Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
I owe you some updates. A LOT of big things have been happening lately. However, I'm still the busiest girl so I'm not going to fill you in on everything til later. But right now I'm going to post this paper that Alex and Heather wrote from my point of view. It is the best, most ridiculous, most sincere, most insincere, most hilarious paper ever. Apparently my life was meaningless and boring before I met those two. It's pretty long, but definitely worth it. MacKay cried three times because of it. Enjoy.
It is in uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations that you learn the most about yourself—who you are, where your boundaries lie, and how far you can actually push yourself. When your life seems foreign and terrifying, you find yourself reaching out for support from places you never would have imagined, and growing in ways you never thought possible.
Predictability suites me. I am an elitist at being “ordinary”. If any one of my friends’ mothers were to try and remember me, they wouldn’t be able to. Embarrassingly enough, it would take my friends describing me as “polite and boring” for them to jolt their middle-aged memory. I was always invited to stay for dinner, but never asked to play family volleyball in the backyard after. I was never hurt by this stereotype, it was well deserved and I did nothing to extinguish it. I’ve just never really surprised anyone and in the short twenty years I had lived, nothing had really surprised me. I came from an average Mormon family, in a clean, well taken care of home, a loving Mother and Father that instilled conservative but practical morals in not one, but all of their five children.
I grew up with essentially all the same kids, doing the same things, going to the same classes, eating the same Navajo tacos for lunch, and loving the new flavor of Mountain Dew they’d come out with every so often just like the rest of the kids. I never stood out or in any more than the rest of the crowd (with exception to the brief “extreme” phase of wearing goggle sunglasses every day of ninth grade that I went through). So when it came to what to do after graduating high school, I went with my best friends far, but not too far away to Utah State University. It was no Sandy, Utah but small town Logan would suffice for furthering my ambitious education in both Printmaking and Photography. I have always loved school and have worked hard at making it an important priority in my life, so why not study two majors as a young undergrad? I dove into my schoolwork feet first because according to the Delta College Fitness and Recreation Center, “The safest way to jump into a pool is feet first while facing the pool. Shallow areas are marked no diving. Please ask a lifeguard for the appropriate areas for diving. No backwards entries into the pool will be permitted.”
I was given the opportunity to travel to Switzerland in the summer of 2008 to study photography alongside my comfortable group of friends. We were the “quiet ones” keeping mostly to ourselves and being happy just the way we were. How or why would we want to compete with the “clique six”, a happy-go-lucky group of six loud, annoying, overwhelming, stereotypical American girls that seemed to think that the entire trip revolved around them. They had to be related or telepathic because they were always acting on the same level of obnoxiousness, which made them even harder to tell apart. All except for one. She was often found moving throughout the group alone, different from the rest that we assumed bathed together. She was collected and walked with her head up. She kept to herself, but everyone seemed to prefer her company. We associated her unfairly with the “clique six” because of her ability to relate and get along with anybody, and it wasn’t until she made us think differently that we gave her half a chance. On a regular basis, the “clique six” would bring up the topic of religion at any given situation seeing as three of them were preparing to serve Mormon missions. But this girl whose real name is Alexa would be passing notes of cartoons saying inappropriate things instead. In a heated, but probably insincere conversation they would be having amongst themselves she would be dancing what seemed to be a choreographed dance behind them without any of their knowledge. She was different than them, but different than me. We started a relationship in an unfamiliar way, mostly due to the pressure she put on me to respond to her outlandish behavior and partly because I couldn’t help but be intrigued. The educational trip ended and the wind pushed us daintily away to our lives that we had left a month and some previously.
I don’t recall hearing from or seeing Alexa until the following semester of school started and I spotted her on the other side of the street, hand in hand with one of the other girls from the “clique six”. The other girl waved politely, but Alexa made a terrifying face accompanied by an obscene hand gesture that I’m still too embarrassed to find out what it means. She was unforgettable, but gosh was she abnormal.
Through a sequence of unexplained and unforgettable events following the unexpected death of my Father, the toll that took on my humble family, the loss of friends to opportunities, the marriage of others, financial and health issues, and the aftermath of dealing with picking up and moving forward- I needed to make some changes and since my best friend and roommate had plans to escape to New Zealand, I needed a place to live and something or someone to fill in the hole that was deep and nagging. After going through every step of the scientific method, reading, and begging for a new home, an opportunity arose. A spot in the famous “Boathouse” was available for a limited time offer. The only connection besides visiting themed parties that I had there was Alexa Hall, and for some reason that is beyond everything I knew about myself, I called her.
