RSS Feed

Tag Archives: gap year

On Doing Nothing And Playing FlipWords a.k.a. “BangMan”

Sometimes it’s nice to just sit and do absolutely nothing. Stare at the walls, out the window, at the other Starbucks-sitters who are also pretending to work.

I often find myself very busy doing nothing. But not the above mentioned nothing. The nothing I often take part in tends to involve my iPhone. Or my Mac. There’s a chance that my Apple products may be ruining my life. I check Facebook. I check it again. I’m shocked that nothing new and life-changing has been posted in the past six seconds. And repeat. When I’ve had enough of that I’ll spend some time scrolling through my Twitter feed, clicking links that promise to teach me how to be more productive.

This was Sunday. Except the “lolling about” stage lasted until about 3:40 p.m. Image Credit: http://www.oxcoll.com

Then I play some Cut the Rope — a riveting game wherein you cut a rope on which dangles a piece of candy, in attempt to feed said candy to a weird, green, sluggish alien thing. Then I play some Boggle — which will totally enhance my brain activity. Then (once I’ve warmed up that part of my brain) I move on to another game called FlipWords — a mix between Boggle and Hangman, which could be more aptly (and entertainingly) named “BangMan”. Yeah. That’ll catch on; it sounds just like what it is.

Then it’s back to Facebook. And the cycle begins again. Writing this down should probably make me realize why I’m so unproductive. Instead I have been super tempted to check Facebook and Twitter (as well as every other such site). And to play all my favourite games. In fact, I’m kind of shocked that I’m still here and I haven’t yet opened up five other web pages.

But sometimes, in what someone once called this sea of irrelevance, it’s nice to stop using my brain for all these little nothings, and to actually do nothingOr, at least to blog about doing nothing. Because I’m just not in the right frame of mind to do nothing. I mean, that kind of stuff take preparation.

Like I said, it is nice to just sit and do nothing sometimes. Maybe I’ll give it a try when I go home next week for my (weirdly late) winter break.

Do you like taking time to do literally nothing? Do you ever actually do it? What sorts of “nothings” keep you from getting much accomplished?

 

Advertisements

The Best Medicine (But Not for a Cough)

Everyone knows that moderation and balance are super important — right? A little coffee will wake you up, too much will mess up your sleep schedule. Socializing is great, but it’s also good to fit in some alone time. Sometimes you need to take a break from writing or *cough* blogging, sometimes that break goes on for far too long.

But what about laughter? Isn’t it the best medicine? How can you have too much laughter? Well, today I nearly died laughing. Twice. Okay, well, not quite literally, but still.

I’m off at my gap year program, away from home for the first time, having the time of my life and all that. Earlier, I was sitting in a class, minding my own business, drinking some tea to (hopefully) soothe my cough/sore throat.

One of my friends raised her hand and made a funny contribution to the (relaxed) class, most people giggled, I took a sip of tea. Then I started laughing. The tea made its way down the wrong tube and a whole choking, coughing, laughing situation ensued.

Being a small class, the discussion was put on pause so that everyone could gape at me and make sure I was okay. This just made matters worse, and elevated my hysteria — it’s awkward enough to have a coughing fit and freak out that you can’t breathe without everyone in the room watching you do so. And I’m a nervous giggler (by which I mean I giggle in  awkward situations, not giggling makes me nervous), so by this point I was laughing too hard to even try to start breathing again or even catch my breath.

So that was a nice way to break the ice with a roomful of people I met five days ago.

credit: mediawebapps.com

Later, there was a bug in my room. It made my roommate very nervous, but, while I didn’t mind its presence, I wasn’t about to get my hands dirty catching it.

So our friend in the next room came in to deal with it. While my roommate was hiding in the hall, our friend from the next room was trying to coax the bug down from the ceiling, asking it to demonstrate how well it can fly and begging it not to smell up the room (it was a stink bug). Meanwhile, I was watching from my bed, barely controlling yet another outbreak of laughter. I was paying more attention to the laptop I was holding and the bug-catching expedition than to how close I was to the edge of my bed.

I bet you can imagine what happened next — good thing my bed isn’t too high off the ground!

My Empty Closet and Full Floor

I’m going away for school in about a month and had to buy a whole bunch of new clothes for the endeavour, so I thought it would be an opportune time to finally clean out my closet. I haven’t done so in at least a year, maybe even two. I tend to tackle such tasks by taking everything out, and separating it into piles: “keeping”, “tossing” and “maybe”.

