Books I’ve Read: Brave New World Revisited


I first read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley as a junior in high school. I was the only person in my class who absolutely loved it. I thought everything about it was fascinating. This was a world where everything we had ever learned to be taboo was completely acceptable and even encouraged– sex, drugs, designer babies, and mass discrimination, all under governmental control. I was floored. And I was extremely disappointed when we had to write a paper on Lord of the Flies instead. Yes, yes, the conch is a symbol of innocence and when it breaks, it signifies that their innocence has been lost. Groundbreaking.

I did enjoy reading the latter novel, but something about Huxley’s dystopia has stuck with me all these years. Occasionally, I’ll read an article about a scientific breakthrough or global leadership and see a scene from Brave New World in my mind. Talk about doing your job well.

But this isn’t about the original story, it’s about the author’s reflections decades later on if and how any parts of his creation are coming true. I saw it in a bookstore, Brave New World Revisited, and just had to buy it. After sitting on my shelf for a couple years, I’ve finally gotten through it. And once again, I am floored.

In Revisited, Huxley talks a great deal about dictatorships, propaganda, and controlling the population, themes that were laid on heavy in his novel. With these reflections, he has now seen the Great Depression, the rise and fall of Hitler and Mussolini as well as other dictators, and two World Wars; a second “police action” in full swing and civil unrest over Vietnam; and culture changing drastically with the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of “hippie culture” (in this case meaning drugs), and tremendous technological and medical advances– including birth control. Many parts of this landscape are the same factors that lead to the disturbing society of Brave New World.

This short but very heavy read is frighteningly relevant even today. More than anything, his analysis of how dictators (though really anyone in power or who would like to be) utilize media and language to gain, inspire, and mobilize followers against a perceived enemy makes me look at the current socio-political climate of the United States and shudder. Something written five decades ago with Adolf Hitler as the poster child for population manipulation should not be a reflection of current events, but as it stands in my eyes, this is the case.

I enjoyed reading how the author perceived his vision to be right or wrong, and the ways he worked in various philosophical and scientific ideas to support his analyses. More than anything, I was intrigued and a little scared at how science fiction of the past is slowly morphing into our present and future. There are definitely times where I wish we would consider the fiction of yesterday a warning against tomorrow. But alas, we do not seem to make the connection.

Would I recommend this book? On its own, likely not. But if you start with the novel, the essay is brilliant.

 

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An Ode To My First


We always remember firsts. And my dear, you were wonderful.

The late night drives. The road trips. The moves. The karaoke sessions. You were fantastic through them all. We traveled so well together. You got along so well with my friends. You pulled me through some tricky situations. I didn’t always treat you the best; there were things I could have done so much differently. I know this now, and you have taught me how to do better as I go forward.

Many told me you weren’t worth it, I was putting too much time and money into you. But to me, you were everything. “You can do so much better,” they said, not knowing that in that moment you were what I needed, you gave me the ability and confidence to do so much, and I loved you. I couldn’t do better then because I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to give you up, and I wasn’t prepared for better. I kept you until the time was right, and then we parted ways.

There were tears. It was hard. I still wasn’t ready emotionally; I wanted to keep you forever. But I was at the point that I needed to let you go. I had gotten all I could out of you, and though I know we could have stayed together longer if I had taken better care of what we had, it was time. We both needed to move on, you to someone else who you could help, who might treat you better, and me to something new, something practical instead of emotional, something else I needed to learn.

This new fling may offer more, may be less used and abused by the world, may be better suited for who I am now and last longer, but you were perfect for who I was then, and you will always hold a place in my heart as my first.

I will always love you, my beloved 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe. I miss you already. Thank you for all you helped me accomplish as my first car.

Times Like These


It’s one of those nights when emotion runs high. I read words, hear music, see images, and a string is pulled inside me. Hairs stand on end. Tears fall to attention in my eyes. Breath leaps from my lips. Everything fills me with awe and wonder, and suddenly I find so much beauty in a world that not so long ago was so ugly I couldn’t stand to look.

