28 November 2008

Annual Disillusionment

The day after Thanksgiving dawns. Actually, it dawned 3 hours ago when I was trying to sleep. Just know that the suns rises in the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room where I was unsuccessfully trying to sleep on couch cushions. It should be known that I haven't had any turkey yet. Hopefully that will happen tonight, now that at least part of the family has been gathered from all corners of the globe (Georgia, Alabama, DC, Denmark).

Guess what?! I have no holiday spirit. For this I partially blame the annoyingly repetitive secular Christmas music that was playing on the radio all day yesterday. God help me if I ever hear "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" or "Santa Claus is coming to town" again. Give me Josh Groban's rendition of "O Holy Night" and I might be able to salvage a little Christmas spirit. Yes, it's my yearly disillusionment. While everyone else is decking the halls, buying the goods, and singing along to the cheesy songs, I am folding my arms across my chest and saying "Bah-humbug."

It's not that I don't want to have the Christmas spirit. Of course I want to get caught up in the magic of the season. Why can't I? Honestly, it beats me. Maybe when things get warm and glowy the cynical part of my personality shoots out like a gag reflex. And obviously I hate the commercialization and secularization of Christmas; if you know me at all you probably knew that already.

I'm going to make bread and maybe pumpkin pie today. I suppose we might decorate our dorm room, and in a couple weeks I'll be decking the four-foot fake tree mom got for the apartment. I'll go to some Advent services and sing a few carols. Just like the previous years, I suspect I'll "get in the Christmas spirit" at about 11:30 PM on Christmas Eve. Then morning will come and it'll all be over. Whoop-de-doo!

For give me my grinchiness. Even the Grinch came around in the end, remember?

23 November 2008

Promoting Awareness

Every week there is a different booth on the quad promoting awareness of a cause. For this I am eternally grateful, because were it not for such booths I never would have known there were such things as breast cancer, arthritis, poverty, or hunger. I would advocate a different type of awareness, though - one that an unfortunately large number of people lack - an awareness that could bring radical changes to human interaction - and that is SELF-awareness. Not sure if you're self-aware? Want to raise your level of self-awareness? I'll walk you through a few basics, but the journey is one you'll have to make largely on your own.

There are two dimensions of self-awareness: internal and external. We shall start with external. Are you aware of the ramifications of your words and actions upon the lives of others? One unfortunate symptom of a lack of self-awareness is verbal diarrhea. The unaware will often speak for long periods of time without giving a thought to what they are saying, whether or not what they are saying makes sense, or if the fact that they won't shut up about what they are saying is annoying their trapped audience, causing their audience pain, or making themselves look far less intelligent than they might be. If you're afraid you may suffer from this particular symptom, remember this: before you speak, think. If you need to speak, do so slowly, then stop and think some more. Take a look at the face of your listener. It should reflect whether or not it's safe to continue. "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

On a larger scale, external self-awareness concerns your impact on the world, both positive and negative. Stop and think about the effects of your consumption, your action, and your personal interaction. Do you live wastefully? Are you having a positive impact on the lives of others? To be idealistic, how can you be a positive influence on the world?

The trickier dimension of self-awareness is internal awareness. Internal awareness can be achieved through the discipline of introspective reflection. If you are already a frequent flier on Introspection Airlines, you are well on your way to internal self-awareness. If not, I encourage you to take large chunks of time, or even just a few minutes several times a day, to reflect upon your thoughts, feelings, and reactions toward the day. Journals can be very helpful with introspective reflection. If you think you don't have time for introspective reflection, consider the mundane, mechanical activities you do throughout the day, such as driving or walking somewhere, cleaning, or showering. Such times are excellent for letting the mind get lost in itself. Internal self-awareness will help you better understand yourself, your desires, your beliefs, and your interaction towards others.

Let's make December Self-Awareness month. Let's make January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November Self-Awareness month. You have a Self. You are a being. Be aware of it. Don't fall into dangerous the trap of self-oblivion. Know thyself!

