Adventures in Yonderland

A log of my adventures, both real and imagined.

I’m Back

So for some reason I’ve decided there’s enough going on in my life to start blogging again. Here’s what’s up.

1) I graduated.

2) I’m getting married.

3) I’m working a job.

4) I’m moving to Tennessee.

5) I’m looking for a job in Tennessee.

6) I’m going to a funeral.

7) I’m moving in with my person.

I’ll bet you anything there’s more. But consider it all a preview for what’s to come.

What I Learned from College

I didn’t grow up like most people in high school. Not to say I didn’t grow up, I just never had my rebellion. I never dared to come into myself. First and foremost college allowed me to explore that. I have some fantastic memories from college; I met the woman I want to and will spend the rest of my life with week one, I partied in questionably outfitted homes and across the Atlantic. But I will remember the people I met and spent time with and did a bunch of stupid s**t more than all the rest of it. This is a bit of what I learned.

1) You are allowed to watch movies alone.

I spent a lot of time doing this, and a lot of time doing this Freshman year when everyone left to go out. I will admit it wasn’t particularly exciting, but I will say this: I did what I needed to do.

2) You should go out with the group.

I always thought it was really stupid, and many of the stories I have heard confirm that in some way. But what I have learned is that hearing the stories isn’t the same as living them. Isn’t the same of living amongst your peers. And you don’t have to do it their way either. Go, dance, watch drunk people (even just that is often worth it) and just live it. Don’t be too afraid to live (and please take reasonable precautions so you don’t get arrested, poisoned or otherwise put in harm’s way).

3) Choose Your Friends

Some people are assholes. And some people you just don’t click with. And that’s okay. The best part about life is that you are important and wonderful and you can choose to surround yourself with people you actually want to be around. And who actually care about you.

4) Fights Are Actually Healthy and Normal

Not fistfights. Please don’t get in a fistfight if you can avoid it. I mean arguments. You are your own person. Which means you are different from everyone else, including your most best friend in the whole world. And, sorry to break the news, you’re going to disagree. And that’s okay. The important part is to understand this and work through it. Real friends won’t leave you behind.

5) Your Perspective Isn’t the End-All-Be-All

I’m not saying you aren’t right. But the fact is, life is a lot more complicated than “this is this and that is that.” Even a statue looks differently from behind and who are you to tell the guy across from you his view is wrong? I’ll never be able to explain to everyone what this means, but the point is that everyone’s experience is legitimate and real. And you should treat it as such.

6) Sometimes Really, Really Shitty Things Happen

I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s just true.

7) Mental Illness is an Illness

And most people get something at some point (most commonly anxiety of depression). And that’s okay. Don’t treat people suffering as if they’re some kind of foreign creature. It’s just an illness. (I’ll point out that no one says “those (kind of) people” about persons suffering from colds, the flu or even chicken pox).

8) Degrees Get You in the Door

And that’s about it. I’m an English major. No one ever asks me about it. They ask for stories about who I am and how I deal with life and what experience I have that might be useful. If you’re in school you should remember that when you stay up until 4 a.m. studying for an exam instead of applying to jobs or something (sleeping? not gonna judge though, sleep is fickle).

9) You’ll Know When You Actually Break

And it’s a hell of a lot farther along than you might think.

10) Be Yourself and Let Others Be Them

Respect other people. And have the confidence to listen to yourself. Because I can just about guarantee you’re more right than anyone else.

11) Don’t Go into Debt

School loans, houses and cars are a whole separate thing. Don’t get into debt for everyday things. And if you do, pay it off. I feel like everyone’s heard it a million times before, but it is really just true. Finances are the easiest way to make a relationship tense, to stress you out and make you feel totally trapped. Be realistic about your abilities and understand.

12) Live Simple

You can have cool stuff. But I lived in a closet for a year in France, shared a mini-fridge with two other roommates and had a window opening the size of my fist (not exaggerating). And one of those roommates told me that he had gotten all his stuff down to the size of a single carload and how freeing it was. I’m gonna need a kitchen table, so that’s not gonna work for me, but it’s still good advice. It’s easier to be happy when all you need is a cup of tea, a bath, flowers, a book, whatever.

