Dear Patient Readers: Personal Growth Corner

Dear Patient Readers,

On February 24, I expressed that I would be taking a week off from writing any posts to deal with the imbalanced, brain chemicals that were interfering from my actual living. It’s now March 14, nineteen days after I said that. I’m acutely aware that this is more than a week.

Besides the Mt. Olympia Low that I suffered, I got sick and guess how I got sick? Yup. By not taking care of myself. To summarize two weeks of misery: fever, no appetite, smoker’s cough, and saturnine. And to no surprise, I had another Low because lying in bed for four days and watching even more Gilmore Girls (my wheelhouse) is a 100% guarantee that you will feel like shit and declare that you’re just meat expiring.

Something interesting did happen while I was recovering. I was accepted into the English graduate program in Western Washington University, the fat bold lettering of CONGRATULATIONS louder than the thrumming of blood and pent up bodily fluids in my head.

I got in. Me. Erica Brown. I never actually believed I would. I’m not being humble or self-deprecating. These are feelings I carry with me to keep my hopes contained. I’ve been rejected before. I mean, if you haven’t, then you’re not a person. You’re an alien inhabiting your own planet (but, hey, let’s be friends!) But let me clarify: I’m not going to Western Washington University. I’m not enrolling into their English Graduate program. I’ve decided not to go.

Before everyone gasps and thinks I wasted a great deal of energy and time on this, I don’t think so. I did something scary. I went after something with a very high chance of being rejected. The last time I did that was never. I’ve avoided programs because of this fear. I bowed out of going to an Ivy League school because of the pass or fail admission process. I changed majors to avoid the pass or fail exit portfolio (but turns out, this worked in my favor because I’m actually a better writer than an artist.) I’ve lived under this stiffening pressure of the exclusive need to succeed because failure was like the roof and floor collapsing all at once. I’d have to start over. Rethink all my choices. Rebuild that stupid roof and floor to have a place to stand again. I’ve always been perceived as this person with their shit together, an adult who says what’s on her mind, calm, abnormally impassive, but generally knew what she wanted out of life. Psh, please. I’m 27, folks. I’m talented, artsy, dog lover, and an amazing baker, but I seriously am not some kind of prophet of my own life. I’m figuring stuff out too. While I love the idea of going to English grad school—that’s about it. My support team (who I want to thank because they had to listen to me for the last week flip flop on this decision) has insisted that I’m smart, which I am, and how well I would do in grad school, the people I would meet, and the things I would get to study, but there are so many things I want to do that aren’t contingent on earning a degree, which, by the way, has a scary paucity of academic jobs for anyone interested in being a Professor. I’ve spent most of my life admittedly sheltered. The summer I graduated high school, I went to community college and then to the university. I worked two part-time jobs during school and in the summer. I made just enough to pay for gas and groceries. I had no life except school, and, frankly, to throw myself back into that doesn’t align with what I feel now. I still think education is important, but I was cocooning myself in it and preventing myself from experiences. I don’t have the passion or fortitude for the academics and that’s okay. I’ve got stamina for other things. Writing and reading are my great loves and having an M.A. isn’t some kind of icing to me, but, if it were, it would be worth $60,000, plus interest. It’s just padding for something I really don’t feel I need. I’ve learned more outside in the ‘real’ world than I’ve learned in school.

When I finally realized this, everything in me snapped back into place. My gut was happy again—eh, sort of. Did I mention that I was sick during this whole deliberation? McDonalds. Wendys. I waited another several days to make sure it was the upset stomach talking.

Thank you for your patience dear readers and for putting up with some of my narcissism. Now I’ll get back to writing that post because this has definitely left me red in the cheeks, chagrined from the late revelation. After all, I am a book blogger. Yay books!!

Sincerely,

Your Local Resident Book Hermit

 

 

 

Reading Canon: A Little About Me

tumblr_static_vyvzcr2yn6swcg0g4g44s0gk_640_v2In the cavernous halls of my childhood home, books lined our shelves and took up space in our armoires, toy chests, and on top of our nightstands, but I’m sad to say, not many of them were actually read. It might come as a surprise, but I didn’t grow up in a book loving family or one that encouraged reading. This is not to say my parents disapproved of us reading, but I would say they didn’t nurture a zeal for it, which makes sense; they weren’t big readers themselves. I didn’t start voraciously reading until later in life. While listening to other people talk about their reading lives, or what I like to call their reading canon, I quickly learned that my experience with books was very different.

I’m what you call a late-reading bloomer and not by choice. I had a hearing impairment that made learning to read and write virtually impossible, which caused me to fall behind in my classes; hence, I was less inclined to pick up a book. Each word I pronounced and mumbled through painfully reminded me of my disability making me feel like a colossal failure, and I was only six! I was about to learn brail until I had surgery, which fixed my ears (or more medically accurate, my eardrums.) It was like magic. The hearing, not the reading and writing part. I still had to learn the basics, but I was already severely behind. My doctors and teachers were doubtful about my odds of me ever catching up.