I filled two garbage bags with stuff to toss, a bunch of clothes have gone back into my closet and everything else is in the “maybe” pile — mostly stuff I have to spend some time trying on and making tough decisions about. That was where it stood on Monday. It’s now the end of the week and not much has changed. I still have a garbage bag of stuff to “toss” on the floor by my bed and next to that I have two “maybe” piles. My desk chair is usually occupied by my pile of new clothes, but that pile has temporarily been relocated to my bed so that I can sit at my desk to type this. Shockingly, I look around and — aside from all the mountains of new and old clothes — I consider this to be a somewhat “clean” day in the land of My Room.

True story, except replace “toys” with clothes, books, notebooks and other miscellaneous crap that has no place on the floor.
Credit: cootcartooning.com

Earlier, my younger sister came in for something. “Your closet’s so empty,” she said — in shock,  and perhaps somewhat in envy.

“Yeah,” I said, “but my floor is so full.”

The reorganization (upheaval) in my closet is kind of like the reorganization (upheaval) going on in the rest of my life. I’m leaving home for school soon, and (don’t tell anybody) I’m kind of freaking out. I subconsciously tried to reroute my anxiety, focussing it on concrete things within my control, instead of all the uncertainties and unknowns I’m being faced with and am trying to avoid looking in the eye. I guess I thought this might help. It just led to a minor nervous breakdown over bed linens — one of the few things about the room I’ll be in next month that’s within my control. It accomplished about as much as rerouting my clothes from my overflowing closet to my (now) overflowing floor.

My excess clothes — the ones from the ever-expanding “back of my closet” — are like my worries. They both take up valuable (physical/emotional) space, drive me insane and are completely unnecessary. But, unless I actually do something about them, they (my worries and my clothes) will just continue to lie around, doing no one any good.

But then, even if I do move them around, there are productive ways to do so, and unproductive ways. And whatever I do, the clothes and the nervous energy won’t just disappear. They’ll still be somewhere, all that I can control is where. I think I’ve figured out where not to put them. My clothes are no better off taking up precious floor space. My anxiety didn’t help much while I was trying to choose bedding.

But, like a certain Anne Shirley, “I never make the same mistake twice” (well, actually I do, but that’s entirely besides the point). I think I’ve figured out where not to redirect my clothes and general anxieties, and realized that they should probably be redirected elsewhere, in healthier, more beneficial channels.

I could get my act together, figure out what to keep and what to toss and then put away the keepers, while sending the “toss” bags to a charity-clothing-collection type place. That’s generally where all my old clothes end up eventually, but the sooner I get it done, the sooner my clothing donation can help others in need. And then my new clothes can replace the old ones in my closet.

As for the stress, such things are pretty hardwired into me, but rather than wallowing and redirecting stupidly, I could probably deal with it in a healthier manner. Like by writing more often, because, ironically, it’s the thing that keeps me sane, but also the thing I tend to shy away from when I start leaning towards insanity — and I’m pretty sure I’m not the first one to feel/express that sentiment.

And, if I can shuffle around the anxiety a little and maybe get rid of just a little, there may be some brain space left over. I wonder if that ’empty’ space might be the right place to entertain some excitement about the incredible opportunity I’m about to seize?

Who knows how it’ll all turn out, but, in this moment, I’ve put my worries aside and I can’t wait to see. Until then, I’ll just be here, cleaning out my closet.

Sitting Around on the Couch 101

Credit: agweb.com

You know how they say the grass is always greener on the other side? They’re wrong. It isn’t always greener — just most of the time. Like, sometimes your neighbours go away for two weeks, so they aren’t watering their grass and there happens to be a heat wave. Then, chances are, their grass is looking pretty brown and however ungreen your grass is, it’s probably still greener than theirs.

I think the reason this idea has become so overused and clichéd is because we’re always comparing ourselves to others, whether the green grass is on their side of the lawn or ours. Good and Bad, Wealth and Poverty, and Green and Ungreen are all pretty relative terms and ideas, so we tend to look at others when we measure ourselves.

For what seems like every other person in the entire world, it’s the first week of school. Yesterday was the first day for both of my younger siblings, who go to the high school where I spent the past four years. And a bunch of my friends are starting at university today. I’m doing a gap year programme this year, and the place I’m going doesn’t start until mid-October. So yesterday, while everyone else spent the day either at school or making last-minute preparations for it, I sat around in my pyjamas until four, watching old episodes of Community on Netflix.

It’s funny how I’ve had the exact same level of freedom for the past three months, but now that everyone else is back to school, I feel a shift. Technically, for me, yesterday was exactly the same as the day before and I was no more free to sit around on the couch yesterday than I was the previous day, and yet it feels different. My freedom feels more free when compared to my friends’ and siblings’ imprisonment in classrooms.

