Monday, April 14, 2014

All the things we don't say:

Do you ever imagine what your life would be like if you gave voice to all the things you only think? Do you wonder what kind of person you'd be? I do. There's so much that goes unspoken in our world, and I don't even mean the deep, dark secrets of the soul that only ever get shared with one or two safe people (or a listening God). I mean the ordinary observations that run through our minds that are never sounded because they'd label us as weird or presumptuous or just too real. No one wants anyone to be too real, right? It just gets awkward.

For example: I am so unintentionally uptight about taking liberties that I will rarely use a person's nickname if I am not directly related to them or unless I have known them forever. But that doesn't stop me giving them nicknames in my mind, affectionate little titles that reflect how warmly I think of those people. What if I used those invented nicknames? Like, actually out loud? Would the sky fall?

And what if I actually, calmly and in an extremely measured fashion, told that woman at the florist the other day that she was being rude and unprofessional, and really had not earned any of the massive sum of money that we just handed over to her?

What if I told the checkout guy at Woolies that I was having a really pathetic afternoon and was feeling exhausted and fragile, and then his chirpy smile -- and 1950s hairdo and the way he laughingly watched my brother ride off through the mall on the shopping trolley -- all made things feel about 68% better?

What if I told that father that the way he treats his son is cruel, that it's bullying and there is no justification for that kind of behaviour?

What if I let the guy at the video store know that he is my favourite shop assistant there because he asks "How has your day been?" and then seems genuinely disappointed if I don't immediately go on and actually detail what's been happening? What if I told him that people don't usually care about strangers any more and that it's a remarkable thing that he does?

What if I said to the person I am only just getting to know, "I have never met anyone like you and I am intrigued by the way you experience life."?

Maybe I'll never be the kind of person who can offhandedly say these things. Maybe I won't ever use someone's nickname unless expressly requested to do so. Maybe the world isn't ready for all of us to become manic pixie dream girls.

But there are a few small ways I am trying to say the things that remain unsaid. I am trying to answer honestly when people ask, "How are you?" I am learning to be more bold in saying, "I'm sorry; I don't know what that is," when of course I'd rather sit tight and seem smart (even if it means shocking all the older women in the room because I haven't remembered who Prince George is, for goodness' sake). And I'm trying to be more confident about saying various incarnations of, "I am really glad I know you," even if I'm not certain we're 'at that level' yet. But I am really glad for the people in my life, and I want to be bolder about expressing that.

How about you? What would happen if you started speaking out the things you don't say?


  • Emily Dempster -- it's so much fun when someone digs out a past blog post and interacts with it. I loved your list of book that have shaped who you are! Thank you so much for sharing <3 li="">
  • Asea -- how I wish I could be a fly on the wall during one of your days. Your work (and study and social) life intrigue me so much!
  • Meaghan -- ha ha, I'm not brave; I'm a wimp! And my fear of heights seems to get worse as I get older. Now I'm at the point of closing my eyes when there are scenes shot from great heights in a movie, for crying out loud.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Digging deeper:

When I was considering my undergraduate degree and excitedly discussing it with whoever would listen, an older friend said to me, “They say if you want to hate literature, you should study it.” Oh.

This friend is someone I generally consider to be pretty wise, but in this case he turned out to be wrong. Here I am, almost at the end of nearly five years of study, and I love literature more than ever.

I have certainly had to read stuff I didn’t care for. I’d say about 50% of the texts set for my classes were ones I wouldn’t naturally pick up for myself, mostly because it seems that many tertiary texts highlight the bleak and the gritty. Yes, I have had to wade through postmodern criticism that desperately seeks out phallic symbols in the most unlikely of places and brings everything -- yes, everything -- back to Oedipus. I have read stories that gave far too much information and stories that gave far too little. I’ve been called upon to dig out meaning I really didn’t even think was there. I do have a few choice things to say about certain bits of convoluted postmodern literary theory but I can honestly affirm that none of it has made me hate literature. Even when I hated where a novel went, I couldn’t hate the novel itself. There is always some spark of wonder and I think that studying a piece of writing will draw that out -- for me, at least. And as for the stuff I already loved and had to revisit? Plumbing the depths of these works didn’t drain them of all joy. Rather, I got to see nuanced sides of the works that I’d never considered, delicate layers of meaning and artistry that I didn’t even know were there. Far from making me hate literature, studying it only enhanced my appreciation for it.