It’s nights like these when I’ll lie awake, conversing with the dark, asking questions of the stars twinkling beyond the ceiling above my bed. How do they do it? I’ll wonder. How do their minds find these paths that lead them to such treasures? Then the mirror at the foot of my bed joins the conversation, and in the dark, the me staring back is not as pretty as in daylight. You’re not that good. You don’t try hard enough. You’ll never be on that level. It makes me wonder if the mirror isn’t right. Do I have enough skill? Is my vocabulary sufficient? Are my heart and my soul either tortured or beautiful enough to create something that sends a chill and a prickle through the system? Am I even a writer?

It’s days like these I wish I wanted to be something different.writing-utensils.jpg

Do Better


I think the calendar skipped a few months. I swear it was August just yesterday. Where did the time go? Why is there snow on the ground? Why are radio stations playing Christmas music? I need that time back.

I’m feeling restless again. Restless to be doing something different than what I’m doing. A better job, a different job, more writing, less hating British Literature, a little more travel, a little less driving the same stretch of freeway twice a day. My to-do list consists of papers and tests, but what I’d like to do is worry about my writing and job preparation. I want to really get working on life instead of sitting in the isolated cubicle of college. And the missing months between August and today did nothing for that, except maybe inspire me a little.

I know it’s going to go by quickly. I’ll be writing another post with the same question, “Where has all the time gone?” in the future I’m sure. I guess maybe restless isn’t the right word. Maybe… off track, took a wrong turn, missed my exit is a better description. I always seem to come back to this feeling, too. I need a better routine. I need to increase my productivity. I need to achieve a goal and feel like I’m getting somewhere. I need to do better.

Any suggestions on how to do better?


So… Hi everyone. I’m back. For a second at least, though I hope it’s more. I’ve been away for a while, and I apologize to you, and to myself. I let other things get in the way, and I probably shouldn’t have. But here I am, so we’ll just forget the past, or at least forgive it, and move on with the blog.

Life has been driving along some interesting roads lately, somewhat literally and tremendously figuratively. Literally, I finally got a car back in April, so driving strange roads is somewhat of an everyday thing now. I also spent a lot of time driving back and forth between Cleveland and Sandusky, where I lived for the summer as an employee of Cedar Point. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s only the Best Amusement Park in the World. Seriously, it’s been voted so sixteen times in a row by some council. It was a pretty cool job, and I’ll definitely tell you all about it, but I’m going to save that for another blog. Also literally, I’ve become a commuter instead of a resident at BW. So lots of driving everyday. Surprisingly, I’m still as excited to drive as the day I got my license. Hopefully I can keep that going.

Speaking of BW, which will move us into the figuratively category, I’m currently a junior, still an English major, still a Communications minor. And I’ve still got my heart set on being a writer, even more so after taking a fiction workshop with the fabulous Michael Garriga. Some things have changed though. First, I made the decision to drop the Honors program. It was a lot of extra work for no good reason. The program was primarily built around music and science majors, and there would have been a lot of jumping through hoops to get the courses and credits I needed. So after talking to both my advisers, we came to the conclusion that I needed to turn my focus elsewhere– namely to my writing dreams. So that’s what I’m doing. Also, I’m working on the semester abroad I’ve always dreamed of, hopefully for Fall 2014. I have some details to work out there, but I’m determined to make it happen.

I’m also intent on securing an internship over the summer, perhaps something in editing or publishing. I realized with the fiction workshop that I love helping other people make their writing better. It’s kind of fulfilling as a reader to actually help an author improve. For this, I know I have to start working with the school newspaper, which will hopefully go better this time. And getting involved with Wordsmiths is an excellent way to work on critical reading– it’s a lot like the fiction workshop. If possible, I’d like to work as an editor of our fine arts publication, The Mill. Since applications were already due for this year, I’ll have to be sure to work on that for next year.

Something else I’ve been thinking about is what to do after graduation. At this point, I have no set profession in mind. I’d love to be a writer, but that’s going to take some time, and I need something that can pay my bills right out of the gate. Maybe the internship or study abroad or some other unforeseen event will change that and put me on the path to a lucrative career I can dive into. But as of right now, my best option seems to be exploring. And I’ve found an excellent way to do that. My aunt and uncle told me about a job opportunity with Xanterra, Inc., a company that staffs tourist services in national parks. What better way to explore and travel, as well as make money? It would just be seasonal employment, but it would at least be something, and it would allow me to keep paying my bills while I look for something more stable. It would also no doubt provide some inspiration, considering the parks are in the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, the wilds of Alaska, the deserts of the Southwest. Opportunities abound, even while working such mundane jobs as retail or rentals.

For right now, I’m working through another semester while biding my time working the snack bar at a bowling alley near school. It’s keeping my bills paid, and that’s really what I need. That, and the encouragement of my closest friends and family and my brilliant and wacky professors, as well as my lovely advisor. And I have to be more open to change. Because as my closest companion keeps telling me, I can’t keep trying to recreate the past, when I was comfortable and happy and everything seemed to be going right (at least upon reflection). So I’m going to try some new roads, and hopefully, they’ll end at the destination I have in mind. At the very least, it’s going to be quite an adventure.

On the Road Again

Happy Birthday to Me


Today is my 20th birthday. I celebrate this day with such names as Dr. Seuss and John Irving. Jon Bon Jovi, as well, but I’m more concerned with the writers. I don’t feel very different, not older or wiser or more like an adult. But I feel much as I have over the past few months, like I need to push forward with more fervor than I have as of late. Somewhere along the line, I lost something– my mojo, my verve, my spirit, my confidence. Whatever it was, I need to get it back. Feeling stuck isn’t for me.

Maybe I lost it my senior year of high school, when I was at the top of all the organizations I cared about, but everyone else stopped caring so I was essentially useless. Sitting in AP classes where no one wanted to act like honors students was insulting. Conducting musical ensembles where I was told flat out that I wasn’t respected was painful. Striving to maintain a tradition of high standards was exhausting and almost in vain because I was among only a handful to want to do it. Insult and injury were only intensified when my efforts were overlooked and went unrewarded– not that I did it for the recognition, I did it because I cared, but a bit of reward in the form of scholarships or just a senior spotlight in the yearbook would have been nice.

I didn’t just give up, though I did slow down a bit after that. Things weren’t quite as up to par as they had been throughout my years in Bedford. College was a transition that was difficult to make after a year of, “Well, no one else tried at all, so you only have to try a little bit to do better.” That wasn’t good. So I struggled to get back into a high-achiever state of mind. I’m finally getting it back, but not without even more difficulty pushing me back further.
Leaving the bowling alley this past August, a job that I knew well and had really come to love, struck a blow that’s left quite a mark. I know that job didn’t slip away from me because I was a terrible employee. There were entirely different reasons. But somehow, it still makes me feel like I don’t know how to do anything any more. I feel inadequate at the two near-mindless jobs I work on campus. Making smoothies for four hours a week and calling alumni for donations eleven hours a week is nothing compared to managing the desk at a small bowling center, where the desk person is also a custodian and a mechanic and an event host and a food server and a master of ceremonies and the person to take care of whatever else needs to be done that they’re capable of. Maybe I just like the challenge of multitasking. I did juggle a lot in high school that I’m not now– work and school as well as marching band and drama and National Honor Society and the literary magazine and and choir and even a social life. Now, I go to classes, and I go to work. That’s about it. So maybe I need to start doing everything again.

A combination of factors has also got me more and more concerned about money. Student loans, trying to save up for a car, and breaking even after monthly bills is nerve-wracking. And it leaves little room to put away money for something bigger, like an apartment after graduation. Knowing also, particularly after having to give a ten minute speech on it, that my intended career choice as a writer is not going to turn me into a millionaire overnight makes me even more anxious to find a good paying job in order to supplement whatever income I might get as a writer and make up for months where writing work just isn’t there.

I think on this day, the 20th anniversary of my birth, I really need to start over. I need to find a job that I love, where I can work a few more hours and get paid a little more. I need to get back in touch with my passions– start playing the trumpet and singing again, find a way to get back on stage, and really focus on my writing. I need to start knocking the academics out of the park again. I need to find something to fill my down time, because I have way to much of it, and I’m not used to that. I’m used to constantly going, constantly being engaged. So that’s what I’m going to do.

Happy birthday to me.

Eventually


It’s an unfortunate reality that things are going to change. When, why, and how aren’t always immediately obvious, but there is no changing the fact that change will occur– that’s the one rather ironic constant.

The knowledge that things will change at some point doesn’t do much to soften the blow when everything is upended. There is still a sense of being overwhelmed to some degree as we transition from one life stage to the next or we are placed in a situation and environment that are unfamiliar. Eventually we adapt. Whenever eventually decides to arrive.

In the meantime, sitting and waiting for eventually to happen is not an option. We can only struggle along and cope with the change, working toward the day when things become comfortable and controllable again. I’m waiting for that day.

At this point last year, I was just starting out as a college student. I was adjusting to post-secondary education, a change in environment, and a change in living arrangements. By January, everything had become familiar. Things were going well. April shook me up again, with a long-time relationship ending. Two months later, that relationship was set back on its feet, though others were lost.

Summer was familiar at first, working day cares at the bowling alley. Not difficult, just tedious (and boy, did I get tired of hot dogs). But interactions shifted, and definitely not for the better. The hours spent working at the lanes were fraught with tension and frustration, not easy-going and enjoyable like previous summers, and I now dreaded coming to a place where I had felt quite at home for years. It bothered me that I felt as if I was being pushed out; I had grown up there, and many of the guys were like family to me. Plus, the schedule was flexible and the money was good. Those were two things I really needed.

Nevertheless, the end of summer left me without a job, feeling banned from the lanes, and going into the school year rather stressed. I was thrown completely off kilter, with everything changing so fast, and everything being so far out of my control. While plans rarely go exactly as imagined, this had gone the complete opposite way of what I had in mind.

Now, about half-way through the semester, things are turning around. The money situation, while not spectacular, allows me to pay bills and make a few affordances. Working at the campus smoothie bar is not ideal, but it’ll do. The lanes situation hasn’t improved much. I’ve started to cast around for other social outlets. And surprisingly, they’ve been easy to find.

I’ve joined two clubs this year, the first, a brand new creative writing group on campus called WordSmiths. It’s delightful to be surrounded by people who make me feel normal, who applaud my creativity and talent much as I do theirs. It’s also constructive, not only in how it helps me to improve my writing and help others better their writing, but also in the way it’s pushed me to think– about what I enjoy and where I’d like to go with my writing. I’m excited to go to the meetings.

The other is Global Partners Society (GPS), a biweekly get together of past, current, and potential future study-abroad participants, both domestic and foreign. We discuss multicultural issues, assist foreign students in adjusting to our crazy nation, and just have a good time making friends from around the globe. It’s really cool.

Classes have also introduced me to a wide range of people, and I’ve almost been forced to come out of myself and socialize, just through the nature of the classes. Discussions make up the majority of my day, and public speaking requires more vocalization and interaction than any other class. And in rock climbing, you have to talk to other people. You’re trusting them with your lives.

Perhaps all these things have given me some new strengths, or just unlocked confidence and loquaciousness that have always been inside me. Regardless. I’ve found I’m better at communicating, even when there’s a high threat of embarrassment. And I’m finally doing things I never had the courage to do before, like asking someone who wasn’t in my social circle in high school to join me for a cup of coffee. Instead of being disappointed, we met and talked for a couple of hours, which is more than we had talked in seven years of classes together. It was definitely a personal breakthrough.

Maybe I’m finally adapting to the curveballs life has thrown me. Maybe I’m discovering who I am. Maybe I’m just growing up. Whatever it is, I kind of like it. And while things are still far from settled down and comfortable, they’re slowly getting back under control. Perhaps I won’t be waiting too much longer for eventually to arrive