This public service message brought to you by the Association for Awareness and the Guess What - You Exist! Campaign.

06 November 2008

A gadfly

It would seem that my scathingly witty writing skills have gotten me into an exciting bit of a rhetorical pickle. I've been asked to be a panelist in a discussion on environmentalism at the next meeting of my school's Socratic Club. I am to provide a lively opposition to the trendy tide of environmentalism in society and on campus. Here's the article that got me into this. Here's the Socratic Club website. I am particularly looking forward to the organic cookies and home-grown coffee.

04 November 2008

Do you have some spare change?

Remember the song "Chain of Fools"? Here's a shout-out for Dad: When I was about 4, I thought the words were "Change, change, change!" instead of "chain, chain, chain." Until somebody corrected me, I frequently danced around the house singing "change change change;" Dad danced with me, but I'm fairly sure he got the lyrics right. I must have been pretty darn adorable.

While I'm giving shout-outs, here's one for Mom. My sister was always tall for her age, so I'd frequently ask Mom if I was tall or short for my age. "You're average, honey," she'd tell me, "just perfect for your age." Then one bleak, overcast day when I asked her yet again, she said, "Corinne, you're short, you've always been short, and you'll always be short."

Change (change change) is the bittersweet subject of this entry.

Childhood is sweet suspension, with comforting constants of parents and grandparents and teddy bears and traditions. The biggest changes are going to a new school or rearranging your bedroom, or, at the very biggest, moving. But still the constants remain, parents and grandparents and teddy bears and traditions.

When you go off to college, your life becomes almost constant change. I'd venture to say everything will keep changing until you're retired, or dead. When you were little, things changed around you, and in the constancy of the best things you were oblivious. Suddenly, you're an "adult" and innocent oblivion is no longer an option. You may be at the same college for a few years, but what about after that? And after that? The old adage is true, you can't go home again. Sure, you can try. Freshman year I tried, and there was my room, a little cleaner than I had left it because Mom views the order of her household more important than my knowing where everything is (and I respect that), but still my room with my bed and my desk and my towering bookshelves. Dad still came home around 7 PM, Mom was still a good cook, the cat was still a presumptuous spaz, the backyard was still woody and inviting, Eileen and I still watched Nick at Nite until midnight or later. At Thanksgiving, we had turkey and shrimp and pumpkin pie. At Christmas, we had chili and French bread casserole and we went to church and we hopped from Grandparents' to Grandparents'. Everything was not the same, though. Mom got a fake tree at Christmas, and there was nothing we could do about it (except grumble and groan, which college students are very good at).

Maybe that example is a little melodramatic, but times were a-changin. This may sound backwards, but as children, we some sort of say in things around the house; as college students, we were almost guests. Our empty-nester parents were moving on, doing things the way they couldn't when they had kids.

Come summer. Eileen moved to Denmark, Dad got a job in D.C., two grandparents were trying to sell the house that I practically grew up in, one grandparent was in the hospital.

Now, the house in Georgia with the wooded backyard sits full of furniture and empty of people, waiting to be returned to or sold. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be minus a sister and minus a grandmother, celebrated in a 12th floor apartment in D.C. Will there be a tree? Will there be late-night church? All I can say is, at least there will be a holographic fire to hang our stockings over.

I will spend two weeks this Christmas as a guest in my parents' apartment. I will spend two weeks in Georgia, trying to see all the other people I love whose lives are changing as well; I'll spend two weeks in Europe with my sister, feeling sophisticated and likely confused. In the summer, I'll probably be a guest in D.C. again. If I'm lucky (and diligent), I'll get to work as an intern in the field I might like to be in. No more hellacious retail summer jobs, please. It's time to start my life in the direction I think it might maybe possibly take. As for the following year and holidays, who knows? Maybe more of D.C., maybe back to Georgia; but never back to the past. In less than a few years, I'll have to be "on my own." Me, on my own? An "adult"? Preposterous! Where will I live? What will I do? Who will be the closest people in my life?

Parents and grandparents and traditions will change; at least I still have my teddy bear.