Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Reading!

When I found out about Jillian's Classics Club, I was tempted to commit myself to reading 50 classics in the next five years--and then realized that I'll probably end up reading about that many classics in that time anyway, being an English major (and considering all the internships and minors and whatever else I'm still planning to do, I'll probably be in school for that long, too). And I certainly won't have time to read 50 classics in addition to all those classics that I will certainly end up reading for school.

Anyway, before I started furiously listing all the classics I've always wanted to read and posting enthusiastic comments all over Jillian's blog (and neglecting my far-more-relevant-to-life studies), I realized how impractical it would be to take part in such a hefty book challenge, particularly since I've never participated in a book challenge before.

But even after I decided that being a good student was more important than indulging my classics/blogging fantasies, I remained intrigued. For a while I've been trying to do more reading outside of school. Let's face it, I waste plenty of time that I could be spending on more valuable pursuits. In my efforts to start using my time more wisely, I even checked a couple of travel books out of the library (in which I still have yet to get past the first chapters). And yet, here I am, still watching old episodes of Say Yes to the Dress on YouTube. (Yes, I spend my time watching giddy brides try on ridiculously expensive dresses that they will only ever wear once. It's my gateway drug...) I've been thinking how motivating it would be to be part of a reading challenge. It might get me reading some books I might not have read otherwise, and hey, it would be an adventure. At the very least, it would get me reading more, even if I didn't finish.

So I went in search of a more do-able reading challenge. In my quest, I found A Novel Challenge, which led me to this reading challenge by Reading Writers. It's simple enough--only 8 books required for the next 3 months, and the categories are pretty open-ended. And better yet, it starts today (which gave me a few days to think about it after I found the challenge). So I decided to take the plunge!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reflection, Discovery, Lying Upside-Down

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." -Marcel Proust

Tonight as I was sitting in my room, attempting to study, my roommate Michelle came in. "I want to do something!" she exclaimed. "I can't do homework anymore! I just want to...I don't know, do something!"

I thought a moment. "Okay. Let's hike the Y."

If you're unfamiliar with BYU, there's a giant white Y on a mountain, visible from pretty much anywhere in Provo. Hiking up to the Y is fairly commonplace among the students, but I just did it for the first time last weekend and I loved it, so I was eager to do it again tonight. I'm not sure what prompted me to make such a random decision, but within the next ten minutes I was dragging my roommate out the door and into the thick, hot evening air.

One of the best little decisions I've ever made. Michelle and I had a great talk walking up and down that mountain. We talked about life, goals, God. Things that matter.

It made me wonder...how often do I take a minute to focus on the things that really matter? How often in life do I honestly step back and say, Okay. I've been trudging through every day and doing my best. But now it's time to reflect on why. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Did I Decide to Study French?

This is the question I was pondering--well, more like grumbling--to myself as I struggled to stay awake, doing French homework, in the wee hours of this morning. I admit I ask myself this question often enough (particularly when my teacher is trying to explain the pronunciation difference between the words "tu" and "tout"). Having grown up in California, I'm quite aware that Spanish--or even Chinese or Arabic--is the more useful language. Who on earth speaks French in the middle of Utah, after all?

But as I was walking to school this morning I was gently reminded of all the reasons I decided to take French in the first place. I was walking with two of my classmates, Tyler and Sadie, discussing why we chose to take French instead of the ever-so-useful Spanish, and Tyler said that there's more to a language than usefulness.

And I remembered everything that's always drawn me to French. The way the vowels flow over the consonants, the gentle lilt of the words. The way it sounds foreign and exotic, but yet inspires some form of deja vu, some distant memory prodding my consciousness, a whispered call from an age of romance and castles and knights in armor.

My dad spent two years in France before he was married, living among the people and learning the language. I remember occasionally asking him at the dinner table to say something in French. He would indulge me, his voice lowering to a gentle murmur. I remember just the way his voice would change, even the way his expression would change, as though he were a different man. Then, of course, I would ask him what he said, and it would always be something like "you have smelly feet." But even my father's silly phrases had the delicate beauty of French.

I knew I wanted to learn French when I read Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love. She writes about her love of Italian; she loves the way it sounds and she's determined to learn it even though it's only spoken in one small country. Every word is delicious to her. I feel that way about French (when I'm not having conjugations pounded into my brain). It's not just about being able to talk to people. It's about having this language, a central piece of a cultural puzzle, burned into your being. Learning a language changes who you are--and every language has the potential to change you in a different way.

Now, there are certainly practical reasons for learning French. France is the most visited country in the world, so it's a very important language in the tourism industry, which is where I'm hoping to go with my career. French is very valuable for an English major; much of the Western canon was originally written in French (much more so than Spanish). But at the core of it is that I love French. I want to master the sounds and the words and that subtle, lilting tone. I want the words to come spilling out of my mouth without any effort, a rhythmic singing. I want French to be part of me.

