Thursday, May 31, 2007

Surprisingly Monumental

Today was a surprisingly monumental day. I wasn’t expecting it at all, but three major things happened today. The first was the most adult, I think. Yesterday I turned in my contract at Capital University. I have been hired as a Visiting Assistant Professor of English beginning Fall semester of 2007. What’s exciting about the job, besides the fact that it’s an actual job with a reasonable salary, is that there are benefits associated with it. It’s not like I haven’t had insurance before, but the benefits package which was explained to me today by a woman in HR, is way more than that. I get Life Insurance, a retirement account (TIAA-CREF), a flexible spending account and more. This is probably all completely normal for most people my age, but for me, this is ALL new. Not only is it exciting, but it’s also a little terrifying. It means that I’m a real adult with an actual job and a reasonable salary. As much as I like to complain about the difficulties of being a student at my age because of the obvious arrested development (and yes, I still think the song “Tennessee” whenever I hear this term, though I did really enjoy the TV show about the Bluths) I seemingly suffer, I’m almost more concerned about truly becoming an adult in this way. It seems almost as significant as graduating, but I’m sure when that actually happens I will disagree with myself.

After I heard about my benefits I went for a routine haircut, or so I thought. I went in just wanting to get the ends trimmed, but I did something more bold, something more significant, something utterly life-changing. I GOT BANGS!!! For my male readers, I realize that you may not understand the significance of such a move, but it is such a big deal. I have not had bangs since I was in third grade and those were feathered. Yes, I said feathered. I look completely different and I apologize to those of you who were big fans of cute little forehead because now it is obscured with my shiny, shiny bangs. It’s a new look for me, but I’m loving it though I do find myself a little more obsessed with my mirror.

The third monumental thing I did was attend a poetry reading/open mike/slam contest here in Columbus. I was trying to remember the last time I went to one and I think it was when I was back in Toledo and was a Co-founder of Toledo Poets which met at the now defunct Bagpiper’s bar and Pub in downtown Toledo. It was a lovely experience that my friend encouraged me to attend. Although I didn’t participate in the open mike portion, I was a judge for the Grand Slam, in which the four winners would represent Writer’s Block (the name of the poetry group) at the National Slam contest in Austin, Texas in August. Being a judge was fun and reminded me just how much I love poetry and writing. Before the poetry even began I found myself coming up with some ideas, and I wrote a poem on the receipt for my haircut. Here it is:

Writer’s Block (05/30/07)

Kept my words to myself
On my first night
Back in the saddle

I’ve never ridden horses here
And not sure I remember
How to climb up
Much the less
How to gallop
Without stumbling

Tripping on my feet
And on my phrases

The now unfamiliar ring
Of poems in my head
Reminds me

That somehow
I’m destined for this
Or at least named for it

Kavita means poem

I mean poem
I mean poem
I mean poem

The name Kavita does mean poem. Look it up on wikipedia if you don’t believe me.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Better Late Than Never…

I know that “better late than never” is a cliché to the nth degree, but I’m finding that this one is quite apt in my life, especially at this time. As the semester ends, I am trying to look back over the past two semesters and see the difference that time has made. Since I’ve moved to Columbus, I’ve been making a lot of adaptations and discovering just how much I’ve changed. I’ve been trying to discern the impetus for these transformations, but I’m having some difficulty. The most sensical idea is that since my environment has changed, I have accordingly adapted to it. That is true on many minute levels. I have gone back to calling soda, “pop,” as is colloquial here in Ohio; my driving has become markedly less aggressive; and I smile and make eye contact with strangers on a much more regular basis than I did during my years on Long Island. Those are all fairly small changes, but the largest modifications seem to relate most directly to my personal life.

The ways I handle things within all of my interpersonal relationships seem to have improved. I’ve always been a fairly reasonable listener and advice-giver, but I’m finding that my patience and tolerance of such things has grown by leaps and bounds. Things that I used to find tiresome or ridiculous, I am able to more openly discuss and with less judgment. I am also less critical of others’ foibles, though certain mispronunciations do and will always irk me to no end. (Sorry Amy!) The most important of these interpersonal changes is that I am not as quick to react, or in my case, overreact when faced with certain situations. Although I still do analyze everything too much (according to most of my friends), I am much more capable of taking my analyses less seriously and just thoroughly enjoying the moment, or as recent events, would have it, moments. I remember not so long ago a time when I would overreact and over-analyze a circumstance which invariably was really of little significance or more importantly consequence to me, and all it really did was cause consternation. Now I’m finally better at these things…better late than never…I suppose.

