Friday, October 12, 2012

My 15 Year Old Self Was Petulant and Grumpy

So it's the first International Day of the Girl, and I just read this article about fifteen year old selves.  I was fifteen twenty years ago. As my title indicates, my fifteen year old self was petulant, grumpy. It was a momentous year: that was the year I discovered trashy romance novels and Cosmopolitan magazine, so I learned lots and lots about sex. Star Trek: The Next Generation was in its fifth season, and I was home to watch it every single Saturday night because I really didn't have many friends. I developed an insatiable desire to watch Little House on the Prairie reruns on TBS. I read every Victoria Holt book the public library had multiple times and I listened to Mariah Carey. A lot.

Yeah, I hated being fifteen. I hated it at the time, and every year on my birthday (still!) I am glad I am not fifteen any more. If I could go back in time and talk to fifteen year old Barbi, I would tell her that in twenty years being a geek is going to be really cool. I would encourage her to own her Trekkie love and to read something besides Victoria Holt novels. I would give myself a pat on the back for not wearing terrible early nineties hairstyles. I would ardently BEG fifteen year old Barbi to not drink that hot Dr Pepper folk remedy my parents gave me when I got really really really sick and my parents were too broke for to take me to the doctor. (Seriously, to this day I can't even smell Dr Pepper without getting sick to my stomach). I would give my parents the thumbs up for letting me adopt my very first cat. I would confirm that geometry still sucks balls and that in twenty years she will still think it was pretty cool of her English teacher to let her read Jurassic Park and Roots for class.

 Most importantly, I would tell her that she's not fat and ugly; she's so so beautiful. I would emphasize that fifteen year old boys are supremely stupid shits. I would tell fifteen year old Barbi to be proud of the person she is because she is is pretty damn spectacular.

Fifteen year old Barbi wouldn't have any of this though. Fifteen year old Barbi was petulant, grumpy , stubborn, and angry at her parents for making her move halfway across the country the year before. Fifteen year old Barbi only wanted to read things about sex and Victorian England, watch Star Trek, and ride her bike down to the Dairy Queen for Reese's Pieces blizzards. She didn't want to listen to anyone, although I know she would have made an exception for Captain Jean-Luc Picard. TNG was straight up awesome when I was fifteen.

She wanted desperately to fit in with the other kids, and she didn't understand why she didn't. What I didn't realize is that I just hadn't found my people yet. I didn't understand that I spent pretty much all of my teens and twenties depressed. Because of this I am continually grateful that I'm not a teenager any more. Hell, I'm continually grateful to not be in twenties any more.

The thing is, life does get better. My life has turned out to be absolutely nothing like I thought it was going to be. I'm not married. I don't have kids. (Can fifty-five year old Barbi travel back in time to tell me not to have a complex about this? Because that would be super helpful). My life is far from perfect, but I'm happier and more accepting of myself than I've ever been. I am a big ol' geeky fan girl, and I love that about myself. I gained a sense of acceptance when I finally found my geeky people. I have three cats and I own my cat lady-ness. I teach college English and it's the best job in the world. Today, there's so much about myself that I love, and sadly, I couldn't have said that about myself at fifteen.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

That Jane Austen, she could write

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than women, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant."

Sigh.......This is from The Annotated Persuasion (page 452), edited by David M. Shapard

Since I'm currently lacking in real life romance I read this passage from Persuasion when I feel the need for a little romance. I pull this book off the shelf, turn to page 452 and read Frederick Wentworth's letter to Anne Elliot and I float away in a cloud of romance. 

(Also, I can't recommend David M. Shapard's annotated editions of Jane Austen enough. I've read Austen over and over again since I was in college, but these annotated editions enriched my reading experience of Austen a hundred fold. Seriously people--go buy them! Buy them all! They are more than worth the money.)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Treading Water

You know what? Depression sucks balls. There are days (a lot of days lately) that I feel like depression is what’s running my life, not me.

When I visualize depression, I picture myself treading water. If I stop, I’ll sink below the water and drown. So I keep on treading, trying to keep my head above water. Depression is like that to me, a daily struggle to keep my head above water. There are moments, hours, even whole days or weeks, where it’s easy. But then there are the days when it just seems easier to stop treading and let myself sink below the water.

Those are the days when I can’t even be motivated to feed myself, even if I’m hungry. I’ve been having a lot of those days lately. I look at other people, and they seem to take care of the basics so effortlessly. They can keep their homes clean, get their work done, eat regular meals. Why is it so hard for me? Sometimes it almost feels like there’s something physical holding me down, preventing me from taking care of myself adequately.

Today has been one of those days. I desperately need to clean, and there’s a ginormous stack of grading on my desk that absolutely must be finished by Tuesday. I have a headache because I went too long without eating.

These kinds of days suck, and I’ve been having far too many of them lately. But I’ll keep on treading water. It’s the only thing I can do. Because there are always going to be bad days, that’s life. But there are always going to be good days too, and I keep on treading, hoping that soon there will be more good days than bad. And who knows, maybe today will turn out to be a good day after all. The day’s not over yet. 

UPDATE: It's amazing how little things can turn one's day around. I cleaned my bathroom counter (which really really needed it). A friend called and reminded me that I've had a big week (I finished the first chapter of my dissertation and presented it at a conference on Friday) and perhaps I needed a little time to decompress. And that it's not the end of the world if my students don't get their papers back on Tuesday. Today, depression didn't win. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Normally I don't publish my book review here because I think they're crappy. But I think I did a pretty darn good job articulating why I REALLY LOVED The Hunger Games:

The Hunger Games The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some books have the ability to completely captivate me. I get so engrossed in the world of the book that I really don't notice anything else going on around me. I love books like these.

I read The Hunger Games in one day. I couldn't stop. Katniss was absolutely fascinating. She has such a pragmatic personality. She's cold, and has little room in her life for love and compassion; she's too focused on keeping herself and her family alive. But her determination to live and survive serves to illustrate her passion for life. It's that reverence for life that makes her volunteer as Tribute. Prim is young and not so pragmatic--she hasn't been hardened by life. She would not do well in the Hunger Games. I also think that reverence for life underscores her developing feelings for Peeta. She's so used to fighting for survival that her burgeoning feelings--in probably the worst circumstances possible--come as a surprise to her. Her feelings for Peeta ultimately enable her to stay true to herself and her values and, as Collins deftly demonstrates throughout the novel, this is no easy feat.

Ultimately it was Katniss herself which kept me reading. Her struggle to survive--and to live in the fullest sense of the word--gave The Hunger Games an incredible readability. I didn't want to stop reading, and I couldn't wait to finish it, but at the same time I'm sad I'm done reading it. I can only hope that the other other two books in this trilogy are equally good because I can't wait to return to Panem.

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