Because everyone else’s grass is on the brown side, my grass is looking pretty green. But, because I’m human, and especially because I’m me, their brown grass looks kind of nice right about now — mostly because it’s on the other side of the fence.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a completely normal person (well, sometimes I am) and I hate school just as much as the next teenager. Especially high school and especially the “elite” (i.e. “phony”) private school I went to — it kind of reminds me of Pencey Prep in The Catcher in the Rye. I probably hate my (former) high school much more than other kids who go/went there. But, while I do hate school in principle — the waking up early, studying for tests, interacting with morons — I tend to enjoy learning and I tend to be an “overachiever” type. Not a good overachiever, who never procrastinates and is super organized and actually wins awards for participating in/leading school activities and getting good grades. But an overachiever to the extent that I don’t count my three consecutive 90% Honour Roll certificates as actual awards (and yes, that was an explainabrag right there).

I love Community.
Credit: http://www.capturedcaptions.com/

And this over-achieving isn’t really because I define my life based on school and think that my grades are a judgment on who I am as a person (well, not anymore…), it’s because I tend to be a weirdo who genuinely enjoys learning. I do well in school because, in subjects that I care about, I want to do my best and I want to actually learn something. I’ve never liked back-to-school time in principle because it signifies the end of summer and therefore the end of freedom and sleeping in late. But, once I can get past the fact that summer’s ending, I kind of like going back to school. September’s exciting. You see certain friends you haven’t seen all summer, you have a new schedule with new courses and new teachers, and hopefully some of the old teachers who you loved so much last year. I kind of miss that. The beauty of going back to school is that there’s often a very comfortable mix between new and old.

I’m so over high school and would not want to be going back to that retched place, but it’s kind of weird not to be going somewhere. And then, the overachiever in me feels like such a slacker for not going back to school while everyone else is. Sure, I’m heading off to my gap year programme in a month, where I’ll learn for the sake of learning and really grow, and then I’ll be off to University the year after, but still. 

My brother came home from school yesterday with some friends and needed me to drive them somewhere immediately. It was three in the afternoon and I was still in my pyjamas. And then one of his friends whom I had never met asked me if I’m in university, to which I responded “no, not yet, just sitting around watching TV all day, ’cause I don’t start school until October.” While to most kids this may sound like a dream come true, to my ears I sounded like an incompetent loser, who is doing nothing with her life. Pardon my melodrama.

I know, I know. I probably sound ridiculous complaining about how much time off from school I have and how much leisure I have to just sit around watching TV. It’s great, it really is. I think (thought?) this extra time off would be incredibly beneficial because I really don’t feel ready to move away from home yet and start with the next stage of school/life.

I think (thought?) this nice, long summer break would be a nice, comfy transition between the end of high school and moving away to start the rest of my life. It’s just weird not to be going back to school in September like I always do and like everyone else is. And I think I might be getting what Holden Caulfield might call a “goddam inferiority complex”. Of course, it could just be that your neighbour’s grass really does always look greener, even though from their point of view it’s looking kind of brown. And maybe instead of complaining about how ungreen my lawn is, I could stop comparing it to my metaphorical neighbours’ and see what happens if I actually try watering it.

Am I a Writer? (Probably Not)

Writing sucks. I hate writing. It makes me miserable. It stresses me out. It makes me feel really bad about myself.

So why do I do it?

Because it’s awesome. Because I love it. It makes me happy. It calms me down. It makes me feel really good about myself.

Credit: Wikipedia

I write because I’m a writer. But what does that even mean? What makes me a writer? I started writing (outside of school assignments) about a year and a half ago, just before I turned seventeen. It quickly became my “thing” — for some reason kids and teenagers feel this need to have a “thing”, something we own, that’s ours, that makes us unique. (I imagine not all kids and teenagers are this way, but I am — when I was fourteen my “thing” was an addiction to drinking Starbucks coffee, now that I’m eighteen it’s an addiction to putting words onto paper.)

When I started, my writing habit wasn’t something I shared. I didn’t talk about writing with my friends and it would never have occurred to me to let them read any of my work. I loved having my parents and grandparents read and fawn over my stories and poetry, and I would give some of my stuff to a favourite English teacher so she could give me feedback. Other than that no one really saw my writing, and few people knew about it. Then I took a creative writing course at school. And I started this blog. And I applied (and got accepted) to a gap year programme for next year that has a focus on creativity and writing. So people started to find out about the fact that I like to write. And then they started calling me a writer.

