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Running Around in the Rain

I should really be doing something else. That seems to be the most prevalent theme in my life. The constant internal conflict. I want to do this but I should be doing that. And then, as soon as I can do the thing I wanted to do, I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to do something else, and the previous want becomes the current should. During the school year, I want to be blogging or writing creatively or sitting around all day reading or even just finding some time to clean my room. What I should doing is homework. Of course, I procrastinate the homework, but feel that if I’m not doing homework, how dare I do anything else, so the things I want to do get procrastinated as well. I certainly have time to do both, but the things I enjoy always seem to take back seat.

So, I make all this wonderful resolutions. I decide that when the summer comes, I’ll do all those things I would love to be doing during the school year, but just can’t. I never plan to do very much in the summer, like get a job or go to camp, and I tell people that I don’t have plans aside from a week or so at the cottage and a week or so on vacation. But I do have plans. I plan to read — smart books, enjoyable books, any and all books — I plan to write — blog posts, short stories, a flipping novel — I plan to organize — my closet, my room, my life. In short, I plan to do everything that will make me happy, I plan to conquer the freaking world. But then, because I plan to do all these things and have the best summer I’ve ever had (and do all this because it’s what I want to do), all these wants become shoulds.

And it isn’t just that I should read, because I like reading, but then it’s about what I should read. I should read smart novels and stories and poems, that will expand my mind and make me seem smart, but then, I should also be enjoying what I’m reading. And so, if I decide that I’m going to spend this moment reading, and even if I’m not thinking of all the other things I should be enjoying, I worry that maybe I should be reading a different book. It’s the same with writing. Should I write on my blog now? In a journal? Should I instead be writing ficticiously? Should I be trying out a writing prompt? Maybe I should give my “novel” a go?

This moment, I’ve chosen writing on my blog. But now I feel that maybe I should abandon this post, because who wants to hear me complain about my pathetic problems? I should really be writing about the trip to England I just got back from. I should tell you about my visits to Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born or to Bath, where Jane Austen once lived. I should review one of the three Shakespeare plays I saw. I should be writing about those experiences or any of the other very cool, very literary things I saw and did. But I just don’t feel like it. Probably only because that’s what I think I should be writing about.

One of the pictures I took in England that I feel like I SHOULD post. Taken at 4 Sydney Place in Bath — where Jane Austen once lived.

That’s really the problem with me. I never want to do anything if I actually can. If I should. Only if I can’t. I never feel as compelled to write as when I don’t have a pen and paper with me or as when I have stuff to do that I don’t feel like doing. I never feel as compelled to blog as when I don’t have internet access or my laptop handy. I was itching to post on my blog for the two first days of my trip when I still hadn’t gotten internet set up. Then, as soon as I did, I wrote this post, which didn’t have that much to do with the awesome things I was actually doing in England. The next day I wrote another post, also not really about what I had been doing and seeing. Neither were what I felt that I should be writing. After that, I had internet access the entire rest of the trip and we were back at the hotel fairly early a few nights. But because I knew I could blog, I didn’t really feel compelled to. I’m on vacation, I reasoned. I’ll post when I get home. Because that’s always how it is with me. I’ll do it later. I’ll do it at this or that future date. Then I’ll have the time. I’ll have the motivation. It’ll happen. Later. I hadn’t posted what (or as much as) I had wanted. I felt okay with my justifications and I had a marvellous trip, but I still l felt a little uneasy. I had all these nagging shoulds. I enjoyed everything I did, and everything I did was something I wanted to be doing, but I was in England, so they felt very much like wants I should have. And I still felt the compulsion to blog and write about it, but without the desire and drive to do so.

But then today I tried something different. My room is still in a messy state, as I started cleaning it a couple of weeks ago and decided to finish it later. Add all the stuff I brought back from England to that mess and it’s really not looking so good. So I have to deal with that. Then there’s the stuff I should be doing because I want to. The reading, the blogging, the writing. I was going to do all of this today. I was also going to go run some errands and then come home and sit out in the sun because it was beautiful outside today. The latter two items involve getting dressed (something I tend to avoid until I actually leave the house). So I woke up and spent a few hours taking a shower and eating breakfast and figuring out what to wear — because these are totally things that should take a person a few hours. I was all dressed and ready to leave the house and about to go out, when the clear, blue sky clouded over and began spewing drops of rain.