Well, I showed them.

Despite my parent’s apathy in reading, my parents had an affinity for collecting books from anywhere. New, used, falling-apart books crowded our shelves. It was easy enough to distinguish the adult books from the kid ones by whether or not they were hardcover or paperback. It was a good thing my dad did this because I didn’t treat anything I owned with ANY kind of care or respect.

The Children books were designated to a specific bookshelf. It was ugly and made of a cheap metal. The parts that weren’t rusting were sprayed in an olive green paint and chipping; nonetheless, it served its purpose. The books on this shelf were thin and flimsy, too short and felt tacky whenever I picked them up. Then one day, hardcover dinosaur books were placed on this shelf. I don’t know if it was Mom or Dad who started amassing these books, but to me, who was fascinated with anything buried or hidden, did not ask why.

These books along with several other books I read at a young age inspired a number of wild, career choices:

Paleontologist – 2 Years

Until. . . My brother informed me of the niche market and job insecurity. Even then, I had some concept of money and poverty.

Ballerina – 1 Year

Until. . . I tried to spin 360 degrees on my ankle and sprained it in the process. Apparently I had no concept of the human anatomy.

Erotic Dancer – Three Months

Until. . . I learned that I would have to take off my clothes more than once in a crowd sober. . .

Lawyer – 2 Years

Until . . . I learned that there’s more to being a lawyer than pointing and parading heroic speeches to juries. 

Private Detective – 1 ½ Years

Until. . .a year and half went by and I couldn’t figure out who took my fifty cents. My dad later confessed he had put it in his chain jug.

Veterinarian – 6 months

Until . . . I realized I wouldn’t have a facility to save all the animals that I would refuse to put down.

Doctor – Back-up Plan

Until . . .there’s no longer science involved and we’re taken care of by autonomous devices.

Books remained a valuable source of information and influence, but I wasn’t reading a lot of Fiction. After my parents divorced, my dad (along with my grandpa) continued to bestow my brother and I with something practical, something we could use later on in life, thus, the carnival of Non-Fiction and Historical books had begun!

I read books about historically famous people like Cleopatra, Augustus Caesar, William Penn, Andy Warhol, and Mozart. My brother was a lot more receptive though and fancied these books more than I did. When we received a WWII book overtaking us in size, he beamed with interest while I played with my crayons and markers. I ended up being on a book hiatus for the next five years. It would be the library that revived my interest in books.

My hometown’s library is actually big (compared to the cluster of small towns around it) and more modern, with a glass wall at the entrance, a hidden descending staircase, and four computers—which I can’t stress enough was a lot in comparison with what the other libraries had in the area.

To say that I suddenly started reading every book in sight would be a lie. I was particular, which is the nice way of saying I was stubborn and picky. Subjected to years of reading Non-Fiction and Zoology magazines, I wanted my first book at the library to be amazing and memorable, and it was. A book from the Dear America series called I Walk in Dread attracted me for its journal writings, and I was able to relate to the female protagonist. I liked that these women were strong, intelligent, and independent. I’d end reading more books with these types of women that would inspire me and morph me into the woman I am today. They’d also be the kind of women I like to write about, but when middle school ended, I would end up rerouting my passions and interests into something different.

High school was a boiling pot of my love for writing and painting; reading fell to the wayside. I’d sometimes pick up books like Speak and Dreamland when I needed something to console me, but whenever I was having a Low, feeling extremely anxious or about to lose my shit, I took out the colored pencils and sketched. I’d eventually try and channel this into a viable career. Of course, I eventually learned that I wasn’t too keen on commission work. I was losing sleep on projects that didn’t stir anything inside me. The commercial world of art just wasn’t for me.

When I finally had enough of the Fine Arts program at the university, I transferred over to English Studies. The feeling that buoyed inside me left me able to breath, to think clearly. I felt less tangled inside.

At last, I thought.

I was exposed to a myriad of Classics, which opened the floodgate to more contemporary post-modern books. This is the part when I started to read every book I could. This is when my writing started to evolve into something beyond an inchoate style.

I know my reading canon doesn’t follow the average book-lover narrative. It’s the one topic I skirt around with other readers who maybe have that one book they used to fall asleep to or that they read every year. And I get it. That book is nostalgic for them. It’s just something I can’t relate to entirely. I have fond memories, but they’re more than likely more recent. I don’t have a lot of books from my childhood that I can really talk about since I started out reading late, but that doesn’t mean I love reading any less. It’s just a different story.

What’s your reading life canon?