So I trudge through the tests. And the pronunciation. And the conjugations. And the grammar. Why? Because it's worth it. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Changes!

Do you like my new look? I do. :)

Guys, my blog needs a revamp. Not just in the look, but in purpose. For the most part, I've been gearing my blog toward my friends, trying to write about stuff you guys might find interesting in a way you might find interesting. (It's entirely possible that I've been failing miserably on that...) Anyway, I've begun to realize that what I really want to do is get more into my niche and start blogging more like an English-major aspiring-travel-writer. And I want to be more like a real blogger and maybe actually get other people in this world to read my blog. (Who knows, we'll see...)

My first instinct was to create a new blog for my new purpose. But, at least for now, I've decided not to do that. I've tried that before and I haven't been too successful. I also think I might need to get the hang of blogging more before I go creating more blogs. So I'm going to stick it out with this one and see if I can't make it work. (I have a relationship with my blog...I just don't want to break up...)

This means several of my old posts will be deleted. Let's face it--I wrote a lot of really dumb stuff! And I don't necessarily want that to be in the archive for all to read (and judge me for). I'm in for a fun walk down memory lane with my blog. Yippee. (Sometimes my walks down memory lane involve less nostalgia and more covering my face and moaning in shame.)

(Yeah, so maybe my past-bad-writing guilt is a little extreme. I'm a perfectionist.)

Anyway, I'm telling you this for two reasons. One, so you have the opportunity to go down memory lane with me if you so desire and read the old posts before they are gone (but I advise strongly against it; it's really not worth your time...). Two (this one is more important), so you're aware that this blog won't be the same as it used to be. Since I'm going to be reaching out to a different audience, I'm going to be writing about things you might not care about...like Victor Hugo and Italy and books you may not have heard of. (Although I don't know how you could possibly not care about Italy.) These are the things I really care about and this is what I want to be doing someday for a career, so it's about time I got started.

Here's to a brighter and more wonderful tomorrow for the blog! See you soon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Wondrous World of Literary Blogs

I am really coming to love literary blogs.

For those of you who have yet to personally discover literary blogs, I encourage you to find one that fits you. Book bloggers are always so cute and lively. Some are sarcastic and critical. Some are over-the-top enthusiastic. But they're all passionate about books, writing about books, and talking about books. Here's a literary blog I found recently as an example.

Reasons I Love Literary Blogs:
  1. I love books. You know that feeling you get when you finish an amazing book? And you just want to talk to someone who will understand and share your feelings...but your family members/roommates are busy eating popcorn and watching NCIS and don't care about any ol' book from two hundred years ago. "Victor Hugo, who's that?" Literary blogs give you a great chance to connect with someone who feels just the same way about the book that you do. 
  2. Literary bloggers are intelligent (and if you find one that isn't, then find a new one). They offer great new ways to look at books that I've never thought of before. 
  3. Unlike the authors of reviews in a newspaper or magazine, bloggers are super easy to connect with. You can comment on their blog post and they--or other readers--might respond to you within hours. If you get into a literary blog, it can become a kind of community. 
  4. Book bloggers are some of the more adorable bloggers there are. Even the sarcastic ones. They might actually be cuter than food bloggers. 
  5. Chances are, the blogger is really no different from you and me. Maybe they've read more books, but they're probably just an average Joe. Their blog post might very well just be a few random thoughts about the book that they just shot into the blogosphere. Blogs have a great casual, informal feel; you feel like you're talking with a peer, not some high-and-mighty literature expert. 
  6. They're a fun AND intellectual way to use the Internet (like I was talking about in my last post)!
So there you have it. Six great reasons to find a literary blog to love! 

If you're at a loss as to how to look for book blogs, try IceRocket.com or on Google's blog search engine and type in the name of a book or author you love. 

Happy blog reading!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Virtues of Facebook

Ah yes, the Internet. We have the world at our fingertips and yet we just use it to watch stupid cat videos. 

For many of us, this cynical sentiment pervades the edges of our consciousness whenever we log onto Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, or any number of social sites. This is such a waste of time! What am I doing with my life?! I've had these thoughts and many others just as pathetic. Several times in the past I've resolved to solve my problems and stop wasting my time by minimizing my time on social sites. Just take a Facebook fast! That'll do it, right?

Wrong! The truth is, we can just as easily waste time off the Internet as on it. If we're not on Facebook, we might be watching infomercials. Or eating donuts. Or throwing spitballs at the ceiling. Or wasting away on the sofa. Or all the above. All useless activities. But we could also choose to spend our time reading a good book, learning calculus, or taking a hike. It doesn't take rocket science to be able to distinguish between a good and a bad use of our time.

The same is true for the Internet, even social sites like Facebook. In fact, you might even argue that it's especially true for social sites. How, you ask?