I was stuck. It was another should versus want to situation. You see, I love the rain. I love the sun even more, but when I have no need to remain dry and a warm towel is at the ready, nothing gives me more joy, nothing is more exhilarating, than running around in the rain. Not only was it something I desperately wanted to do, but it was the epitome of a should not. Who would go out and run around in the rain? What was I thinking? Surely I’d catch my death. Besides, I had just, finally figured out what to wear and gotten dressed. I had things to do, things that I should do.

So I did what any reasonable person would have done. I changed into something I didn’t mind getting wet and I went outside to run around in the rain. My sister refused to join me. Someone who was at my house laughed at me when I came inside with water streaming from my hair and clothes. My mother shook her head — I think ‘crazy’ was the word she used to describe me. But you know what? I didn’t catch my death. I felt as though I had caught my life. Sure, when I came inside I was dripping and shivering. But outside, despite the rain, it was warm, peaceful. I love the steady sound of rain, hitting the wooden deck. I love walking barefoot through warm puddles. I love the warm wind whipping around, throwing raindrops in my face. It feels so good to just let go sometimes. To forget what you should do, forget what other people think, forget how cold you’ll be the moment you come inside and get hit with the freezing air-conditioning.

And because let myself do that, I felt like I had accomplished something. I felt really good about myself, about my decisions, about my life. And now I’ve finally been able to just sit down to blog — something I should do — without feeling like I should be doing this or should be doing something else.

Of course there will always be things that should be done and have to done. Things I don’t want to do, but have to do anyways. But maybe sometimes it’s easier (and more enjoyable) to do those things, if I give myself permission to do something I want once in a while. To do something unreasonable and unnecessary and perhaps a little crazy. Just as long as there’s a dry towel waiting for me when I come inside.

What about you? Do you have a constant should versus want to debate inside your head? How do you reconcile with doing things you’d rather not? Do want to’s ever become shoulds for you?

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Shakespeare, Brave New World and Wireless Internet Access

I’ve been in London for the past two days. And I’m very excited. But not because I was in Stratford-upon-Avon today and just got in from seeing Julius Caesar there. Yes, of course that’s immensely exciting, and it was one of the most wonderful days of my life. I was really going to post about my trip to Hampton Court Palace yesterday. I really planned on blogging about the performance in Stratford. And I should really tell you all about my trip to Shakespeare’s birthplace. Instead, I have a far more concerning and interesting thing I want to talk about in this post. A thought that totally relates to Shakespeare. The reason I’m excited, is because I finally figured out how to get internet access on my laptop in my hotel room. Which is a bigger deal than it would normally be, because I haven’t been able to track down a “Micro SIM” for my iPhone, so I’ve been effectively cut off from the entire world. Family, Friends, WordPress and Twitter all just outside my reach. They say true ignorance is not being aware of what you don’t know. Well, true agony is knowing what you don’t have (especially when it’s something you used to have), but knowing you can’t get to it.

Mercure The Shakespeare Hotel, Stratford-upon-...

Stratford-upon-fricking-Avon Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But hold on a minute. What!? I was at Stratford-upon-Fricking-Avon today and what makes me happy is that I have access to the INTERNET!? But…But… Isn’t the whole point of the internet to google Shakespeare and Jane Austen? I was in their backyards today!! So why do I need google? I got the full experience — in, like, 4D!

Sure, sure. There are PLENTY of justifications. I have them all down pat and completely believe these sweet little ideas by now. I need to be in touch with my family. I need to be in touch with my friends. That’s totally  legitimate! All we have is human connection… right? That’s what’s most important, right? How can I have fun and enjoy myself without sharing my joy with the ones I love and letting them know all the pleasure they’re missing out on? More importantly, I need you guys! What’s the point of thinking of witty things to say about all the amazing things I’m seeing if I can’t tweet those condensed thoughts? I have all these insights I want to share about all the amazing things I’m seeing, but I haven’t been able to develop and share those thoughts here on my blog. If you think of something awesome, but can’t communicate it to your followers, was it a valid thought? (Yes, I know that last line sounds ridiculous and of course it’s meant to be tongue in cheek, but, however flawed, that’s my legitimate thought process of late.)

Switching trains of thought, but still heading towards the same destination, I read Brave New World  months ago for school. It didn’t overtly change my life, but it was certainly not a book which lost its tight grip on me the moment I finished the last page and closed the cover. It’s horrifyingly relevant to today and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably way too tightly entangled in our brave new world for their own good. They’re probably a card-holding member of the stupid, fickle masses. And now for the Shakespeare connection: there are LOADS of references to Will and his works in Brave New World. Many of these references are in reference to the lack of Shakespeare and his works in “Civilization”. John the Savage is completely turned off by “Civilization” and thinks they are doing things all wrong. One of the major areas of dispute is Shakespeare — John is passionately in favour of the Bard, while the Controller is (rather dispassionately) against Shakespeare and his works.

