that’s just me.

What grinds your literary gears?

Happy Wednesday!