That Familiar Crack

I don’t know why I even hesitate to pick up a pen or set my fingers upon a keyboard.

I never regret it when I’m finished.  Even if what I’ve written is total crap, there’s satisfaction in having put words on a page.  A certain kind of alignment of the spirit in having successfully transformed the firing of neurons in my brain into something someone else can read.  There’s a thrill in the possibility of setting off fireworks in someone else’s brain.  Even if in the end what I’ve written is so terrible and unworthy of reading that I want to burn it, bury it and have a cow poop on it just so no one ever gets their hands on it, I’m still happy to have sat down and written.

And still.

There is always this arresting hesitation born of angst that takes hold when I’m about to sit down and write.  Like if I pick up this pen the world might be set on fire, but not in a good way.  Or if I click that first letter on the keyboard I might never be able to stop.  Which in my opinion is not a bad way to die.  In fact, it would be sort of awesome to be able to say I died whilst on a literary tirade, but also kind of a stumbling block to the other goals in my life if I died so prematurely.  So there’s this hesitation to begin writing.

Of course,

I do it anyway.

On good days.

On you’re going to sit your butt in this chair and write even if it is literally the last thing you do, days.  On the world is a mystical place and you have to hurry up and get it down on paper, days.  On the you’ve set this deadline for yourself and you’re going to meet it or you basically deserve to be dead, days.  Notice how those days that smell like death came twice.  They come a lot more often than the mystical ones.

But still, I write.

Once, I thought I could let the angst win out and watch my writing life evaporate on the pavement in front of me, like so much catapulted saliva.  Slowly it swirled into the sky.  I watched it with both eager anticipation and terror.  Was this really happening?  Was it working?  Is all it takes some patient laziness?  My small pond became a puddle, and it soon was small enough to fit in the palm of one hand.

Then,

it was gone.

Or so I thought.

I turned around and began walking away, ready to throw a party or surrender myself to the nearest volcano.  To this day I don’t know which.  Maybe both.  In any case, something made me stop, turn around, and stoop real close to the ground.  There on the pavement was a crack.  And from that crack trembled a solitary drop of moisture, stubborn and hopeful.  I crouched there squinting at it for a long time.  Days, weeks, months.  I was watching to see if it too would eventually join it’s brothers in the unforgiving sky, but it didn’t.

Or it wouldn’t.

I’m not sure which of these either.

All I know is that no matter how long I stared at it, that droplet did not fade away.  And it was then that I knew in my gut that no matter how I long I watched, it would never go away.  There was something deep beneath the ground ensuring its existence.  Something annoying, and sure ,and as stubborn as me.  It let me know that there was no amount of running or hiding or overwhelming ray of angst that would burn that droplet away.

Ever since then, I pick up the pen and set my fingers on the keyboard because I have to.  Or at least I might as well.  Anytime I get too anxious about what I’m doing with this writing thing or why, I just squint down at that familiar crack.  Even if it’s too deep down at the bottom of the spring for me to see.

~LDA

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Drama Llama

I’m such a drama llama.

I hate actual drama with people, but I can be so incongruously melodramatic with myself in my head. Even when my logic is pounding at my heart’s door and telling it to shut up, “I’ve heard this bit about five thousand times! Give it a rest already!”

I am finding my problems are so much less than I build them up to be and am continually ashamed of myself. I’m speaking mostly of my social troubles, of which you would barely be able to tell I have, because it’s easy to camouflage.  My anxiety is an invisible burden which I have no need to shove behind my back for fear of being found out.  Its nature is quite undetectable given enough nods, smiles, and echoing of whomever I’m speaking to.

Most people only want to hear themselves repeated and affirmed anyway, so this is easy.  A fact I’ve expressed distaste of before.

It’s quite a self-centered way of being, wanting to be heard all the time and refusing to return the favor, but I’ve admitted I have my own brand of selfishness as well.  I seek depth of connection without wading into the waters of relationship.  You can’t begin to understand a person, or people in general for that matter, until you first know them.  There’s a level of necessity for this surface level contact.