Life is complicated. And it sucks a lot sometimes. Actually sometimes it’s really awful. But what I learned from college is that actually, I think I can do this. No guarantee it won’t be rough. But in the end. Yeah. I think it’ll work. If nothing else I could be an English teacher.

I don’t know why this song, it just seems to echo how I feel.

Update on Life

Haven’t posted in a while, but I assure you the adventures continue.

Transitions back have been far more difficult than I ever imagined. I’ve been fed up, pissed off with and unmotivated by the most random assortment of things.

Espresso is my coffee now. Everything else is water. (Not really, but I also can’t live without espresso anymore).

My idea of bringing alcohol to a party is wine. Why? France. That’s why. It’s also delicious. Blackberry Wine is the most amazing thing on the planet. Followed by whiskey. Followed by coconut rum (why didn’t anyone tell me about this stuff earlier, oh my god).

And I’ve been dating. For six months now (here’s the page I made, hope you love corgis as much as I do). And very soon, I will be engaged, preparing to graduate, finding a job, and setting out on a brand new adventure.

That is way more terrifying than anything else yet.

And that sounds great to me.

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Not Again! Homoeroticism in Lit Class (And why the discussion is valuable)

So every time I have ever discussed a Shakespeare in a collegiate-level course, someone inevitably makes the argument that two of the (usually male) characters have some kind of homosexual or (more often) homoerotic relationship. Now I’m not going to dive into that mess of a discussion, which can involve tons of history, theory, critical discussion, etc., but I will say that up until now I’ve rather detested those discussions. Because it seems like they’re just a really easy way to make a wave.

And while that may still be true, I just realized something that has nothing to do with accuracy in regards to whether or not two of Shakespeare’s characters had homosexual tendencies or not. Because, on a practical level, that’s completely irrelevant. For one, there’s literally no way to know because a) Shakespeare is dead and b) the concept of homosexuality as we have it today did not exist (and he wouldn’t be able to speak on it).

However, all of those discussions we had DO pose a far, far, far, far, FAR more interesting question: how do we, in our modern society, interpret (same or mixed) gender interactions? I mean, if we can say “this activity by this character suggests that those two men have some sexual tension going on,” then something in our own modern society has to back that up. Because we don’t have a history book from 1500 that says “in our society friends behave in this manner and friends-with-benefits act in this way towards one another.” All we have is our own perception, based in our own society. And, like every generation before and to come, what we are doing in this discussion is self-reflecting, negotiating, seeking to understand ourselves and our society. And possibly seeking to re-negotiate what that really means.

And now I wonder what other discussions in English Lit I’ve checked out of off-hand.

Beginning Again

My last “real” year of school is about to start and I can’t help reflecting on how strange it is. Some people learn nothing in college. Others only learn about non-academic things (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Some only learn academic things, and I think there you might be missing out on some of the richest stuff.

For me, so far, college has been less about learning “things” and more about becoming myself. I think that should really be everyone’s goal and whether that’s through college or something else, I critic society for trying to force us into anything else.

When I tell people I’m an English major, everyone responds, “So you want to be a teacher?” As if English is good for nothing but teaching English. Which really doesn’t make sense given the fact that we teach English in school and don’t expect any of those kids to become teachers. We study it because there are valuable lessons to be learned. I study it because I love it. It is a part of me. It makes me more of myself. And that’s what I love about this next year. I get to continue becoming myself.

Which is kind of terrifying isn’t it?

Freedom

Never in my life would I have said that freedom wasn’t a good thing. I was born an American, it’s in my blood to value freedom as one of the greatest things in the world. And yet in that same country, we are not free. We pressure each other to submit to this or this worldview and discount the other side entirely when their idea doesn”t entirely work out, as if this is proof that they are wrong. Wrong as a person, as someone who believes something. Wrong because they, as a person, are not right. Because in our society we have this strange idea that one thing is wrong and one thing is right and that’s just how it is.

Freedom is the ability to be yourself without pressure from others. You cannot force me to believe as you do. Christians cannot make a world of Christians by decrying the actions of others, fundamentalists cannot make heaven on earth by creating hell, Republicans and Democrats cannot make their side dominant by decrying the other side as totally wrong about everything.