The Controller’s problem with Shakespeare’s works are not with the works themselves, but with how they fit in with “Civilization”. His plays are banned, but, what’s more interesting, they don’t even have to be. The government has taken care that the citizens have never heard of Shakespeare. Even if a citizen somehow came across one of his works, they wouldn’t even bother with it. They simply wouldn’t understand. John suggests they make “something new that’s like Othello, and that [the citizens] could understand” (ch. 16). However, the Controller explains that “if it were really like Othello nobody could understand it, however new it might be. And if were new, it couldn’t possibly be like Othello” (Ch. 16).

The inability to understand comes not from Shakespeare’s crazy (beautiful) language, but from the content and themes. One of the major premises of Shakespeare’s plays is desire for something one doesn’t have and can’t easily attain — money, power, a man or woman’s love, just to name a few. These themes are completely moot and incomprehensible in a society like the one in Brave New World. Those men and women (or grownup infants, as John sees them) have everything so easily and never have to worry about anything. They live in complete comfort in every way, but they are deprived of the suffering that is necessary to reach deeper understanding, meaning and humanity. They live comfortable, healthy lives, but for what? What’s the point of each superficially happy days, if they lead to nothing more than many years of such days? Their society is stable only so that it can continue being stable. Anything that risks that stability is outlawed, but what’s the point of stability if nothing meaningful or productive is being done with that stability? Life is so easy for them, that it makes you wonder why they even bother. The only way they can find any sort of “contentment” is by getting high on soma; sleeping with whoever they want, whenever they want; and going to the “feelies”, because they can’t even conjure up their own emotions. I call it contentment not happiness (and put “contentment” in quotation marks, at that) because obviously their mindless, superfluous entertainment can’t lead to true happiness.

I think that we, like those in the Brave New World society don’t have to try hard enough for anything — “nothing [figuratively] costs enough here” (Ch. 17). This was made glaringly clear to me upon reflecting on my experience at the phone store today. We went to go get SIM cards in Stratford. I was almost as excited about getting to the phone store as I was about being in Stratford, as my iPhone had been more or less obsolete for an entire day because I didn’t have a data plan yet– I think I’m experiencing withdrawal. When the guy at the store told us they were out of Micro SIMs, the very special and apparently less readily available SIM card that iPhones use, I was a little bit enraged. I remarked to my father (with whom I’m travelling) that it was an atrocity in proportion to a Shakespearean tragedy. Reflectively (at least now that I’ve gotten my internet fix) I think that the real tragedy is that I thought such a minor, superficial issue can be equated with a beautiful work of literature in which everyone has died, been brutally murdered or committed suicide by the final page. The Controller says that “you can’t make tragedies without social instability” (Ch. 16), and it’s ridiculous that I equate my (relatively) minor issue with social instability. Even more ridiculous that this is my biggest problem. I think that since people aren’t dying in the streets anymore, we (I) make a huge deal out of little, stupid problems, because there are few bigger problems.

While retaining our humanity seems to entail suffering and risk, human nature seems to want what comes easily. As the Controller says, “we prefer to do things comfortably.” But John wants more than that. Following our human nature comes easily, chasing after our humanity is far more difficult and he wants the latter.

“But I don’t want comfort,” [he says.] “I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

“In fact,” said [the Controller], “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said [John] defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

Sure, in principal, so am I. I want the right to be unhappy. That sounds very noble and wise. But in practice, if I look at myself objectively and realistically, I have to confess that all I want at the moment is my right to a data plan on my iPhone and wireless internet in my hotel room. And I think being brave enough to admit that (and accept the fact that I’m only human in wanting that) is the first step.

I’mmm Baa-ack!

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, but I’m back and hope to stick around. It’s been a crazy past two weeks, with grade 12, and hence high school as a whole, coming to an end. First there were all sorts of assignments that needed doing and an exam before classes had even ended — because, evidently, my Literature exam wasn’t important enough to bother squeezing into the exam schedule.

