Tag Archive | Soapbox

Another reason why people are awesome

I know I haven’t written in a while. I’ve gone back to keeping a computerized journal, where I can write a little more freely than publishing it here online. Also I’ve been emailing my friend who’s currently in Thailand, which is kinda like a second journal, so there hasn’t been a lit of point in writing here. Things have been busy. I became a volunteer worker for one thing, I’m a Gateway Seminar Facilitator. It’s like being a teacher, but they call it a “facilitator” because rather than teaching we are supposed to be facilitating discussion about “Inspired Learning and Teaching.” I facilitated my first seminar yesterday. Most of the others got to observe a seminar before facilitating one, but I was one of the first so I didn’t have that option.

It didn’t go terribly, but I was a little down with the results. I thought there was more I could have done. I emailed my friend, going into detail which I won’t bother to include here. I still feel great about being a facilitator, like that’s what I’m supposed to do at this time, but I was significantly humbled and in a little bit of emotional distress.

Then today, my other good friend (he is, in fact, engaged to the friend currently in Thailand) brought me some chocolate. One bar was labeled “Day-after-bad-day-bar” and the other was labeled “Anti-bad-day-bar.” It was so sweet, and for a while I couldn’t’ figure out how he knew about my bad day yesterday. Then I realized that his fiancé must have told him and asked him to cheer me up (I had said in the email that after that experience I could do with some chocolate). That means that I not only have one, but two of the best friends in the world. How do people get this awesome? I want to be like that. It was one of the sweetest gestures I’ve ever received.

And all I could think of to do was say thank you.

But at least I got to be creative with the thank you. I created this card by putting my iTunes visualizer on full screen, taking a screenshot, and adding in words.

 

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.

 

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.

Small minded

Sometimes I think I live in a world of small minded people. Usually I don’t let it bother me too much, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and sometimes that leads to irritation. But it’s not the small mindedness of others that I’m thinking of. It’s mine.

 

Oh I used to dream. Sugar plum dreams so strong they were enough to give you toothache. I’d picture the magazine cover home, decked out in all its holiday glory, inside there would be a golden glow around the piles of presents and the piles of food, and Christmas music in the background. I used to dream of it. Not that I would wish for it, just that it would give me something to think about at night when I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited.

 

It was a wonderful thing to have in childhood. It’s good for children. But then you grow older and your mind shifts, and that’s fine too.

 

Our car’s gotten worse. It doesn’t work at all now. Our Christmas this year will be even more simplistic than usual, partially out of the greater need for practicality and partially because there aren’t a lot of material things that we want. And people, if they knew, might pity us. But they don’t understand. There are things that I want. Of course there are things that I want. Things so deeply that they can’t even imagine, because they’re still off in the shallows chasing after the holiday sales and technology toys that’ll be outdated in a few  years.

 

I don’t indulge in the sugar plum dreams so much these days. Not that I have a problem with cherishing fantasies, but I’m a genuine soul, so I don’t engage in daydreams that don’t reflect what I really want.  I don’t want bells and whistles and Christmas cards from relatives whose only communication with us is via Christmas card. I wouldn’t mind going to a Christmas party (I like food), but I’m at all cut up about the fact that it might not happen due to transportation. The gift situation is similar.

 

What I really want is for my friends to think of me fondly, and let me know they think of me fondly. I get so desperate for attention sometimes. I want to be appreciated in a very real sense, not the Facebook “Like” kind of approach. I’d also like to be able to create something, a story or a piece of artwork or similar, to develop my talents and be able to do truly remarkable things with them. But I’m not sure that’s something my fellow mortals can help out a lot with. I’d be content with a show of friendship, however that may manifest itself. There’s more than one love language after all.

 

“There are greater things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dream’t of in your philosophy.”

The gaps you have to fill in

First I thought I’d give you an update on the image I’m working on. You recall I’ve been working on an image which includes water and splashes, something I’ve always wanted to do but could never figure out how it would work. I never would have believed that I could actually be doing it now, and it’s not even that hard! It looks pretty good, so I’ve just got to get the rest of the image to work out and… well, hope for the best. Even if the overall look of the thing doesn’t turn out the way I would like it, I’m already glad I decided to try it out and discover that this sort of thing is actually possible.

 

The second thing I wanted to talk about was… well, it was actually a thought I got from watching Dancing with the Stars. Oftentimes on the show there will be a star who, although not the best dancer, lights up the room when they perform. It’s just a joy and a pleasure to see them. It makes me think about people you know in real life who are like that, the people who make your day better just by being there. There’s an indefinable quality about them. I would really love to be able to emulate that, but I’m not entirely sure how to do that.

Sometimes I think about those times when you’re a kid, and teachers keep asking you what you want to be when you grow up– which, even as a kid, I’ve always thought was something of a stupid question. Especially now that I’m older, I realize there are a lot of things I want to be, but none of them really relate to a career, and few of them are anything directly addressed in school curriculums. Of course education is extremely important in being successful in life, but there are so many gaps you have to fill in yourself.

The best example I can think of right now is comedy. Being funny isn’t easy, yet somehow you manage to get some hilarious people in life. I would love be funny. I’ve always enjoyed being entertained and made to laugh, and I really like the idea of giving that same feeling of pleasure to other people by being funny. But they didn’t offer classes on humor in my high school. So all of my success in academia, all of my study habits and good grades… they didn’t really help me become funnier. So how do some people get to be so funny in real life? Now, I’m not completely sure of the answer, but I’m thinking that rather than having a teacher and coursework, it has more to do just have a sort of awareness and being willing and able to piece things together– like figuring out comedic timing and the nuances of verbal irony and so on. Humor is something we really value in human beings, and yet it’s something we largely leave people to figure out for themselves, maybe out of the mistaken impression that some people are ‘born’ with it and others aren’t, but it’s a talent that takes nurturing like anything else.

That’s the best example I can think of, but there are a lot of other things too– things that are valuable to know but aren’t directly addressed or valued in the school curriculum.

 

 

Fall’s flights of fantasy

The air’s getting cooler. Fall is my favorite season, my very favorite. When I was younger I took an especially romantic view of it. Fall, I decided, was the time when magical things happened. The trees change colors, the weather becomes more temperate, and the harvest brings treats like pumpkin pie and hot chocolate. In my mind I’d add that this, of course, also made it the best time for dates, going on walks, and setting aside time to read a new Calvin and Hobbes comic book, wrapped up with a blanket and well stocked with peanut butter-cracker sandwiches. In one of my old journals I described this tendency of mind as a ‘flair for the theatrics.’

 

Nevertheless, I do like to indulge in these little flights of fantasy which get to ignore certain parts of reality, like paying for Fall semester insurance and the fact that my little brother is still struggling with his health. It’s good to believe that something wonderful might happen soon, for no other reason except that it’s Fall, which is my favorite season and therefore full of magic. Any little excuse to be a kid again.

 

This year already has great potential. My brother is coming home from his mission in October. So, for a time at least, we’ll have our whole family together again. And though I have read all of the Calvin and Hobbes books there are, I have found another source of the wrap-up-in-a-blanket-and-enjoy-some-comedy variety of entertainment; Studio C season 3 begins in October as well, dedicated to providing clean comedy to be enjoyed by the whole family. We will undoubtably visit the indian mound near our home, especially when my brother comes back and we look for ways to spend time together. It’s a beautiful place, and even more so with the turning of the leaves. Plus, if my brother is back by that time, I can use his camera– which won’t have a broken LCD screen like mine does. This is great, because I’m hoping to get lots of good nature photos for a project I have in mind. Treats seem likely enough. And when the kids get a break from school we’ll have even more time to watch movies together and play DDR and have girl nights. After all, I still need to get my Mom to see Sherlock, and to get my youngest sister into Sense and Sensibility and Emma.

 

The fun thing about the future is that it hasn’t happened yet, so there’s no reason not to believe that you’ll get at least one spark of that magic.  The trick, I believe, is being aware enough to notice when you do get those sparks. I hope that people, in their passionate pursuit of intellectual progression, don’t forget to school their sensibilities as well. We miss too much in life if we leave out those parts of it that make us human.

 

Finished listening to The Screwtape Letters by the way. Well worth looking into. I would recommend them. My brother has previously recommended Merely Christian to me. The Screwtape Letters is the only work of C. S. Lewis’s that I’ve read aside from the Narnia books. It’s a shame, because I think at this point in my life I would find all other works of C. S. Lewis’s to be far more interesting than that series. Don’t misunderstand, they are good and valuable books which I think everyone should be exposed to. They are, nevertheless, aimed at a younger audience, and I find myself eager for a higher level of engagement than they provide.

 

Why I journal

It is difficult for me to explain fully why I journal, since it has applied itself so usefully for many various purposes. And yet, it is difficult to give specific illustrations and examples. Rather than one big pay-off, the benefits of journaling have found their way into the small little details of my life, and in many subtle ways have added substance to my character. Unfortunately, I think that journaling is an undervalued art. Had I the eloquence of the old poets, with the same capacity to move an audience, I would try to persuade them to journal as well that they too can reap the benefits.

 

 

I think the initial problem most people face when journalling is that they don’t know what to write. I certainly had that problem when I first started out. This was because I was under the impression that a journal was where you were supposed to write about your day, and I didn’t think my days were interesting to write about. My life, I concluded, was rather unexciting.

These days, I find the concept that a person could have ‘nothing to write about’ completely appalling. Perhaps writing about their day would be boring to them. That’s fine, I find my days tend to be boring to write about too. But think of when you talk to people. You talk about what you’re interested in. And if your day was nothing special to talk about, that doesn’t keep you from holding a conversation. You talk about a movie you really like, or about your family, or a funny story that happened, or why you’re having a bad day at school. Many topics of conversation would work as well in your journal. If there is nothing you enjoy conversing about, or you find you don’t have anything interesting to say to anybody else, this suggests to me that your life needs some adjusting.