Since moving in with Alexa I have learned that first impressions, although important, can also be deceiving. While she will tell you in sincerity that her life motto is ‘anything for a laugh’, I now know that the sincerity in her statement is actually the punch line in a long list of ongoing jokes that together make up her outer shell. Alexa’s core shows much more depth than that. She connects easily, understands thoroughly, forgives quickly and loves deeply. And I wouldn’t have found that out unless I had thrown out my first impression of her, taken a risk, and allowed myself to get to know and deeply understand the funny girl who dressed like a boy. I would have assumed the odd member of the “clique six” was just the better version of most of the girls, but I would have never known any of this if I hadn’t placed myself in the situation.
Where I am from, a family moving into the neighborhood is a really big deal. Relief Society mothers and other such members of the Sandy ‘mom network’ want to find out as much as possible about the new neighborhood members. Are they LDS? Do their children play soccer? And most importantly, do they like meatloaf? That is what they are getting for dinner tonight as an offering from the ladies in the ward compassionate service committee. The neighborhood men are also intrigued by new move-ins. They will give up entire days to help move furniture, tidy lawns, or repair and paint walls all for the simple satisfaction of hangin’ out with the neighborhood boys and the promise of a friendly game of ball at the end of the day just when the sun begins to set.
In January 2009, I moved into the Boat House one cold night. There was no meatloaf dinner to welcome me, and no neighborhood moving brigade to carry my bed into my new room. In fact in a house of ten people, there was only one girl home. She was hiding in her room pretending to sleep because she didn’t want to help. Heather pretends to sleep when she doesn’t want to help out, acknowledge the presence of annoying people, or engage in awkward conversations; and I love her for it. By mom-network standards, that kind of behavior is not proper or agreeable. Yet I have learned something very important from Heather. She is inappropriate, ridiculous and outrageous. She will never make meatloaf for the new neighbors, and she won’t marry someone who wants to play ball with the boys. Yet despite her attempt at making the world think less of her she has been the one to hold me when I need it, listen while I talk, talk while I listen and accompany me when I couldn’t face that one boy alone. She is sincere and loving, but doesn’t show it by baking cookies or moving furniture. So, by leaving everything familiar behind and moving to a house filled with outrageous people, I have learned that you don’t have to fit the mold to be good and that sincerity is the only way to show your love for someone—even if it means that you sincerely don’t want to help them move in!
Why does it seem that life would be better if it were perfect? A nice little package tied with red string and placed under a perfectly shaped and decorated Christmas tree sounds really nice—or maybe one of those mints that they place on your carefully turned down bed in really nice hotels. It seems like life should be like that—comfortable, predictable and safe. For the past 5 months my life has been everything but predictable. Death, marriage, love and disappointment have unfairly overtaken my daily thoughts. I have moved apartments, changed my friend group and started eating fruit leather. And in the midst of all this uncertainty, I have learned more about myself and life than the previous twenty and one half years combined. In Anne Lamott’s novel Bird by Bird she states,
I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.....Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground--you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it's going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation. (Lamott, p.26)
So what I am saying is this: I was born on March 20, 1988. For the first twenty and a half years of my life I can think of no defining events that separated me from any other middle class Mormon girl growing up in Sandy, Utah. I went to school, got good grades, made good friends, loved my family and accomplished fine things on an ordinary level. Now, I live with a Finnish boy, swear with style and confidence, religiously travel home every other weekend to console my heartbroken mom, cry thoroughly and often, sleep deeply in a ten by seven foot shared room with a dear friend, work all night on campus for my major, and faithfully eat tacos every Taco Tuesday. I find myself in a new place. It is uncomfortable, unpredictable and unappealing. Yet somehow emotion runs deeper here. I laugh harder because I cry harder, and love deeper because of the pangs of eternal sadness that I have now felt. In this place, life is not confined to mediocrity. And as E.E. Cummings states in his poem Parenthesis,
we are for eachother: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
Best paper ever,
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Today I didn't have to go to photo. Instead, we helped Ranger shoot some bookstore propaganda. We were supposed to just walk on the sidewalk with this mannequin. Sadly, we couldn't concentrate long enough for him to get a single serious shot. But within an hour he had created this masterpiece:
PS It looks as if I might go back for round 2 in the Dominican Republic. So excited.