I have this conceited fear that if I talk to a lot of people I’ll attract too many people I don’t particularly like, and won’t know how to shake them off.  Because despite being a pro at offending people unintentionally with my blunt manner, I actually don’t like causing others pain or discomfort.  I do contain a base level of empathy that brings me an aversion to being the cause of pain.  I just mostly see things so differently than other people that I can’t predict a lot of the ways they will feel pain, so I cause it anyway.

But this is a really selfish fear.  One I thought I had disengaged myself with.  It all comes back to me being afraid I will have to give too much.  Which is not completely unreasonable since there are a lot of leeches out there who bring nothing to the table but a suction cup mouth, however it is selfish nonetheless.  So what?  I’ll end up giving more than I receive.  It’s not exactly a fun way to live, but it’s a way of life I’ve claimed to support, all the while not putting into practice socially.  

It’s so essential to my growth as a person and is stunting my current relationships, and still I have yet to deal with it. I’ve been staring my interpersonal issues in the face for so long that I have at least finally identified them. The problem is, that it’s been so long that I’ve also forgotten how to act on resolving them, even when I know how. Or at least know how to start.  I’ve been on pause discussing strategy for such an extended length of time that I’ve forgotten it takes an action to put that strategy into effect.  

It’s things like these that I justly beat myself up about not putting into play.  Life is the sort of game where you have to put yourself at risk to level up.  The trick is to beat each level without using any cheat codes, (like manipulating people), because it’s lame to beat it unethically.  If you do, you will level up, but the win won’t be worth much in the end.

Growing as a person is such a continuous battle of getting yourself to face your fears, irrational and otherwise. And not only face them, but to get up and fight them. 

~LDA

Accidental Dubs

Guys, I swear I’m not even a real person.

How does one accidentally dub someone?

I feel like I’m the only person on the planet who consistently offends people without even meaning to.  I mean, everybody has their ditsy moments where they hurt someone’s feelings without noticing, but I’m pretty sure I’ve reduced it to a science.  Which is pretty hard, considering these things are done unintentionally.

Maybe I spend so much time wandering in my brain that I forgot how to even be in the moment, and so I constantly appear to be disinterested in the people right in front of me.

The ridiculous truth is, I’m actually so interested in the species homo sapiens that I’m too busy over-analyzing their behavior to actually engage with them when necessary.

I was out intentionally socializing the other day—or at least trying to—when a networking opportunity appeared.  Someone went out of their way to speak to me and ask me to coffee before I left the scene of my crime.  These social outings tend to leave me exhausted, introvert that I am, so all I was thinking about was hopping into my car and not talking to another soul for days.

He raised his hand to get my attention.

“Hey, I was hoping I’d get the chance to talk to you, but it looks like you’re about ready to leave.”

Of course, since he had stopped me mid-getaway I looked like a deer in headlights, or like a child with their hand stuck in the cookie jar.

“Oh, hi,” I replied.  Ah, you’re blocking my exit! is what I screamed internally.

If you have to go that’s fine, but I’d love to get coffee sometime if you don’t mind, he continued.

“Oh, um…” Wow, that’s weird.  He actually wants to extend this experience, I mused.

He began staring at me.  Oh, right.  I’m supposed to respond.  

“Uh,” I began.  So…If I accept I’m going to be stuck in a situation where I have to put on my best human disguise.  Can I handle that kind of one on one at the moment?  

He continued to stare, cocking his head to the side, confusion beginning to register on his face.  Crap.  Say something, woman.  The pause has become unnatural.  Quick, make a decision.  That sort of thing was kind of the point of this outing, forcing yourself into uncomfortable situations.  Okay.  Say yes.  Wait, but then I have to actually dooo it…I whined to myself.

He began to open his mouth, signaling he was going to fill the silence himself.  Stop being lazy! Say something!  

“Yeah,” I blurted, fake smile affixed to the max.

Relief spread across his face that he wouldn’t have to reiterate.  “Great, so I live over by…How far are you from there?”

Give him only approximate coordinates.  He could be intending to murder your family in the dead of night.  “I live around…” I said.  That was stupid vague. Don’t be an idiot.  The probability of him being a murderer is very slim.  Besides you don’t have to narrow it down very much.

