Archive | December 2013

Looking to 2014

I recently looked at my entry for January 1st, 2013, to see what my hopes and goals were for the year way back then so that I could compare with how I felt about it now. I didn’t say much, just that I was excited for it. I also said something like, “Actually, what comes to mind are the words from a song in Fiddler on the Roof, ‘… and if our good fortunes never come, here’s to whatever comes…'” Clearly the relationship between my inner pessimist and optimist is a difficult one. But I thought it interesting that I should have said that, considering that this year was rather challenging.

 

I have a predisposition towards concern, even anxiety at times. Looking at 2014 has been particularly problematic. For one thing, after last year I’m a bit less enthusiastic about the prospect of returning to school than I otherwise would be. I don’t think I’m likely to repeat a lot of the same challenges, but I am worried that it will be at least as tough to get through. I also feel somewhat less prepared, my financial buffer has shrunk considerably since the purchase of my new laptop, and I won’t have a lot of time to get ready for school after I arrive.

 

Yet I’ve been able to have sense a measure of peace. After all, when you strip away the concerns and worries I have, I love being at BYU-I, and I know it will give me a lot of opportunities to learn and to grow, which is what I really want. Besides, who’s to say that wonderful things won’t happen? Is it so unlikely that I will have some truly great moments? This could be a time of triumph for me and for my friends.

 

I mentioned before that I have discontinued the practice of making New Years Resolutions, but I do hope to find a way to contribute to other people’s lives. BYU-I is a great place to do that. I have some very vague ideas of what I want. I want to find out what use I could put my talents to, I want to have some opportunity to teach or to speak, and I want to be good company, especially for my family and roommates. I think I can get great things done in 2014. After all, I did great things this year, despite the hardships. It’ll keep building off of itself.

 

I pray for a good year. Best wishes to everyone.

2013 review

This year was… quite the experience. Especially during the school year. I don’t know if I can say I’ve ever experienced higher highs and lower lows within such a short period of time. On the one hand I made some wonderful new friends, was able to share my ideas and artwork with others, got an opportunity to teach Sunday School (something I’ve been wanting to do for a while), got good grades and was able to get a full-tuition academic scholarship, was able to buy myself a new computer when I needed to, and had some of the best movie nights ever. On the other hand, the work load was heavy, a friend disappointed me, I’ve never felt more envious in my life, there were times of loneliness and confusion, and when all was said and done, there was nothing I wanted to do more than go home.

 

Except that I couldn’t go home. Because there was a family reunion scheduled for that side of the country two weeks after school let out, so I spent those two weeks vacationing with my grandparents. In the end it was about a month after school that I was finally able to be home. I was still trying to recover emotionally. I needed time alone, but I never got to be alone. I was always in a car or in a tent with somebody else. Camping is not how I generally like to spend my vacation. I don’t quite understand the allure of going out of your way to use an outhouse, freeze to death at night, and live out of a suitcase. When I wasn’t camping, I was on the road, visiting distant relatives I’ve barely met before, or looking at various historical sites and canyons. The canyons were great, by the way, but going to three different canyons in three days was a bit much for me. How is it that my grandparents have higher stamina than me?

On the other hand, during that vacation I was introduced to Sherlock and I got to watch a live performance of Les Miserables.

 

Things at last stabilized when I got home. There were still bouts of loneliness and bitterness, but I was in a safe environment. I could pursue my own projects. In fact, I consider those homemade audiobooks to be one of my great triumphs this year, because I tried something different and expanded myself. I learned new things. And while I was working on it, I was able to be deeply focused in that project, and I could forget about everything else. Other than that, I also did a couple of art projects that I am proud of.

 

In 2013 I learned that things don’t always go the way you expect and that people sometimes disappoint you. But life goes on. There is pleasure to be had at… creating and teaching, the way it expands you and the way you find you can contribute to other people’s lives. I loved 2013, really I did. But it hurt sometimes, and it was hard, it challenged me. I guess that’s alright, because that’s what I asked for. All in all, I’m glad it happened.