My last day of high school was two weeks ago, and after that all my peers went on the grad trip to washington, while a friend and I hung back and decided to spend a few days up at the cottage instead. Because we’re individuals, who don’t feel the need to conform. And we wanted to have fun in our own way not in everyone else’s. Our trip was a lot more fun, if you were wondering. Our peers spent 24 hours on a bus, just getting to and from Washington, so that they could spend barely 72 hours there. I can’t (read: don’t want to) calculate how many hours we were up the cottage (because that would require math, and, having washed my hands of grade 12 Data Management, I don’t plan on doing math ever again, if I can help it), but we were away two days longer then our friends were in Washington, and that’s not even taking into account the time they did and we didn’t spend on a bus.

Of course, that’s just talking about quantity, which wouldn’t be worth anything without quality. They spent their three days ‘exploring the city’ and going to baseball games and amusement parks and museums.

“But what’s wrong with that?” you may ask.

“Nothing,” I may answer. “If you like that sort of thing.”

But my personal preferences, when it comes to going on trips and having fun, involve sitting by the pool or beach, out in the sun, with books and magazines and a friend or two for company. Which is exactly what I got.

The view from our beach chairs — I’ll take that over the White House any day — is anyone with me on that?

We had way more fun than our peers seemed to have and in our age of Facebook, we got constant updates on all the ‘fun’ they were having. And by fun, I mean about a million or so pictures of the same people, in the same places, making faces at the camera. My friend wisely commented that when you’re taking so many pictures, and they aren’t for sake of a photo-op, (which the vast majority of these pictures aren’t) it’s because you’re bored and trying to find something to fill the time.

My friend and I took only took a handful of pictures and there were only two times when they cameras on our phones came out over the five days we were there. One day, we went into ‘town’, because it was too chilly to relax by the pool, and we were fully aware that those pictures were taken out of (slight) boredom and besides, the taking of them was what made our little ‘expedition’ so much fun. Because it turned out that we went to the wrong ‘town’. They have all these cute, quaint little stores where we should have gone, but instead we wound up in the ‘town’ that consisted of a single main street, and half of the stores along this three block street were convenience stores. A girl can only drink so many slushies, after all. So we found ourselves hanging out at the playground of the elementary school. In a totally juvenile, lets-go-hang-out-on-the-swings kind of way, not in a lets-go-be-delinquent-and-make-graffiti-all-over-the-jungle-gym kind of way. I feel that this clarification is important, based on all the graffiti that was already covering this jungle-gym. I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea about me.

There was another photo my friend took of me lounging by the pool. I took it so that when I got back and saw people from school and they showed me pictures of all the ‘fun’ they had on this school mandated (read: lame) trip, I could show them my picture and tell them it was me, sitting by the pool, not giving a damn.

As for reading material, I read through L. M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. It was great, but I’m saving it for another post. So stay tuned if you want to hear about that. Of course, I’d love it if you stayed tuned even if you don’t want to hear about it, but then, if you don’t care for LMM and Anne Shirley, I’m really not too sure why you’re reading my blog in the first place — we’re obviously not  kindred spirits.

 

Beach Reads

We’re in Miami for break, and on Tuesday I reflected upon my reading material over the past few years we’ve vacationed in Florida. Today I want to talk (write) about what I’ve been reading this trip.  I brought five books with me, and bought one here (I love Barnes and Noble — books mixed with coffee has to be one of the best scents in the world).

Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org

There’s Brave New World, which I finished reading (for English class) on our first or second day here. I sat reading it by the pool and I was just drunk on the heat of  the sun beating down on my face. I was reading about the problems with fake happiness and being contented into obedience with the help of drugs like “soma”, yet the combination of sun and reading a brilliant book made me feel just like I  was away on a soma holiday. (Soma’s the fictitious, all-purpose drug in Brave New World.) Some people find BNW thoroughly disturbing and don’t like it at all. While I don’t normally read science fiction, aside from 1984 and such for school, I was completely mesmerized by this book. All the super-disturbing parts were just so fascinating. The really jarring part, was that so much of it bears eerie resemblance to the society in which we actually live. Aside from conditioning, (which, thankfully, our society doesn’t seem to have come close to) I really didn’t find very much of it to be all that far-fetched. On second thought, I think advertisements, and even the toys we give children to play with, come do come close to conditioning. Frankly, I think it’s kind of sad that this book has lost (or is losing) it’s power to shock (at least for me). Aldous Huxley probably intended for his imaginary world to stay that way — imaginary. It was ment to be shockingly far-fetched and crazy. And now? We’re already living in a shockingly brave, new world, and insane conjectures and predictions are becoming everyday life.

On a side note, I really loved all the beautiful Shakespeare references. We just finished reading Hamlet in English class and there are a ton of allusions to it.