“I live in…” I clarified.  Much better.  

“Okay, so …. seems like about a halfway point,” he smiled.

He’s pausing for confirmation.  Smile and nod like you know geography.  “Mmhm, just about,” I guessed.

“Here’s my card,” he said handing me a quaint little piece of cardstock.  He said other impressively human stuff for a while.  “Do you have a card?”

Haha.  That’s cute.  He thinks I’m a real person.  Maybe I should start carrying some around though.  Tighten this whole disguise…

“No, unfortunately I don’t,” I replied.

He nodded understandingly and said nothing.  Oh, wait.  He was digging for information.  

“I’m a teacher,” I said, hoping to satisfy the implied question.

No, dummy.  Wrong piece of information.  

I was very close to bringing a palm to my face at this point, but he kindly continued talking and provided his job description too; As if I had responded appropriately.

Another lull in conversation.  This isn’t going very well.  Abort conversation mission.  I think you’ve satisfied the speech quota.  

“So…uh, we’ll be in touch,” I said, quite literally backing away slowly.  I even made use of the whole finger guns move and everything.

“Uh, okay,” he replied a little bewildered.

Yeahhh…I don’t really understand what I’m doing either, buddy,  

“I’ll see you,” I said, slinking my way to the exit.

“Okay, thanks for coming!” he shouted over the noise of other conversations to my turning back.

When I finally got to the refuge that is my car I realized I hadn’t actually set a time to meet him over coffee.  Which I totally didn’t mean to do.  Sure, I was trying to shut the conversation down as soon as possible, but I hadn’t meant to actually reject the offer.  I wanted to force myself into further uncomfortable situations and effectively get a little better at my act of pretending to be human.

Crap.  You totally just dubbed that guy.  You didn’t even set a time for coffee and he was genuinely being friendly.  I’m pretty sure he wasn’t even just coming onto you either.  You’re a terrible person,  I scolded myself.

I tend to think I’m observing people too much to respond appropriately in normal social situations, but maybe I have it the other way around.  I’m too busy talking to myself to talk to other people. 

One day I’ll master the art of humanity, guys.

One day.  I promise.

~LDA

Slippery Slopes

There’s something daunting when writing about yourself.  Not that it is hard to crack open your chest cavity and expose your gross pulsating parts to the world.  As a writer, I do that all the time.  That’s what creating story is, taking what you’ve learned about the world through your experiences and wrapping it in the skins of fictional characters.  But there’s this pressure when you’re not hiding behind the darling faces of the characters that you have the power to save or destroy.

When you’re writing plainly about yourself, the pressure to make the story good rises to a whole new level.  You set yourself on the operating table and begin to dismember.  How can I make this part look better?  Would this look better here?  Perhaps a little bit of the skin of my thigh would look better on my cheek?  You feel compelled to make yourself look shinier or more tragic or more charming than you really are.  Because this is you, so if someone hates it or thinks it’s boring, it’s like they’re saying they hate you or think you are boring.  You have no characters to hide behind.  But that’s just ego speaking.  The truth is if you just quit striking poses that make you look more awkward than a newborn giraffe, your story would probably play out just fine.  Assuming you’ve picked the correct story for the correct time.

Is this a now story?
A story that’s been traveling its way to your fingertips your entire life and is finally ready to be told right…

now?

Let’s find out.

When I was eleven years old my father took my brother and I to a water park.  Actually my entire family went, but my little brother and sister were off with my mom in some different part of the park, enjoying the more tame kiddie sections.  They were cute and little like that then.  Actually, they’re still cute and little like that to me, even though one is a foot taller than me and the other is a legal adult.  But I digress.

Towards the middle of the day my father, brother and I approached a water slide with some name along the lines of “The Wet Wicked Wedgify-er!”  It was yellow and had a steep decline that ended in a long runway, presumably because the momentum from the slide was so great it needed to give the rider extra space to slow down.  A belly churn shook the frame of my preteen body.  I looked over at my brother who was still wet from the last ride.  He looked up at the slide in glee and then looked down at me.  “Come on, let’s go,” he sneered, knowing I was probably afraid to board.  I glared at his tan back as he trotted up to the long line.  Instinctively, I reached up to touch my father’s forearm, in protest or for support, I didn’t know.  “Come on, Lady,” he said with no malice in his voice.  I let go of his arm and quite literally hitched up my britches, except they were swimming bottoms.  I was Amazon warrior of the Florida Scrub.  No banana looking thing was gonna scare me.  I power-walked ahead of my father to catch up with my brother.