When I journal, I often use it to discuss problems that I am having. Writing about what I’m going through, “venting”– if you will, is theruputic in an of itself. I can express those feelings I try to keep under the surface so that they don’t negatively impact my actions. Putting them down on paper means I can adress those feelings in a controlled environment where no one else need suffer any consequences. But journalling really becomes useful when you move past the “venting” stage, and engage in dialectical thinking, which is examining a problem or situation by question and answer. For instance, the question might be “What am I feeling?” “Why am I feeling this way?” and “What are some possible solutions or plans of action that I can take?”

This takes a more proactive approach to the trial in question. Therefore, journalling can help provide solutions rather than allowing you to just wallow, as people are so apt to do. Or, they take the escape route, and try to get rid of their problems by watching a movie or listening to music. I believe these activities have their place, but they can only get you so far. Journalling confronts a problem, and helps you work your way through it.

Then there are times like these, when I fell I have found insight, or have stumbled upon an interesting idea that I think should be explored. Journalling is particularly important with times like these, and should be used in conjunction with pondering. Meditation or deep thinking on a subject is invaluable, yet our minds are often led to distraction and even cherished thoughts tend to be forgotten. Journalling while we ponder, however, helps us focus, gives us direction, and keeps a record of our thoughts, so they can be reviewed and not forgotten. We are arrogant indeed if we think that our every flash of insight will be deeply recorded in a memory, and we therefore have no need to write it down.

There is one subject about journalling, however, which I still struggle with. Should we jounral for our posterity, our should we focus on our personal reasons for journalling? In the past I have found issue with the idea of journalling for our posterity. For example, there are some who feel they have a tendency to ‘self edit’ when they think that what they write will be viewed by their children and grandchildren. Editing seems to me to completely defeat the purpose of journalling, which ought to be a safe environment where they can explore thoughts and emotions. Censoring what is written may cripple the benefits of journalling, because you’re no longer being open and honest with yourself. For those reasons, I believe that journalling should be a very personal and private thing.

However, I think there are some things that could and should be shared. I’m compiling a record, which takes the best stories and experiences from my journals, the portions that have real value, which I plan to preserve for future generations.

Bigger than ourselves

So… I guess I sort of came up with a story idea before drifting off to sleep last night. I was thinking of the Headless Horseman, because of something I read from I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett. Then I decided that the Headless Horseman was really a life sized wooden doll created by toymaker Dross L. Mire (drosselmeyer). It was Dross who got rid of his head, in a story similar to that of Beethoven’s when he wrote Eroica, his third symphony. He had originally named it Buonaparte, in honor of Napoleon, who he saw as a hero. When he discovered that Napoleon had declared himself Emperor, he went into a rage and tore the title page of the symphony (whereupon “Buonaparte” was written) in half. I don’t know how I would go about actually typing this up into a story, but I might give it a shot.

 

I received an email from my brother yesterday. We were discussing art, and he said “It’s an almost funny thing trying to figure out where our ideas come from as it’s more a case of an exploratory journey our mind takes.” I was glad he said that, because it goes back to an idea I’ve already related to you– that I consider art to be more of an exploration than expression. Sometimes when I here why other people like to do art or creative things, many times younger people or people who haven’t spent as much time in their craft, they say they like it because they can “express” themselves, and I guess that’s true to a certain extent, but it’s also a bit lacking. I feel like there is more to art than us taking something out of ourselves and putting it out into the world in visual form for others to find, that seems to me to put too much glory in ourselves. But if we are also searching, and then invite others to search with us by putting out that visual form, then I think we’re reaching for something bigger than ourselves.

That yearning for something bigger than ourselves is, I think, part of being human. That’s why humans gain so much from the arts and humanities, that’s why they feel more complete when they connect with their family and reach out to their community to serve others, that’s why people sacrifice themselves for what we believe in. I think it’s something God put in us so that we can reach our full potential and fill the world with light.

 

Hello my people

I have internet again. And I’ve got some down time. It’s been busy since last I chatted. For all of that, I don’t feel like I have much to say.

I will say that I’m looking forward to seeing my family tomorrow. Those are my people, you know? The summer is not far from being over, and I still haven’t seen them yet. I look forward to the time when I’ll be able to do stuff with them again. Mostly watching movies. What can I say? That’s how I like to spend time with people, watching movies and chatting all throughout and after. And even though I’ve had a pretty interesting adventure out here in the west, I honestly feel–

You don’t believe me yet, do you?

I’ll continue anyway.

– I honestly feel like the best part is going to be when I can be with my immediate family again, and we can hang out like we always do; trips to Cedar Park, watching movies, making popcorn, showing off our creations, and suchlike. Really, you don’t a major vacation to spend quality time with the family– even though that’s good fun and can get you out to see a lot of cool stuff. But if you think family time has to be something big, you’re not going to be very effective in establishing those bonds.

You just need to find your niche. For instance, when I was a kid the ‘family’ thing to do was play a board game together. I found out I wasn’t really into board games. I like watching movies with my family. Now, not everybody likes to watch movies with me. But that’s okay. That’s why you do several different things. Some people can play the board games, while others watch the movie or make the popcorn. Let’s not all try to fit one mold here, but go out in a number of different directions so we can reach out to all of our family members. It’ll be harder for some than others, but that doesn’t mean you love them less.