It’s not just books that work like this. I remember being set a very complex Bach prelude and fugue back when I was studying piano. The movement of the voices -- four of them, spread amongst two hands -- was immensely complex and interwoven, and I pretty much despaired of playing it with any fluidity. I groaned as I picked apart the work note by note, dragging and fumbling my way through. But as I gained a little proficiency (it was never wholly easy for me, let me be clear), I actually began to love it. Of course, the work did not change, but I did. I got to know it better, and in knowing it better I was more able to see its beauty. More recently, I see this happening for one of my music students. “I hate this!” she moaned, staring at a new song which included some unfamiliar techniques. “This is the worst song I’ve ever had to play!” I tried to tell her that maybe it would become her favourite; that’s how it often worked for me. She was frankly disbelieving. Two weeks later, with her fingers moving deftly over the notes, she confessed that it was now her favourite. And because she is eleven years old and entirely unselfconscious, there was no sheepishness. She just grinned widely.

I wonder if the process is the same for learning to love people? In my teens and early twenties, I craved that instant connection with new friends, the undefinable “click,” so difficult to explain but so easy to recognise when it’s present. It’s the sort of feeling that has you laughing with someone and showing them your truest self even though you’ve only known them an hour -- because something about them, or the way you and they are, together, says it’s okay, it’ll work. I used to think friendship needed those click moments, but now I’m not so sure. There are friendships in my life that started off very slowly, awkwardly, brokenly. There are people I know with whom I had to make a concerted effort to reveal parts of my heart, taking a risk and putting it out there in a clunky fashion because it was never going to happen organically. Some of these people are my dearest friends now. With some, I’m still my quietest self, my most hesitant self, but they are true friends and real friends because I have known them long enough to see the intricate layers of the notes and the melodies that criss-cross and compete but somehow come together to make something amazing.

Perhaps studying something will make you hate it. But I don’t think so. I think that if you really want to learn to love something, looking a little closer is the best way to do it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dear you all:

Does it seem to you that the rotation of the earth on its axis has been a little fast lately? My ears are ringing and I want to get off. Or at least, I want it to slow down so the view isn't just a blur.

It's autumn here in Queensland, has been for more than a month, but tonight is the first hint that Brisbane will embrace its fall identity. There's a cool breeze, just a little bit of a nip in the air. I'm still wearing sandals, but I have a light cardigan on, too. It could all disappear again tomorrow -- yesterday was ridiculously hot -- but at least I know that autumn is possible. Summer in Queensland tends to make me stop believing.

March was a rapid cycle of work, uni, writing deadlines, a trip to Sydney for my gnome's engagement party and bridesmaid dress shopping, more work, more uni, more writing deadlines, a family getaway to Coffs Harbour to celebrate my grandparents' combined 80th birthday parties, more work, breathing, packing and unpacking, you know it. All that stuff.

This week brings with it the school holidays, so I have two weeks off from one of my part-time jobs. My thoughts lately have been preoccupied with post-university wonderings, burdens about money (alternately hating the stuff and then pretending I don't care), feelings of missed connections, regret over not being able to fit more into my days. There are so many people who should know how much I care about them. In the midst of it all, writing a bunch of essays on children's media (it's a lot of fun) -- and then my hard drive decided to turn up toes and die. Most of my writing was backed up (I hope; I think; I am trying not to consider it too much) but goodbye to four years of photos. I am oddly empty about all of this. I don't know whether it's denial or I have somehow achieved some higher plane of acceptance thanks to some special measure of grace. We'll see what transpires.

Last weekend I got to take a ride on the Brisbane wheel. I'm not fond of heights (she said, severely understating the fact) but it's not a big ferris wheel by world standards. I was not prepared for the very marrow in my legs to twitch and shiver in complete and utter fear. There was no logic to it. I knew that the wheel was safe, I was entirely enclosed, but with all my being I wanted to make myself as minute as a flea so the tiny glass cosmos I was enclosed in would seem huge and secure. I screwed my eyes closed in an attempt to trick my body into thinking I was on the ground. It didn't work, and all I could think was "Twelve minutes of this. TWELVE MINUTES."

The weird shivering inside my legs faded a little after the second revolution. I could open my eyes a bit on the third. I could stare straight out of the window on the fourth. I could actually look to the side on the fifth. By the time the wheel slowed to a stop on the sixth cycle, I was surviving. So maybe things are never going to slow down, but perhaps eventually we acclimatise to them. And if we survive the velocity long enough, maybe there's even a really good view.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Writers and procrastinators, hear ye:

Hello, writer. Yes you, writer-person there. Have you written anything yet this year? Have you got a darling little piece of unfinished something that's been jostling around in your heart but isn't yet actually on the page? Are you sitting about waiting for a deadline to kick you into gear? I might have just the thing.

Tabor Adelaide, the college that gave me my BA in Creative Writing and said, "go, little bird, and off you fly into the big wide grown up world!*" has launched a literary award this year which looks exciting. The award is open to Australians over the age of 16, and offers prizes for a work of short fiction or poetry on the theme of 'Homecomings.'

Entry is free and the works will be judged by a great panel of authors, including Roseanne Hawke, a beautiful YA author whose work is incredible and which you should totally go read right now. Actually, you should go read it after you submit your entry, because the deadline is this Friday.**

All the details you'll need to know are here. Now make some words.

*no one actually said this. I just have a vivid imagination.
**I hope no one wonders why I didn't post this sooner. I'm going to go with: "posting such information late in the game leaves everyone with no room for procrastination" and not "my blogging schedule is shot to pieces lately."

Monday, March 3, 2014

February book haul:

Just a little book-haul month for me. I have a lot of expenses coming up and am on a student-with-part-time-work budget, so I kept it very trim. But I absolutely had to get Burn, the final in Julianna Baggott's Pure trilogy (which I wrote about super briefly here). I also have kind of a life-law which decrees that if I visit an independent bookstore, I have to pick up something new. That something was Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher and I'm not going to lie: I picked it up entirely because of its glorious cover design. Just look at those beautiful red birds flying across the fore edge. I know, I know. We're not supposed to judge books by their covers. But surely we can pick them up because of the covers? I also grabbed ebooks of The Rosie Project, which I've heard good things about, and Shatter Me, which I know little about and am mainly excited because Tahereh Mafi is adorable and married to an equally adorable writer-husband, Ransom Riggs. I mean, just look at them!

Did you pick up any books in February?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Little ways to feel human (i):

I am most happy when my life is segmented into regularly-proportioned, disparate activities. It overwhelms me (and, yes, terrifies me) when any one things looms too large in the scope of my future vision. 2014 has begun with all large things. Everything that is happening personally, socially, academically, financially, and relationally feels huge -- at least to my often-warped perspective.

When my perspective gets warped, it's the little things that remind me how to be human, how to feel like my life is not One Big Thing and that This Too Shall Pass. It's things like getting to have a sleepover weekend and attending a scriptwriting workshop with Laura; like making a mixtape with songs for my mama; like breakfast dates and coffee dates to grow new friendships; like the happy-toe-twiddling thought of two weeks off from one of my teaching jobs (I'm gonna sleep in tomorrow. Just you watch me!); like taking time out to write a blog post about... taking time out to write a blog post.

Here are some of the current little things helping me to feel human. My list got long so I'll save some for next time:

Burn by Julianna Baggott. Oh wow. Wow oh wow. I wonder if I can explain this trilogy to you in words that won't send you running for the hills? Basically it's an apocalyptic story that has left the world broken and wretched in the years after a sort of nuclear holocaust. Many of those those who were unprotected by a cult-like paradise (known as the Dome died), but some survived, fused to the very things they were holding or that were near to them when the detonations occurred. Julianna Baggott has done the seemingly impossible: to take imagery that could be grotesque and terrifying (and often is) and yet reveal its beauty. Her characterisation is impeccable, and her writing so rich. What's more, this story has not suffered from the dreaded Second Book Syndrome. In fact, I think it's improved as the series (Pure, Fuse, and Burn) has gone on. Ugh. I'm basically in raptures.

The Ear Biscuits podcast by Rhett and Link. Rhett and Link may be accurately described as "my favourite bromance that is not Hamish & Andy." Their weekly podcast, a relatively new endeavour, has them sitting down for a casual yet sincerely earnest chat with somebody who is YouTube-famous. YouTube is a creative avenue that I'm not actively involved in; the most I do is watch videos. However, the discussions that Rhett & Link open up could apply to many creative endeavours, and their conversations are with creative people living creatively. The podcasts are generally with people who have "made it" in traditional generic understandings of success (fame and fortune), but there's an honesty about the chats that make them creatively energising even for someone less enamoured with standardised conceptions of success.

The Desiring God devotional app. This app has been a part of my life on a daily basis since someone (was it you, Lauren?) put me onto it last year. I can't tell you how many times the daily reading has been so perfectly-timed to speak straight to my heart, to encourage me, or to give me a well-deserved kick in the pants. I like John Piper's no-nonsense approach that somehow manages to be incisive yet warm and sincere.

The Walk fitness game. From the makers of Zombies, Run! (which you've all heard me flail about) comes this new(ish) game, created in conjunction with the National Health Service as part of an initiative to get more people moving. Coming at The Walk from my zealous love of Zombies, Run!, I was at first a little disappointed with the change in format. But now I'm used to how the game works, I'm really really loving it. Essentially, The Walk is an unfolding mystery story (which has been compared to The 39 Steps) which takes place in Scotland (both cities and wilderness!) and is delivered through sound bites which are unlocked as you progress through the story.The game is episodic, and when the app is opened, it works as a pedometer, which means you can work your way through the story if you're jogging, walking, biking, or even just doing your grocery shop. The characters in the story are warm and funny, and I love the gentle air of introgue that's building through the story. It's a great way to make movement more fun.

So. There are a few of my favourites lately. What would be on your list of little ways to feel human?
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