Thankfully, the line moved pretty quickly which gave little time for my Amazonian courage to wear off.  When the long line finally snaked its way to the top I shivered at the top of the slide.  There was a cool breeze chilling our wet bodies, but also I was still a little scared.  My brother turned his ugly face around to grin at me before he pushed off and made his way down the steep slope.  The person monitoring the slide made us stand so far behind the line that I wasn’t able to watch him go down.  Of course, I’d been watching riders scream with glee as they fell the whole time we made our way up the steps anyway, but watching one more guinea pig plummet down would have been helpful.

Luckily it wasn’t a single rider so I would be able to ride with my father.  The teenager at the slide handed us the mat we would be riding down on.  Suddenly I was questioning the physics of it all.  That flimsy thing is supposed to protect us?  Was this slide really mechanically sound?  What if the weight of my heavy father combined with the stick thin weight of myself created an aerodynamic anomaly and flipped us right off the slide into the soggy pavement below?

I felt my father nudge me forward.  I almost glared at him as I thought, “Don’t rush me!” but I complied.  Jets of water tickled my ankles as I stood at the top of the slide, taking in one more deep breath.  We positioned ourselves on the mat, heavier person in back, lighter person in the front, which meant of course that I had no one to cling to.  I promised myself to keep my eyes open as we inched our way to the edge of the precipice.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” I whispered.  Maybe this was what people standing on the ledge of a building felt like.  Before I had time to explore that thought further, my father pushed off.

I felt like the character Wiley Coyote when he realizes he’s been so preoccupied with chasing Roadrunner that he’s sprinted over a cliff.  Maybe if I pump my legs fast enough I’ll get back on land, he thinks.   Maybe if I hold my breath tight enough I’ll float back to the top of the slide, I thought.

It was over so much faster than the time it had taken to begin.  The initial drop made me feel my stomach in my throat, but once we reached terminal velocity it was coasting all the way down.  The way our feet scooped the water in front of us and jettisoned it into the air made it look like we were a fountain.  The ride held true to its name.  My bathing suit had been pushed all the way up my butt like someone had given me the wickedest wedgie.  I practically felt it in my brain.

Aside from this poignant discomfort, my body was thrilled with the experience it had just been through.  Adrenaline pumped through my body and trilled with bells of excitement.

“Let’s do it again!” I shouted.  I jumped up from the foam mat and attempted to pull my father to a standing position.  Of course, I wasn’t strong enough.  “Come on, Daddy!”

I greeted my brother with a full-toothed smile as we approached where he stood in the waiting area.  My eyes must have disappeared into the creases of my smile lines, the way they do when I am especially happy.  To my surprise he was not wearing his usual sneer.  He grinned back at me and, could it be?…He almost seemed proud.

“That was awesome!” I shouted.

“Let’s do it again,” he replied.

We must have ridden it at least three more times after that.  Each time I had the same result.  A rush of excitement in my stomach and an unwelcome sensation between my cheeks.  When it came about maybe the fourth time, I decided to voice this information aloud.

“I have a humungous wedgie!” I chortled loud enough for everyone in the waiting area to hear.  I looked back at my father expecting him to be chuckling along with me.  Instead, he sported a peculiar look and avoided my eyes.  This confused me.

“It’s like all the way up my butt hole!” I exclaimed, turning to my brother for confirmation that this was hilarious.  He avoided my eyes too.

“Lady, shh.  That’s not something you say out loud,” my father informed me.

I rolled that around in my head for a few seconds.  I guessed it sort of made sense, but I didn’t see what the big deal was, considering the slide had the word wedgie in the title.  A funny thing happened then.  I noticed all the people close enough to have heard my exclamation.  They were giving us furtive glances.  Some were looking at me with eyebrows raised and some of them were giggling, but not in a friendly way.