 

One last thing, I wanted to do a tribute to some of the artwork I did this year. I hope I will create more and better artwork in the future.

 

Why I discontinued the practice of making New Years Resolutions

It’s healthy every once in a while to scrutinize some of the social conventions in our lives. In recent times, I’ve taken to putting New Years Resolutions under the microscope. I’m sure they have their place, but in the case of my life they fail to meet their purpose. The idea is that this goal setting will help us to improve our lives and our characters so we become better, happier people and contribute more effectively to our family, friends, and community. I’m all for that, and if New Year’s Resolutions help people, then set them by all means. But I know myself too well to believe that New Years Resolutions will fit in with the way I approach self-improvement.

I consider myself a very driven person. I’m very good with identifying a particular challenge or weakness that I’m currently facing. I think that’s one of the advantages that’s come of taking the time to get to know myself, mostly though extensive journaling. Once I identify the problem or the weakness, I set about fixing it. That’s when I do my goal setting, in the moment that I recognize the problem. Reviewing my life and setting goals to make it better isn’t something that only occurs to me once a year, so already the whole idea of New Years Resolutions seems redundant to me.

I think there’s also a few substantial flaws in the way we approach New Years Resolutions. For example, if I were to come up with a list right now of all the things I’d like to improve upon, the list would be pretty extensive. After all, I’m a fallible human being like anyone else and I have no shortage of areas I would like to do better in; I’d like to sharpen my academic prowess, be more sociable, be more fit, eat healthier, become a better artist, and of course be more deeply devoted to God, to name a few. The problem is that experience has taught that people don’t have enough time or energy to accomplish all that they would like to do, certainly not all at once.

Perhaps the real key to New Years Resolutions is not setting goals, but learning to prioritize. My sister was recently in a Sunday School Lesson where they were teaching how to set goals. Again. The comment she made to me was that people didn’t need to learn how to set goals, they needed to learn about how to focus in on just a few of those goals. I applied the idea to myself as I’m now about to leave for Rexburg and began a new school year. If I at new year resolved that I would be a straight A student, have a marvelous social life, be active in service projects, get a lot of exercise and an adequate amount of sleep, fulfill my callings in the church, remain spiritually strong, and kept emotionally stable, there is no way I’d be able to stick to all those resolutions. Now, I might eventually be able to establish habits that will allow me to do these things, but not if I had to divide my energy into discipling myself in so many different areas. Again, this is where I’d work a little bit at a time, beginning first with the ones I saw as more important (this is why I don’t usually get a lot of artwork done while I’m in school).

Here’s the question– If improving yourself a little bit at a time is how you make lasting differences, what is the point in taking one day to come up with ALL of the changes you want to make, and then freak out if you’re ‘failing’ by the end of the month?

Another point, I find much of my life a bit to unpredictable to anticipate what kind of goals will be appropriate. The semesters at BYU-I are short, and each one will be different in terms of my work load, how much free time I’ll have, what calling in the church I will have, and the people I’ll interact with. This in turn will change how I’ll schedule all my activities, what things will be given priority, how I will spend my weekends, what projects I will get involved in and so on. If I find that the year will involve a lot of heavy schoolwork, I’m not likely to make ‘take some time every week to do a watercolor’ one of my goals, since schoolwork takes priority (after all, I’ve got academic scholarships riding on my GPA) and I may not have enough time or energy left for watercolors. If it was an easy year, I would of course love to use the extra time to do watercolors.

Moreover Circumstances  change throughout the year. You’ll have times when it’s all you can do to keep yourself from breaking down in front of people, and you’re just on survival mode. And there’ll be times when you feel like you feel like you will conquer the world. But there’s no way you an know when that will be on January 1st. Self-iprovement must come while adapting to these different experiences, learning through the hard times and taking the extra steps forward in the good times.

Again, if New Years Resolutions helps other people, more power to them. But as for me, I’ll just be aware enough to make the changes when the opportunity or need arises throughout the years.