Again, I’m not sure whether to attribute this to fresh Midwestern values and aesthetics, to my maturation and growing as a person, or to something else entirely. I have found that the two books that I taught to my students at Ohio Dominican University really affected me quite profoundly. In the Fall, I taught Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. This fact, in itself, isn’t that significant because last fall constituted the fourth time I had taught this particularly lovely novel. I even taught it when I was 28, the same age as the protagonist Edna Pontellier. For some reason, only at age 31 did it ring as true and as wholly within me. For those of you who haven’t read it, I suggest that anyone can benefit from reading this classic.

What I gained from it on a personal level, is the idea that a person MUST be satisfied with her own life and must live for herself. Although her decisions were inherently selfish, she reveled in them because they were hers and she owned them, without them owning her. Even if others were critical and didn’t approve of the direction in which she was heading, she was content with herself. I find it’s easier to make decisions that are valuable to the whole of society, or one’s family or friends, but often much more difficult to make decisions solely for one’s own benefit. It also reminds me of a few lines from Tori Amos’s song “Everybody Else’s Girl”—“She’s been every body else’s girl/ Maybe one day she’ll be her own.” I’ve realized that the only PERSON I am really responsible to is me and it’s been a hard lesson to learn. A few of you reading this know exactly what this feels like.

The book I just finished teaching this Spring was Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Like the titular character, it can and does become quite easy to obsess over one’s youth and beauty, and perhaps lack thereof. The discussion of youth as put forth by the lovely Lord Henry Wotton to our very impressionable Dorian Gray states that “When your youth goes, your beauty goes with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you, or have to be content with those mean triumphs that the memory of your past will make more bitter than defeats. Every month as it wanes brings you nearer to something dreadful” (Wilde 16). Although ultimately, Lord Henry’s speech becomes more a defense of seizing the day as he claims that Dorian should “Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensation. Be afraid of nothing,” his claims about the importance of youth bring about much to ponder (Wilde 16).

It seems fitting that since I recently had a birthday I would be contemplating youth and its ephemeral existence, but I have realized that as much as I wish to cherish my youth (if one calls being 32 young), I am really pleased with the maturation and adult version of myself that I have now become. The triumphs that Lord Henry suggest are located only in youth, can be found at any point in time when one is searching for a new and improved way to live one’s life. Despite all of the negative influence that Lord Henry has on Dorian and the implications of it, Lord Henry does speak a great deal of truth: “The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one’s self” (Wilde 13). It’s this self-development that I have been witnessing and undergoing somewhat simultaneously.

After rereading what I’ve just written, it seems that I am advocating a selfish attitude towards one’s life, and perhaps I am, but not in the way one often thinks of the word selfish. Although it does require some forsaking of others, being truly selfish, and considering one’s own feelings and desires as paramount, CAN be a positive thing, depending on the person. If you are already one of those people who can’t and don’t think of others, then this is not for you. More people than not, I believe in my currently optimistic, glass-half-full, mentality, choose to honor others’ desires and feelings over one’s own. This can result in a great deal of unhappiness, unfulfilled dreams and can overall be detrimental to one’s own psyche.

I cannot overemphasize how much one needs to understand the difference between being true to oneself and being selfish in the completely negative sense. Living in a post 9/11 world and now in a post-Virginia Tech massacre kind of world, it’s of the utmost significance that we understand the shades of meaning and myriad ways in which these feelings of empowerment of oneself and one’s actions regarding this can affect other people. As a former English major, current PhD student in English and current instructor on the college level, I do firmly comprehend the difficulties one can have in negotiating between these various levels of independence of thought and action.

I find that since I moved to Columbus, though the reasons for that move were by no means selfish, I have made some really important decisions for myself where the only person that was consulted and referred to was me. That’s not to say that I didn’t, from time to time, ask my friends about their opinions about the various situations in which I tend to tangle myself, but the fact is, that ultimately, I decided to go with my own beliefs on the situation and not rely on their opinions for validation of my decisions. I learned to depend on me, and yes, I realize that’s from Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.” Again, better late than never, no?

As a coda to all these internal revelations, I would like to note that some of my new experiences, including: eating oysters, re-discovering my creative writing abilities, (though perhaps in a unique format and genre,) and reconnecting with my journaling, have really made this cliché of “better late than never” even more appropriate.

Oh, and if you happen to be one of the few and privileged who know the details of my actual experiences, please remember that I write about them obliquely purposefully.

Work Cited

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. 1891. Dover: New York, 1993.