“What?” I thought to myself.  “What are they looking at?”

I was a bit perplexed.

Were people really that touchy about such a naturally silly phenomenon?  I became self conscious.  Even my father seemed embarrassed.  He seemed to keep a measured distance from me for a while.  My cheeks flushed with heat.  In my head, it was just me and my family in our own little world.  I hadn’t given much thought to what other people around me might think.  It didn’t seem especially pertinent.  It was strange to see that reaction from family.  I said stuff like that around them all the time, but suddenly now that we were in public it was a big deal.  I felt a little betrayed.

My brother kept shaking his head like he thought I was an idiot.  I wanted to sock him in the mouth for looking so condescending.  Instead I opted for a pointed question, having measured the fact that my fists had proven ineffectual on him before.  Plus, I needed intel on this frustrating situation.

“What?” I glared at him, hopping in front of him so he had to stop in his tracks.  “What’s the big deal?”

He maneuvered around me and mumbled something along the lines of “Seriously?”

I watched him and my father walk on ahead of me without having answered my question.  I think what struck me the most was that my father actually seemed ashamed of me.  I watched him as he looked surreptitiously around to see if anyone was still staring in our direction.  I understood that what I had said had been a little uncouth, but I didn’t think it would have such a negative affect on the way my family felt about me.  I think that was one of the first times I realized how differently I viewed the world from others.  People seemed to get touchy and embarrassed about things I deemed inconsequential.  And when I felt like it was a time they really should be embarrassed, like if they hadn’t tried their best at something or bothered to think about the obvious consequence of an action, they seemed to get around it with social maneuvering.  This really annoyed me.  Actually, it still does.

My brother and father didn’t ignore me the rest of the time we were at the park or anything dramatically harsh.  But I had taken a step back inside myself, and was hyperaware of my interactions with people the rest of the day.  Even if what they considered important I didn’t consider consequential myself, I still acutely felt the affects of their opinion.  Opinions didn’t matter to me until it started to affect the opinions of people close to me, people I valued.  Even if I still thought what they were thinking was stupid.  I think I began to view the world a bit differently that day.

~LDA

The Great Time War

I want to defeat time.

Even though I know I can’t help but improve myself in a linear fashion, I get really frustrated sometimes by the rearview mirror.

Hind sight is 20/20 they say. Which isn’t entirely true. Sometimes even having gained information and insight about a particular situation you would still choose the same course of action. Not because you don’t see how the outcome will be bad, but because you lack the strength to be a better person and choose the more difficult choice. It’s hard to face yourself and knowingly choose discomfort.

Sometimes though, hindsight would change things. For example, as I mentioned before, I’m a teacher. There are moments where I realize there is something, be it a strategy or a new skill, that I could have taught my students to exponentially increase their chances of success. Looking back and realizing I could have done better by them really tends to lay on the guilt. On the one hand, what can I do? I can’t change the fact that I’m a person who is learning along with them. But on the other hand, the nature of the job of teaching is a really sticky one, because you quite literally affect the futures of many people. My ineptitude in teaching a certain academic or life skill could lead to someone dropping out of school somewhere down the line and having a crappy life thereafter. (Not that all dropouts become unsuccessful. A few end up doing well.)

So I’m often bombarded by this rivalry with time. Can I beat myself and be better faster so that I can wreak the least havoc possible on this Earth? Can I make as few mistakes as possible by making calculations and budgeting time for specific personal and professional growth goals?

The thing is, I know the answer is no, but I’ve always been a very stubborn person. I’m still going to try my best to at least lose as little as possible.

On my good days I go through life shouting “Zettai ni makenai! (I definitely won’t lose!).” But on my bad days the reality of losing catches up to me and I want to throw in the towel. Shameful, I know. I guess I have to learn to be a little more satisfied with turning hindsight into foresight, rather than grumbling about the battles I’ve lost.

In the end, I’m destined to lose the war. But I want to go out with a kick butt war cry, not a defeated whimper. I guess I better get my ish together then, huh?