“To die, to sleep—
To sleep—perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come[?]”

That’s one of my favourite quotations from the “to be, or not to be” soliloquy and seeing it alluded to in BNW just made me giddy!

Photo credit: oprah.com

Next I read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver for my Literature class. Last year my former English teacher suggested that I’d love it and I was about to start reading it when I  heard that we’d be learning it in Literature, at which point I decided to wait until this year. I’m really happy I waited, because I enjoyed it a lot more now than I would have a year ago. I finished reading it today and I think I’m still a little too awestruck to share any articulate thoughts on it. I always need some time after reading a powerful book to fully absorb the impact and start thinking full thoughts about it, beyond “wow, that was amazing! How’s the author manage that?” I find that since I’ve started writing and especially since taking Writer’s Craft, I focus so much more on the craftsmanship of a novel. Sometimes even to the point of being distracted from the actual content. I’ll just sit there, dumbstruck, wondering how the author could possibly be so brilliant. How anyone could possible be capable of compiling an entire novel and how that novel can be so perfectly, wonderfully constructed.

Photo credit: paperbackswap.com

I also brought two collections of short stories by Alice Munro. The first one, Runaway, my former English teacher (yes, the one I’ve mentioned a million and a half times) lent me. She handed it to me and pointed out a single story in the collection she wanted me to read. The story, “Tricks”, was absolutely brilliant and I love it so much, especially because it also refers to a couple of Shakespeare’s plays. The crazy thing is, just a few months ago, I think I really would have hated this story, due to its semi-tragic ending. Now the tragic ending is what I find so brilliant. It’s just positively, painfully  astounding and profound. I told this teacher how much I love it, but wouldn’t have a few months ago. She told me that she knew, and that it’s because of my Literature class. I told her I give her the credit, more so than that class. She’s happy, because, now I can appreciate a wider range of literature. Personally, I think she and my Lit. teacher broke me a little. You know, stole (i.e. ripped away) some of my innocence and doe-eyed naiveté. And let’s be honest here, I like(d) my innocence and doe-eyed naiveté, I kind of mourn its loss sometimes. Of course, I guess the whole, wide world of literature, that’s now open for my appreciation and pleasure is a bit of a consolation.

Photo credit: amazon.ca

Then there’s the other collection by Munro, The Dance of the Happy Shades. I started reading it for a short story analysis assignment in Writers Craft, but we only had to read three stories from it for the sake of the assignment. So now I’m working my way through the rest of the book, although I think that the ones I used for the assignment will prove to be my favourites. We only had to present one of the stories we chose to the class and I picked “An Ounce of Cure”, it’s a really great story and I wish I had picked one that I didn’t think was quite so brilliant. I think I got just a little too excitable and didn’t quite articulate my thoughts as clearly as I might of. I also managed to use the “word” “formulaic-ness”. It’s a good thing I’ve been in this teacher’s class for a while and she already knows that I do in fact have somewhat of a functioning brain in my head.

Photo credit: facebook.com

I also brought a delightful little books of villanelles from Everyman’s Pocket Poets. I got it for my birthday and it’s such a wonderful little book. It also has such a pretty cover, which never hurts. While I was here I bought Sailing Alone Around the Room, a great collection of poetry by Billy Collins.

Whether I’ve made much progress through the latter four books over the course of this trip is another question entirely. I’m here with my siblings and a bunch of cousins and they have been given some of my attention. If I was ever “lonely”, per say, and wanted some company, all I would have to do is sit down somewhere (anywhere) with a book and I’d be joined within ten minutes. And, of course, as much as I like reading, I also happen to love talking, so my various books ended up being closed a lot of the time. I was also expected to attend meals on a regular basis (can you believe such a thing) so that also cut into my reading time.

So, readers, what kind of books do you like to take with you on vacation?

My Life in Books

Today’s post comes to you from Florida, where my family and I have come for some much needed relaxation before exam craziness begins. Every year around this time, we get time off from school and for the past several years we’ve been spending this time off in the sunshine state. We’ve been coming here since I was in grade 8 and now that I’ll be graduating from high school in a few months, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately.

Real Books > E Books

Today I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve changed since we started coming to Florida on this annual basis. I don’t have to say that I’ve changed a ton since I was 14, but I think what’s interesting is how I chart and measure that change. I think change is a really interesting topic, because, unlike in novels where you often see the characters changing blatantly before your eyes, in real life it’s so gradual and seemingly natural that you can only really see it retrospectively.Then, when you do introspect you’re often taken aback. “Was I really like that before?” or “How did I possibly manage to get where I am now?” are often the questions on my mind.