Aside from other art forms and creative fields, I doubt there are many other jobs that have this ambiguity with titles. If you take Biology and put a bandage on someone’s cut, that doesn’t make you a doctor. If you’re in med school, but haven’t graduated and cannot yet practice medicine; you’re not a doctor. Maybe your loved ones may think of you as one, or brag about you as one, or refer to you as a future doctor, but until you’ve graduated and filled whatever qualifications required, you aren’t a doctor — there’s no ambiguity. I imagine the same thing applies to most professional professions. Also, keeping with that example, being a doctor is just a career. I don’t say that to imply that it’s inferior to something creative, like writing — what I mean is that there’s no such thing as practicing medicine as a hobby. It’s a job. Of course, I imagine that it’s just as much of a lifestyle choice as writing, as is any career you choose. But most people aren’t a doctor “on the side”. They don’t dabble in stitching people up or giving checkups or prescribing antibiotics.

Being a writer, or calling yourself one, is a lot more complicated. For many people it has to be “on the side” because, from what I understand, most people don’t make enough money from their writing to “quit their day jobs”. For some people it’s a career, for others it’s a hobby and there are many gradations in between. It also has a lot of definitions. Blogs, poetry, stories, novels, reviews, articles, gossip columns, opinion columns, news articles and a million other modes of expression are all comprised of the written word. Does it follow, then, that someone who writes one or a few of these is a writer?

I dabble in poetry. I’ve even had two published in a small magazine. Does that make me a writer? Does it make me a poet? I don’t know if I think so. I’ve written a bunch of  stories. I’ve even sent a some of them out into the world and already have my very own collection of rejection letters (something which every writer has). Does that make me a writer? I don’t really believe that  it does. I’m trying to write a novel. I’m actually trying to write two. (Neither are really working out.) Does that make me a writer? A novelist? I doubt it.

Then there’s this blog. I have a bunch of followers. (Hi guys! Thanks for following!) You guys are the best. Sometimes you click the ‘like’ button. Sometimes you’re extra awesome and take time to leave some comments. Sometimes new people come along and follow me. Email alerts telling me these things make my day. In a small way, these notifications validate my existence. I write words, “publish” them and there are people who actually take the time to read them. Still, I don’t know if that makes me a writer. Maybe I’d go so far as to say I’m a blogger — if I’m feeling particularly full of myself and my awesomeness.

The word “writer” is really just a title. A label. An identifier. To most people it probably has little philosophical significance. Non-writers throw the word around applying it to people with presumably little thought. The word probably has some associations and connotations attached to it, but other than that, to most people, I imagine it means little to nothing. But to people who write, to me at least, it means everything. It encompasses my hopes and dreams, it represents so much more to me than I could express in the few words I want to put into expressing it. So it’s hard to bring myself to call myself one. It feels presumptuous.

It also feels as though it sets me up for failure by raising people’s expectations. Calling myself a writer feels like it gives me credibility that I don’t believe I’ve earned. It seems to imply that I’m good at writing. Of course I believe this of myself (sometimes) but it feels safer to let people judge for themselves. I have this fear that if refer to myself as a writer, or my friends/family brag that I’m one, then the people who of are told I’m a writer will have high ideals and expectations of me as such and will scoff if they have the opportunity to actually read my work.

But, I guess that’s what I am or that’s what I’m becoming. And people need labels and titles and identifiers, so they will continue to be presumptuous and give me this title that I don’t feel I deserve. So I’ve started embracing it. A little bit. Sometimes I refer to myself as a writer on my blog — without even surrounding it in ‘air quotes’. Sometimes I tell people about the fact that I’m taking a year off from formal education next year to study creative writing (among other things) in a ‘not-for-credits environment’.

“I guess you like writing,” they normally say. “Yup,” I tend to respond.

I do like writing. I guess. I can’t seem to stop, so that may imply that I like it — although alcoholics can’t seem to stop drinking, so this may not be a good thing. Writing is actually a pretty self-destructive habit. It often stresses me out, keeps me from sleeping (because I’m up late doing it or thinking about it) and tends to be a very antisocial activity. Those traits remind me of the lists of symptoms for various mental illnesses I had to memorize for a test in my Psychology course last year.

And yet, I keep writing. I want to say it’s because I’m a writer. That would be a nice, tidy, somewhat ironic way for me to end this post. But like I said, it’s hard (and more importantly scary) to think of myself as a writer or to call myself one. So no, I don’t write because I’m a writer. I write because writing is who I am.

Do you consider yourself a writer? Why or why not? What do you think makes someone a writer? 

%d bloggers like this: