Trying to Adult

Trying to Adult

Everyone wants to improve. Change is the only thing that is constant in this world – change, and death, which is its own change. Improvement is a type of change, as well. We should all strive to improve, as we are humans, and humans are innately flawed beings. In the same vein, because humans are flawed, there is no way for us to achieve perfection, so improvement is always possible, no matter how large or small. I’ve taken a few steps to improve myself and my life lately, and I’d like to share them with you, perhaps as a source of inspiration.

I’ve been reading more. I’ve been reading novels, in particular. For some time I was in a rut of buying and checking out self-help books and essay collections, and found after a while that my mind was craving a story. Right now I’m reading Big Cherry Holler, the second book in Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap series, The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee, and The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

In that vein, I have also been writing more. I’ve been trying to blog more, as you might have noticed, and I’ve been journaling again, too. Journaling especially has been helping with my mood, emotional wellbeing, and the general depth of my thoughts. It’s a lovely and difficult challenge to write, truly write and not just type how much I want to write and call it a day, every day. Sometimes what I write is absolute garbage that goes nowhere, but sometimes it is the beginning of the articulation of a concept that has been floating in my mind for ages.

I’ve been listening to more podcasts – news podcasts, TED podcasts, true crime podcasts – to keep myself aware and informed. Who knows, maybe it will allow me to be more interesting at future cocktail parties. I love stories, and podcasts are the modern, adult way of being read to or told a story, like many children are every night before bed.

I have been discovering different music. A great big thank-you and shoutout to the love of my life for introducing me to Lake Street Dive and reintroducing me to ZZ Ward. Music enriches my life, especially with my synesthesia, and brings me catharsis and true joy.

I have been purging my life of material things, mostly clothing and decorations. I wear the same twenty or so items in my wardrobe. I asked myself why I keep things I rarely ever wear, when someone else can love and get use out of them instead. I’ve cleaned out old and unused makeup, books that will never be reread and are not favorites to forgive that fact.

I’ve been taking extra care with my skin and hair. I’ll admit, sometimes I would slip up and not add my oils to my hair, or not moisturize my skin after a shower, but I have been much more consistent lately. I have also been taking my vitamins (yes, they’re gummies, but the pills make me sick) and my medications with perfect compliance.

I’ve been keeping up with my chores. I make my bed almost every single morning, only skipping that step when I know I will inevitably crawl back in it before bedtime. I have been dusting and vacuuming my bedroom and cleaning my bathroom with regularity.

I’ve been trying to be a responsible, proactive adult. Sometimes that can be difficult when one lives with one’s parents, especially in one’s childhood home. But, I am making a conscious effort not to fall into old habits and behaviors. Here’s to adulting!

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Piano


Perhaps you know this, or perhaps you are unaware: I was trained in piano for ten years. The summer I was eight, the four of us climbed into the car and drove to a piano warehouse, where we purchased a repurposed and gorgeous Kawai. That piano has received countless compliments over the years, for its beautiful reddish wood a few shades darker than honey, and its rich sound, much richer than one would expect from an almost upright piano.

I was over the moon to begin learning. Before my sister and my formal lessons began, my mother taught us to play a few nursery rhymes, as well as the inevitable “Heart and Soul.” I picked it up quickly; I’ve always been an a decent mimic. When I was small, I would mimic my mother’s vibrato as she sang, only to be told that “vibrato is not for little girls.” (I would later, upon observing child singers use vibrato, come to the same conclusion.)

I was a good student at first, once lessons began. I hated the theory workbooks I had to complete, though it was probably the area in which I was the most naturally inclined, specifically ear training. It got to the point where my saintly teacher, Miss Gloria, wouldn’t let me move on to a new lesson book without first completing the theory workbook that went along with the previous lesson book. I also loathed counting.

About a year in, maybe less, my excitement abated. I resented my daily requirement of thirty minutes of practice. (For those who don’t know, I have a deep-rooted contrary streak that flares upon meeting authority, specifically when I am told to do something I was intending to do on my own, or when I am not in the mood.) Every day – and I mean every single day – my mother and I would have the “piano fight.” Sometimes it went on for up to an hour, or she’d give up and attack later. In case anyone is wondering, no, I never won that fight. She would also set the timer on the microwave in the kitchen to keep me from skimping. I would slowly close my book, stand, walk to the kitchen, check the time, and slowly make my way back to the piano in the living room and set up for the next piece, pleased that I’d wasted a minute or so.

Eventually the required daily practice increased to an hour. It probably should have continued to increase as I became more knowledgeable and certainly as I began formal voice lessons, joined honors choir and took AP Music Theory in school, but I think my mother was wary of fighting me more than she had to by then. Interestingly, the hour of vocal practice whizzed by every day and frequently bled into a second hour.

I think the true reason I resented piano, besides that contrary streak I have, is that I was a natural singer who had always been praised for my musicianship. The piano was something I had rarely encountered before one entered our home. It was a late addition, and it frustrated me that I wasn’t a natural at this thing that was completely new to me. I also saw four and five-year-olds playing at recitals, and knew that I would have to work harder than they to reach the same milestones, because I had less time to do it. This was not a motivator. I was already frustrated at my lack of natural genius, and resented the fact that I’d begun “late.” So, at eight, I threw in the proverbial towel, and fought for a decade against those who would have me realize what talent I had.

Looking back now, I was not a terrible pianist, though I graduated high school a mediocre one. I needed more practice than I gave, and have no innate metronome whatsoever (despite the fact that my great-grandfather was a successful drummer), but I have a lovely expressiveness on the keys that I believe is wholly my own.

Much to my mother’s satisfaction, every time I’m in her house for an extended amount of time, no matter how small, I am back on the piano bench, picking up where I left off when I left for college at eighteen. And, to tell the truth, I am grateful, grateful, grateful for the skill, such as it is. So, here goes: thanks, Mom.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

(DISCLAIMER: Spoilers!)

I recently saw the sequel to Mamma Mia! And boy, do I have a lot of feelings about it. Some are positive, some are negative.

Let us begin with the title of the movie: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. At first glance, this is simply a clever way to name a sequel besides putting a number at the end of the original title. But, as any ABBA fan knows, it is a lyric from the song “Mamma Mia.”

Some of the songs in the sequel were the same as those used in the first musical, but there were many others, mostly lesser-known, used as well. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is more music-heavy than the original, whose songs were clearly picked from ABBA’s greatest hits.

I fell in love with Donna in this movie, which was not helped by the fact that she was played by my very favorite actress, Lily James. James is not only a good actress, singer, and dancer, she is also gorgeous and one of the few non-natural blondes who can pull off blonde hair. Donna played by James in this prequel/sequel was utterly charming. She was sweet, reckless, romantic, adventurous, and ambitious – a devastating mixture. No wonder she had three men fall completely in love with her over a period of a week or two. Frankly, I’m quite surprised it wasn’t more.

But. There were a few issues I had with the movie in relation to its original. Firstly, in the original Mamma Mia! movie it is mentioned that Donna’s mother instills “Catholic guilt” in her. This seems unlikely, as it is revealed in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again that Donna’s mother is largely absent, performing in Las Vegas to adoring crowds. Not to make assumptions, but if Donna’s mother was constantly playing Vegas, she was most likely not a regular church-goer, because of her schedule. More likely and more defensible is the fact that if Donna’s mother was constantly performing and jetting off all over the world, she wasn’t with Donna enough to instill an innate sense of guilt based on Catholicism within her daughter.

Then there was my biggest issue: the timeline. The original stage musical took place in the nineties, which made sense, as Donna was supposed to have had Sophie very young in the late seventies/early eighties. This time period was the one during which ABBA was most popular. Sophie in the original movie is twenty years old, placing the original around the turn of the twenty-first century. In the sequel, Donna graduates college, then goes on to have Sophie soon after. So, assuming Donna is twenty-two or twenty-three when she has Sophie, when Sophie is getting married at twenty Donna should only be in her early forties. This is confusing, because she was played by the then-fifty-nine-year-old Meryl Streep (though I will admit I really love and admire her immense talent). Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again supposedly takes place five years after Mamma Mia!, but the technology is quite advanced, with many of the characters using some of the latest iPhones. Amanda Seyfried, who plays Sophie in both movies, while beautiful and still rather young, does not look ten years after the original movie like she is a twenty-five-year-old – mainly because she is not a twenty-five-year-old. All in all the timeline and casting were so messed up and confusing that the combination truly upset me, which distracted me from enjoying the movie a little bit.

Another, much smaller issue, was the fact that playboy Bill mentioned an elderly aunt on the island, and in the first movie it is explained that Donna inherited the inn she runs from an elderly woman she cared for on the island for the beginning of Sophie’s life. This elderly aunt never appears but in passing mention in the second movie, and Donna is given the inn by a kind middle-aged local woman.

In the end, the music was excellent, the visuals were stunning, the acting was good, the dancing great, the story incredibly touching. I definitely found myself stifling sobs in the theater during the end of the movie, something that has only happened once before during The Fault in Our Stars (but that was an open sobbing).

I would recommend this movie a million times over. It was fun and pretty and good. And, if it had major flaws, these flaws did not prevent enjoyment of the movie too much. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a movie that I am glad I saw in theaters, whose soundtrack I listen to ad nauseum, and a DVD I will ask for for Christmas. That is my recommendation.

Did you see Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again? Did you like it? Did you find any of the flaws or more than I found?

Shallow Is Important, Too

I feel there is a pervasive school of thought that believes that people should only nourish their deeper selves. While it is important to nourish the finer thoughts and feelings one has, it is also important to nourish the shallower parts of the person.

For example: you aren’t with your partner (if you have one) simply because they look a certain way – at least I hope you aren’t – and you aren’t with them simply because they have a lot of things in common with you. You’re hopefully with your partner because you not only find in them a good, compatible friend, but also a physically attractive human being. It’s important to have things in common and to get along with your significant other. It’s also important to be attracted to them physically. Does being with your significant other because you’re both attracted to them (shallower) and compatible with them (deeper) make you shallow or deep? It makes you both – you can be both! You are a multifaceted, multilayered human being. Both these things – physical attraction and compatibility – are important to maintain a happy relationship.

In another vein, it’s okay to enjoy things that aren’t necessarily “of substance.” The idea that only books or movies or what-have-you that are exigent is an old one. Victorians looked down on novel readers, because novels typically didn’t have a point other than to entertain. But that’s okay. It’s okay to like things that don’t teach you some kind of lesson! It’s okay to like things that are just fun – you’re allowed to have fun! Things that are just fun, or pretty, or entertaining, are good and valid too.

So, it’s okay read Dostoevsky, but it’s also okay to read a romance novel, or two or three. You are a multilayered, multifaceted human being. Don’t just attend to one part of your being and starve another. This goes both ways: don’t starve your deeper self to feed the more shallow part of the self, and don’t starve your more shallow self because you think it doesn’t need nourishment. It does.

Go read War and Peace, or US Weekly. Watch Citizen Kane or Pitch Perfect. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter, or go swimming. Do what makes your soul happy, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.

Autumn Playlist

  1. Autumn Leaves – Nat King Cole
  2. Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys
  3. Castle on the Hill – Ed Sheeran
  4. I See Fire – Smooth Progressions
  5. Dog Days Are Over – Florence + the Machine
  6. 40 Day Dream – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
  7. Youngblood – 5 Seconds of Summer
  8. Where Are You Now – Mumford and Sons
  9. Curse Your Branches – David Bazan
  10. Back to Black – Amy Winehouse
  11. Where the Streets Have No Name – U2
  12. On the Way Home – John Mayer
  13. Gold – Once the Musical OBC
  14. You Ain’t Alone – Alabama Shakes
  15. There Goes the Fear – The Doves
  16. Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene – Hozier
  17. October Road – James Taylor
  18. Arsonist’s Lullaby – Hozier
  19. You’ve Got the Love – Florence + the Machine
  20. Solace – Scott Joplin
  21. Shrike – Hozier
  22. Hopeless Wanderer – Mumford and Sons
  23. Back to You – Selena Gomez
  24. Crying Wolf – ZZ Ward ft. Kendrick Lamar
  25. Hold On – Alabama Shakes
  26. April Come She Will – Simon and Garfunkel

15 Facts about Me!

15 Facts about Me!
  1. I am a synesthete. (See earlier post on synesthesia.) My favorite color is cerulean blue. To me, the color represents joy and excitement, and the warmth and relaxation of the beach.
  2. Starting from a very young age, I was obsessed with the Titanic. I even met Bob Ballard and got his signed book (thanks mom!). To this day, I am still captivated by it, and Titanic the Musical is one of my favorites.
  3. My maternal great-grandparents came from Mariglianella, Italy, in the 1920s. My dad’s family has been in the U.S. for a long time, and they are mostly German-American. My dad’s surname is an Americanization of a German surname. Last Christmas my dad gave my sister and me a gift that proves we are Daughters of the American Revolution!
  4. I am a natural blonde. Until I was fifteen my hair turned almost white every summer. Also, my mother refused to do anything past trimming my hair for the first seven years of my life. I guess she couldn’t bear to cut the long, white-blonde curls.
  5. I am a lyric coloratura soprano. I studied vocal performance at Elon University for almost two years under Beth Carter’s instruction. I have sung in the Kennedy Center twice, and Carnegie Hall once, both times in choirs.
  6. I have broken my fifth metatarsal in each foot – on separate occasions, first in 2013 and the other in 2017.
  7. I love flowers. My favorite are pale pink peonies, though I also love roses, daisies, tulips, magnolia, cosmos, anemone, and hydrangea. (Thanks dad, for always bringing in your flowers from the yard.)
  8. My favorite book is the unabridged Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, though I haven’t read every page since the first read-through, because I learned which chapters I can skip. Les Miserables is also my favorite musical.
  9. I love to cook and bake, especially with unconventional combinations. One of my favorites is blackberry, ginger, and dijon on chicken, or chili powder on butternut squash.
  10. I love big band swing. I used to love the WAMU radio show, “Hot Jazz Saturday Night,” and looked forward to it every week, before it was cancelled.
  11. I’m currently in love with the TV show The Bold Type, which airs on Freeform. I love that it depicts strong female characters who support each other and lift each other up and make each other better people.
  12. On October 3rd, I will have been in a relationship with the love of my life for three and a half years. He is handsome, charming, funny, hard-working, supportive, loving, adorable, and crazy intelligent. He makes me a better me.
  13. My best friend and I have been best friends our entire lives. I cannot say enough good things about her, ever. She is beautiful, smart, strong, utterly hilarious, and quirky.
  14. I want to learn to crochet. I know how to knit (badly), but I’m told crochet is easier. It certainly looks more interesting.
  15. When I was a kid, I collected foreign coins. Friends and family heard about this, and assisted me in my collecting whenever they came back from overseas. Some of the coins are from countries that no longer exist, and I have no idea how many countries all these coins are from.

Synesthesia

Synesthesia

Synesthesia. A word a surprising amount of people have heard, but many do not understand.

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the word synesthesia comes from the Greek syn- and aesthesis, meaning “union” and “sensation,” respectively. Its figurative translation means “to perceive together.”

Synesthesia is, by definition, a sense impression made on one part of the body or on one sense that is produced by stimulus to a separate sense or body part. To simplify, synesthesia can be thought of as a “crossing over” of senses.

Synesthesia is not a disease, nor is it a hallucination. It is a genetic biological phenomenon, unlearned, more common in females than males. It is believed that one in every 2,000 people are synesthetes, the term used for those individuals with synesthesia. Famously, Vladimir Nabokov is reputed to have been a synesthete.

There is a widely-accepted theory that synesthesia is caused by a genetically driven overabundance of neurons in the brain. Synesthetes tend to be musical, artistic, and/or good at spelling and history. The musicianship and artistic abilities come from the lives of synesthetes being, for the most part, saturated with color. The enhanced spelling and history ability come from these colors, too. If the colors of the letters or numbers are amiss, the synesthete can more easily locate mistakes and fix them.

I myself have synesthesia. Mine manifests in the form of letters and numbers having colors, genders, and personalities, especially numbers under ten. I also “see” music. Music usually looks to me like colors, sometimes shapes, and occasionally scenes, like paintings.

The way synesthesia works for me is that I see that letters in a book are black. I know the ink is black; I see the ink is black. But in my mind’s eye, the place where one visualizes things, (for example, memories) the letters each have their own colors. This is one of the reasons I love reading so much, because the words become tiny paintings comprising a larger, more beautiful whole.

My favorite words because of my synesthesia and the colors of its provides are “beautiful,” “meadow,” “dinosaur,” and “bride.” My favorite pieces of music are Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” which is deep blue and speckled with silver, with moments of the palest yellow. I also love “By a Sleepy Lagoon” by Eric Coates, which is peach and sky blue and green. The letter “A” is red, “I” is a pale ice blue with a tiny tint of lavender, and the letter “T” is forest green. They are that way because they’ve always been that way. I’ve never known a time when those letters didn’t have those colors.

Synesthesia varies from person to person. The colors of my alphabet, while they largely conform to those of most English-speaking synesthetes, vary slightly from that alphabet. My sister and my father have synesthesia as well, and their alphabets differ from mine, with some similarities. We get into joking fights about what color certain letters are.

I wouldn’t trade my synesthesia for anything. It literally makes my life more colorful. It makes music and reading more interesting and delightful. I’ve never lived without it, and I wouldn’t like to. If you’d like to know what color your name is, comment below, and I’ll let you know!

 

Works Cited:

Carpenter, Siri. (March 2001). Everyday fantasia: the world of synesthesia. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar01/synesthesia.aspx

Harrison, J.E., & Baron-Cohen, S. (Eds.) (1996). Synaesthesia: Classic and contemporary readings. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.