Even more often, I can hardly imagine life before the change which has taken place. I can hardly imagine, for example, spending this time-off at home. I can’t even recall what that was like. Another major change in my life, which I could have never imagined at the time, was reading Jane Austen’s works, starting with Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I sometimes think of my life in the context of “Before Jane” and “After Jane”. Okay, I don’t really think about my life that way, at least not in so many words, but that is essentially the big, defining change and revolutionary landmark in my life so far.

In fact, I completely track my progress as a person through the books I read. When I think back through the years since we started coming to Florida, and how much I’ve grown over the course of those years, the one thing I think about is what I was reading each year.

In grades 8 and 9, it was still Before Jane. I have very little recollection of what I read, and I certainly can’t distinguish between the two years. I know I had a pile of books from the YA section of the library selected almost solely on a “judging by the cover” basis. I definitely recall reading some of  the books in the The Clique series by the pool, but I couldn’t even tell you which books in the series they were. There was also one really good book, one of the few from my YA days which I still remember, called Pretty Face. It’s about a girl with weight and self-esteem issues, who overcomes these problems when she goes to Italy in the summer. (Please note that my brief synopsis makes it sound way more lame than it truly is.) However, after a quick google search (which informed me of this book’s title), it occurs to me that I’ve been melding about 5 books of similar theme into this one memory, which I guess goes to show the great quantity of low quality books I breezed through during this phase.

Then grade 10 hit and Jane Austen and I became very close friends. By the time April rolled around, I had just finished reading P&P for the first time. On our flight to Florida, I watched the brilliant, five-hour, twenty-three minute movie (or, you know, the first three hours of it) and it completely sealed the deal. I instantly became an ardent lover of all things Austen (except for, you know, Mansfield Park and Persuasion…) I have such lovely memories of lying on the beach re-reading and re-re-reading the best novel of all time (which is obviously P&P, you’re welcome to disagree on this point, but if you do, you’re also welcome to go find a different blog to read).

Photo credit: http://www.rainbowresource.com
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Then last year in April I was going through my Anne of Green Gables phase. Yes, I’m aware that it was quite late, and in the natural order of things L. M. Montgomery should really come before Jane Austen, but the human experience is quite a complex thing (or so my Writer’s Craft teacher keeps saying). I was reading the last of the 8 books in the series, in which the focus switches from Anne to her youngest daughter Rilla, who is by this time around 15.  It takes place during WWI and the first time I read it I thought it was the most tragic book I’d ever read. When I read the part where Rilla’s brother dies in the trenches, I was sitting at the beach, wearing a big floppy hat and sunglasses, surrounded by happy, laughing children and I had tears positively pouring down my sun-screened cheeks. After I finished reading this book, I was so distraught that I was up half the night crying. I felt as though my own brother had died (which was perhaps a little melodramatic of me) and not even the fact that Rilla’s sweetheart came back safely in the end could comfort me.

This was before I had taken my Studies in Literature class, so I hadn’t learned anything about the literary movements. I was under the deluded impression that this was such a gruesome, realistic account of that era. I now realize how highly romanticized this was and that it’s very much like fluff (oh my God, how dare I? Sorry LMM) next to the postmodern nonsense (oh my God, how dare I? Sorry Pat Barker and Barbara Kingsolver) I read now for my Literature class. The boys in the Anne books were so noble and brave and strong for going to fight in the big, manly war. And Walter got to die fighting for his country, instead of coming back from war knowing about all that “ugliness”, while Rilla’s sweetheart, Kenneth, come home completely unharmed and completely not shell-shocked. As opposed to Regeneration, in which you see how horrible and almost futile fighting in the trenches really was. To be honest, I rather liked my ignorance and innocence (sorry English teachers, who think they’ve helped me grow, but whom I believe have broken me).

Last year also marked the first year I brought a journal with me. I had just began writing, and Miami beach was where I wrote the first poem I’ve had published. That was growth I had never imagined. Publication. When I wrote that poem, the idea that it could possibly be published, and read by anyone outside my family was just unfathomable.

That’s a lot of growth for a single post. Next time I’ll post about this year’s reading material, as I’ve already written an entire essay’s worth of words. I wish I could just hand this in, instead of writing the million and a half essays I have due in just over a month.

Have you read any books that changed everything? How do you track your personal growth?

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