 

About Christmas

So sorry I didn’t make a Christmas post. Christmas was a bit bigger than I expected, and I’ve been busy ever since it.

We siblings pitched in our Christmas money to get the latest Phoenix Wright game. I told you how excited I was during the school year when I found out about the existence of such a game. It was one of the little things I would think about to make me happy when things were getting rough. I’m almost done with it now (the finale case is super intense, I needed a break). I approve of all the slight changes they made to the game play, the cases were intriguing, and as far as organization goes, it looks like they’ve shaken things up a little bit. There are good story/character moments as well.

As for the homemade audiobooks I gave, as far as I know only my youngest sister has listened to all of them. Her response was positive, but I always knew her to be the biggest fan of my work. I’m grateful that the ‘comedic storytelling’ CD was a success, since that one was the most experimental. Making these CDs was a wonderful experience. It’s great to at last make a homemade gift that’ is of decent quality and purpose (I sometimes get rather aghast at what people think would make a good homemade gift– it’s usually either to difficult to make without a thorough knowledge of the skills involved, or it’s pointless for anything but decorative purposes and flimsy to boot) I think I would like to do this more in the future. There are so many creative possibilities. It’s enough to drive one mad. I would like to explore this so very, very much. But there are things in life that must be attended to, like housekeeping and school and maybe one of these days, a job. Not enough hours in a day.

But take a look: Here’s a picture of what I managed to get done for my siblings for Christmas. Enjoy the day my friends.

 

Ten books that have stayed with me

Some time ago, a friend of mine posted this status. “Latest Facebook game: In your status line, list ten books that have stayed with you. Don’t take more than a few minutes; don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be great works, just the ones that have touched you. Tag ten friends (including me, so I’ll see your list).” Facebook games like this tend to annoy me, because they revolve around bandwagon mentality in such an insipidly blatant way, but I was intrigued by the prompt. So I decided to write about it here. I am, by the way, excluding religious texts since they would seem to me a category all on their own.

 

The Phantom Tollbooth- Witty, intelligent, light, humorous. It made me want to think of the world in a different way, which in turn broadened my vision and helped me engage more what I experienced on a day-to-day basis.

Mary Poppins- It’s difficult to explain the charm of P. L. Travers’s work, and a little disheartening to me that the rest of my family doesn’t seem to feel the way I do about it.

A Christmas Carol- Only recently did I discover this one. I think part of the reason why it was such a great experience for me was that I could listen to an audio performance of it, available at mormonchannel.org. It was a different feel than what I got from watching movies of it. Not that I have seen many, but what I have seen was not have been so enriching an experience as listening to it in Dicken’s words, and I don’t mean that in a cheesy, tacky, uppity,  literary snob type of way.

Thud- This is just one of the many Terry Pratchett books I could have listed. In fact, I rather would have liked a separate listing just for Terry Pratchett books. It would include Thud, Wyrd Sisters, The Truth, Soul Music, Hogfather, and others. They all have such gems, set in witty and intriguing story.

Wednesday Wars, but more so its sequel, Okay for Now- The narrative of these books is particularly interesting to me, because of the many and overlapping plot threads. It also includes a lot of tie-ins, from classic literature and art, to sports and pop culture. It’s told in a lighthearted sort of way, but it could get really deep. It’s hard to get the light mood and still manage to have depth, and still do a good job at the actual story telling without being incredibly tacky or obvious. But when you do get it, I like it far and above better than the hard-core ‘deep’ literature they tend to give you in school. I don’t know if many literary enthusiasts have figured out that you can have great literature without being disturbing, depressing, and/or, boring. Sorry, rant over.

The Hobbit- I actually feel weird mentioning this one, because it’s not as if I really did find it all that fascinating a story or enjoyable a read (I’m sure I’ve now incurred the wrath of a lot of people). It certainly wouldn’t make my favorite’s list in any category. But the prompt asked for stories that have ‘stayed with you.’ That’s rather broad. The fact is, that even though it doesn’t have what I look for in leisure reading, there is something about it that appeals to the core of human nature (here I recommend you take some time to study Joseph Campbell’s Heroic Journey Monomyth). I reflect on it often. Mostly when I’m going out of my comfort zone. I find I’m rather like Bilbo at the start, far to in love with comfort to be prodded out of my door easily.