~LDA

Language Exchange

I’ve been pretty sappy lately.  Let’s talk about an experience that was mildly funny and educational.  I recently did a language exchange over the phone with a Japanese girl.  It was a very interesting experience.  It’s strange to think that these days we can so easily communicate with someone across the planet.

Entire countries and cultures are at our fingertips at the literal click of a button.  We are able to learn so many things about the world that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do unless we traveled a couple thousand miles.  I think we often forget how cool that is and forget to make use of it.  There is so much to be learned from each other in all areas, from philosophy to language to neuroscience.  There are so many possibilities for advancement that the human race has just by simply exchanging information with people who are different from them.  We don’t have to wait for some letter or manuscript to travel over deserts, across oceans, or through jungles to talk to each other from long distance anymore.  We can open up a dialogue with someone from across the world with just a few swipes of a mouse across a computer screen.  I for one would like to take advantage of that massive power.

The other day I wanted to explore the world through the lens of a different language and learn some things about culture along the way.

As you guys know, I’m in the process of learning Japanese.  There are virtually no Japanese speakers in my area, (trust me I’ve looked, the Asian people in Japanese restaurants are deceiving), and this would be a great obstacle to my ability to practice speaking Japanese.  But luckily there’s this amazing thing called the interwebs that has been allowing me to practice my Japanese with native Japanese speakers.  I’d been practicing writing to Japanese speakers for over a year, but I wanted to take it to the next level by actually speaking the language with my mouth instead of my fingertips.  There’s such a big difference in those specific levels of fluency and I didn’t wanted to let the gap widen any more than it already had.

There’s this uber useful app called HelloTalk that is basically the language exchange equivalent of Facebook.  It used to be that you could just message people with text, but they revamped their platform and it now has been set up in a way where you have a wall that you can pose questions to the world at large on, post about what you did that day in the language you’re learning, share pictures and videos about your culture to help people who are trying to learn about your language & culture, and send out video chats or phone calls.  It’s amazingly versatile and well formatted (unlike that last mess of a sentence).  You search for people with similar language proficiency levels as you so that you can both benefit exchanging languages with each other.  It is the bomb dot com and I’m so glad someone recommended it to me because I would otherwise have been stuck in a rut in my language studies a long time ago.  By the way this is so not a sponsored article.  I really just love this app that much.  There’s only so much textbooking and self-study you can do.

Anyway, I bet you guys are like, hurry up and get to the part where you spoke to a Japanese girl.

Okay, okay.  Sheesh.

So someone had posted on their wall that they were looking for someone to practice speaking English with on the regular basis because her formal English classes were over for the summer and she didn’t want to lose what she learned.  Because HelloTalk is amazing and allows you to make free international calls once you become a member for a very small fee of $9.49/year, I was like “Yeah, I’m down.  Hit me up if you want to talk!”

(Actually, I didn’t really speak like that.  I generally avoid using slang unless specifically asked for it, because it confuses non-native English speakers.  But you get the drift.)

Here’s the thing with language exchange, at least with what I’ve experience thus far on the Japanese side of the equation.  Finding someone to chat with long-term is hard to find.  A lot of time people will start excitedly talking to you using what little basic English they know, then fall off the map a few days later because they’ve run out of things to say.  This is very frustrating.  HelloTalk mitigates this problem by allowing you to read every person’s self-proclaimed language ability level and letting you see how many language corrections, transliterations, posts, etc. that they’ve made on HelloTalk.  In other words, it doesn’t tell you how long someone has been on the site, buuuut by virtue of letting you view their activity you can get a good sense of who’s really serious about doing language exchange and who’s just dallying about, perhaps trying to get an international girlfriend with the horrible pickup lines they learned from the internet.

“A Toyota is what I feel like.  You know why?  Because I could not stop from speeding over to you.”

Anyway, the point of me saying all this is that I was super glad that there is a function on the app that lets you make a language proposal to the world at large instead of forcing you to weed people out one by one.  A lot of the people on the app are too shy to speak or videochat, so it’s nice to be able to get in touch with the people who aren’t.