The most beautiful thing about every person is their experience and perspective. Each person brings an entirely new perspective to every situation and, my God, how glorious is that? As someone too often trapped by their own perspective, how amazing it is that each person has some knowledge to impart on a situation that is possibly completely different than your own?

Freedom is the ability to express that wonderful thing that is You, Yourself. That wonderful creation. I’ve heard many a Christian tout the wonder that is your individuality. The fact that God cared enough to make you, and to make you just as you are. And more than that, God calls you to be your own fullest self. To “die” for Christ is to receive your own life because when you let go of your own desires and start listening, you find what God really made you to be.

So who wouldn’t fight for the ability to be yourself? Can you really live when you are someone else? No wonder people revolt and fight for freedom, because honestly why wouldn’t you if someone took away You?

The sanctity of You as a person is the reason so many things are important. Equality of the sexes, for one. Objectify someone into something you want them to be, all because it is more convenient for you? Come, come. People are not objects. They are living souls with so many things to offer, so much knowledge to share, so much love to give. We are all people. Full of pain, struggle and love. And we should be free to be ourselves.

I will leave this quote with you from Leonardo Da Vinci. “If this outer body of Man seems to you to be so marvelously worked, consider that it is nothing; next to the soul that formed it. In truth, regardless of what they are, it is always something divine that they embody.*”

*translated by myself. Original quote found in the Clos Lucé. “Si cette dépouille extérieur de l’homme te paraît marveilleusement ouvragée, considère qu’elle n’est rien; auprès de l’âme qui l’a formée. En vérité, quel que soit l’homme, c’est toujours quelque chose de divine que l’homme incorpore.”

Hamlin

Well I’ve been in Hamlin, West Virginia for three weeks now setting up our site for participants coming tomorrow. In that time I’ve met people who have asked us for help with minor work projects (it’s my job to go out and find them) and have met some pretty incredible people.

To hear their stories and to experience just the genuine care and hospitality of these people has been incredible.

It’s a lot different than France. So incredibly different. I miss France a lot, although I wonder what it would be like now. Without most of the wonderful people I know actually there, I don’t know what it would be like. Althought even just the small things like walking up the street to the market I find myself missing immensly. Not to mention just speaking French.

But here. It’s such a blessing to be here in Hamlin, West Virginia. Surrounded by some of the kindest people I’ve ever met, hills totally covered in trees and roads you would be insane to drive the speed limit on.

Things I No Longer Understand Since France

1) Pancake mixes. (They don’t exist in France, so I’ve just been making them by scratch and it’s so easy!)

2) Gallons of milk. I mean, liters were working just fine and now I feel cowed by my own milk.

3) American alcohol culture. I just literally don’t understand anymore.

4) The lack of bakeries. Seriously though. Where the hell am I supposed to get pastries and bread?

5) Where’d all the cobblestone go?

6) How am I supposed to go places if I can’t walk there?

7) So…where did the espresso go?

8) You mean I can actually SEE my friends again? Wait. What? They live in the same time-zone? Woah man. One thing at a time please.

In the End There’s Only Love

Well my time in France is done for now and I am back home. As we all know, I will never forget my time there and it is so bitter-sweet to be home. I made some pretty fantastic friends. Friends from different countries, different states and all with the most wonderful views and experiences. I think that might be the hardest part about leaving. Leaving all those wonderful, fantastic people.

What isn’t hard is leaving French University. And that’s the last time I complain about it here! Because I will also miss just how jank the Fac des Lettres was. I doubt I’ll go into a building like it again!

I’m also going to miss this. My home street. The place I walked up everyday for a year. Cobblestones, a sketchy shisha place and the strangest lingerie shop I’ve ever come across.

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France, I’ll miss you. My friends, I will miss you more.

p.s. culture shock is really gonna suck.

It’s The End of the World as We Know It

Exams are done and I don’t have to deal with the French education system anymore! Woohoo! However, as good as it feels to be finally done with school for the year, it also means I’m done here.

So many goodbyes to be said. So many said already.

But in the meantime I’m running like a crazed chicken trying to do EVERYTHING before it’s all over. Including shutting down my bank account, which will be interesting. Oh the glories of French bureaucracy. You might be the one thing in this country I most definitely will NOT miss.

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