The Nightingale- sadly out of print, but one of my favorite books. I love fairy-tale retellings, insofar as they are done right, and I have many other favorites in that category (Snow White and Rose Red and Entwined, for example). This one in particular does a good job as far as the setting goes, something I don’t usually take to much note of but couldn’t help but notice in this case. You really feel like you’re in a different culture, a believable rendition of ancient Japan. Moreover, it includes wit, romance, and intrigue– which I love to have in stories. The books I have mentioned here have made me think a lot about fairy tales, and why it is that people are so drawn to them.

The Prydain Chronicles- and actually, a lot of books written by Lloyd Alexander. Again, something about it resonates with the core of humanity, like the Hobbit (this is, after all, another high fantasy adventure story). Except that I like the story, characterization, wit, and narrative far better in this one (though I admit I find Bilbo more relatable than Taran). I think somebody should make a movie out of these books (and I don’t mean like Disney’s The Black Cauldren, I mean a well done live action movie).

The Knight in Rusty Armor- cheesy, I admit it, but when I read it I thought it might make a great thing to read to kids, maybe as a precursor to The Phantom Tollbooth, because it had a similar effect.

The Enchanted Forrest Chronicles- have stayed with me for the simple, but nonetheless crucial, reason that it was these books that got me into reading, and in particular reading young adult and adult books, at the age of 12. Most of the other books I listed above may have read untouched if these books didn’t teach me how fun reading could be (so long as you have a good book).

 

These books all have my recommendation. They do the soul good, and their fun.

 

Done

I’m done with the audio recordings Christmas project. I have one for every one of my four younger siblings. Most are about 55 min long, one’s only 40. Oh well. I forgot to take a picture before I wrapped them, so you’ll have to wait a few days. I’m proud of the work I’ve done. It was great to expand my horizons and tryout some new things. I can’t say how well they will be received, but if nothing else it was a learning experience. Though I will say, I think this is the best homemade present I’ve ever made. And it’s the first under the tree this year. I think only one of my siblings has noticed though.

 

I also enjoyed doing the work because it kept my mind of my anxieties for the coming year. Going off on my own is always a bit difficult. The transition is worst of all. I hope I can continue to keep myself busy until I leave. But as for now, it’s good to be done with that project. Now maybe I can actually do the work I’m supposed to, like cleaning the house.

 

Getting closer

It’s been a while since I’ve last written. Well, I’ve been really busy with those projects. It’s been tiring, I’m ready to be done with it all. I’m almost done… I guess. It’s at the point where I’m like, “Well, it’s not brilliant but there’s not much more I can do to it.” I’m not sure how brilliant these recordings actually are, it’s not easy to measure without someone on the receiving end. I’m torn between my desire to do a good job and my desire to have done and get it wrapped and under the tree already.

We don’t have any presents under the tree yet. I suppose that’s part of the reason why Christmas seemed to come so fast this year, there hasn’t been a lot of anticipation involved. Low-budget holiday. I’m good with that, though of course there are the corners of my soul that feel it’s a rather anti-climatic way to end the year. I’m chalking that up to the crankiness I’ve been feeling lately, because I’m a terribly light sleeper and since my bedroom’s right next to the living room (which hears the most activity), sometime’s it’s hard to feel like I’m getting adequate sleep.

 

I’m trying to let my mind be calm. Peaceful. Like this image I just finished creating today. Thank goodness it’s done. Another project off my shoulder and to my credit, which I’m still struggling to feel triumphant about (it’ll be a delayed reaction I’m sure). This is what I said about it when I posted it on Facebook: “At last it is done. For those who like to see me post artwork, I’m sorry I haven’t for a while, I’ve been involved with other projects. Time consuming, exhausting, but hopefully worthwhile projects. This probably only got done because my sister had to borrow my laptop for something, and I able to take a break from what I’m doing. This image was inspired from a great piece of literature, A Christmas Carol. I was thinking of the Ghost of Christmas Past when it came to mind, but did not create it based on the description Dickens gave. I thought this would be prettier. In the end I think this image is… pretty sorta close to what I hoped it would look like. Kind of.”

 

Knowing

I discovered yesterday that I know myself pretty well. I have a clear idea of what my strengths, weaknesses, talents, preferences, fears, and trials are. I know what I’m grateful for and what I hope for. I feel like I diagnose my emotions fairly well and have a general sense of what approaches to take to the problems I face. I chalk this up in large part to those hours I spent journaling instead of doing homework or going to bed. Getting to know myself was one of my goals as a teenager. I wanted to unwrap some of my potential. I think I’ve succeeded given how much time I’ve spent in this life. And, in coming to know myself, I’m rather glad to have met me. I mean, I’m not perfect, but I think I am an interesting person. If I were a character written in a book basically as I am now, I think I would enjoy reading it.

 

Now that I am pretty familiar with this world inside of me, my challenge in these young adult years is finding where I place in the world outside of me. For instance, I know what some of my talents are, I just need to figure out how I’m to use them to contribute to my family and community at large. It’s not easy. Getting to know myself wasn’t easy either. It took time. It took being brutally honest with myself. I can still remember how odd it was for me to discover that I didn’t actually enjoy playing video games as much as the rest of my family. It was strange to have that individual aspect. And there are all sorts of hidden nuances like that in people. Finding my place in the world… I imagine that’s going to take digging too. Being as I am not an adventurous soul, the idea gives me pause, but there’s nothing you can do about it is there? It’s going to happen one way or another. You may as well steel yourself.

Monday looks brighter

I admit I was a little bit cranky yesterday. I don’t know what it is about Sundays and me lately. They ought to be one of the best days of the week, but sometimes my worst days are Sundays. Admittedly, this morning wasn’t all that fun either. Winter driving. Trying to maintain a safe distance between the car  going 35 on a 55 mph area in front of me. But since I’ve gotten to work on my projects, things have been looking better. Nothing like work to heal the souls I guess. I’m working on two projects, audiobook and artwork. I hope to get both of them done before Christmas, and like I said before, it might be a close call.

 

The artwork will probably be made into a card. It’s sort of Christmas-y. Sort of. I mean, I came up with the idea when I was thinking about A Christmas Carol. It’s kinda inspired by the Ghost of Christmas Past. Except… that it doesn’t look like the way he’s described in the book. So it will be different. It will be… more me-ish. I’m not sure that’s exactly a desirable quality for something related to Christmas, but I mean it well. I’ll post a picture when I have it ready.

 

I don’t know how I’m going to push myself into getting everything done it time, but I’m sure I’ll find a way.

It’s friday gang

My art teacher would always say “It’s friday gang” on fridays.

 

Wonder of wonders, I did some coloring today. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked on any art– about a month. It’s weird being back, because the pattern is so familiar, but it still has kind of a new feeling to it. As I said before, I don’t want to let my art skills get rusty because I’m working on other projects. I still hope to get those projects done before Christmas (less than two weeks already?) but this morning I’ll be doing art. I may work on my project in the evening. See, there’s a Christmas part at my church, but not all of the family will fit into our car, so some will stay behind. It would be perfect if I was left behind, because I can’t record comfortably with people around. Unfortunately, there’s always someone in the house, which is very small and not really sound proof. That’s why I usually go into the car to record, but that’s been harder to do since it got cold. But I might have the house to almost to myself this evening, so that’s a possibility.

 

I love that I can keep myself busy with all these projects and trying new things. It’s a wonderful opportunity. I just wish I could… give back somehow. Despite all that I do, sometimes I wonder if I’m actually contributing. But I think it has and will pay off in the little things, like when my friends ask for one of my prints or when my little sister quotes my comic to me.