We set up a date and time to talk and got in contact with each other.  It was such a fun and informational experience.  There were a bunch of things we taught each other about our respective languages that it might have taken ages to get to had we just been messaging each other.

For example, I used the term “oyaji” for parents because it’s the only term I could remember and she told me to be careful using that word, because it was a term usually only boys use.  Apparently I sounded like a teenage Japanese boy.

I was also using the phrase “ii desu” to communicate “That’s fine.  It’s okay.”  But that can come off as annoying, especially after a couple times so she advised me to use the phrase, “Daijoubu.”  Which literally means “It’s okay,” whereas “ii desu” literally means “It’s good.”  It’s not even that I didn’t know the word daijoubu, I just didn’t think about the possibly condescending connotation ii desu might carry.  I‘m so glad she let me know a better way of getting my point across. It probably would have taken me a long time to realize that and caused many an awkward situation talking to other people.

Now don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t a perfectly magical experience where we connected as friends and understood everything each other was saying.  Sometimes a full minute would pass between questions just because I was trying to translate my English sentences into Japanese.  (Tip: Don’t try to translate your native language into the language you’re learning.  I know it’s tempting but in the end, chances are the grammar of the language you’re learning is very different, so you’re probably actually getting in your own way.)

One of the things I re-realized while engaging in this experience is how much I still have to learn.  Nothing like a living, breathing person on the other line, waiting for you to remember how to say something as simple as “I went on a cruise to the Bahamas this summer,” to make you realize your language ability is still laughably low.  But I think the most important thing I learned from this experience is being okay with that fact.  So I’m not perfect at this language yet, so what?  I probably never will be.  The process of language learning is an ongoing one.  I will always be learning new vocabulary and new ways to express things in Japanese.  Heck, I’m still doing that in English!  That’s what language is, a living organism that changes with the people who use it.  There will always be a better way I could have communicated something to another person.  That doesn’t really matter.  What matters is whether or not I successfully got my point across to the other person.  That is the point of language after all.  To communicate.  You might as well have fun while making mistakes because you’re going to make them no matter what.  That’s not a bad thing, it’s a learning thing.  I’ve learned to take myself  a lot less seriously.

That being said, there are some tips I would recommend doing to make your potential language exchange experience a more productive one.  The first thing is I realized I should have had a notebook handy.   I learned so much in just a 50 minute conversation and yet the majority of it vanished from memory the moment we hung up just because I hadn’t written it down.  Even though I repeated the new terms I learned a couple times!  Note-take, note-take, note-take!  It might seem lame because you are literally writing down simple things a person is saying to you, but you have to remember to make it a useful study experience.  As you become more fluent, you’ll take less notes and you’ll feel less lame.  You’ll get to the point where you only learned a thing or two new because you’re fluent enough to get wrapped up in the fun of the conversation and that’ll be great.  But what would really be more lame is if you ended up like me, forgetting about 80% of what you learned.  

The second thing I would recommend you doing during language exchange, (which will also seem lame), is to have a list of interesting topics that you’re able to talk about ready.  For the most part my experience went alright, but our conversation floundered a little.  If you’re a person who is not such a great conversationalist such as myself, don’t be ashamed to keep a list of interesting questions/topics handy just to keep the flow of conversation going.  You definitely want your language partner to be interested enough to actually do language exchange with you again!

Long-term language exchange partners have such great value because you don’t have to go through the basic introductory small talk again, (which you memorized since the first couple of weeks of learning the language but actually prove nothing of your language skill).  Another great thing about a long term language exchange partner is that they already know what you do and do not understand in their language, so your exchange can be a lot more useful as you cut to the good stuff.

I definitely recommend doing online language exchange to anyone learning a new language.  It’s kind of necessary if you really want to become fluent.  And I also would highly recommend you doing it through HelloTalk.  This app rocks.

I’ll probably be telling you more about my language exchange adventures in the future, so until then.

 

~LDA

 

Slipping Betweens Extremes

These days I slip between extremes. I go from swiping at the dark thoughts that buzz around my cranium like hungry mosquitoes, to letting them perch on finger to have a drink. I am at once dismayed at the absence of relationships and happy that there is something to be missing in the first place.  To be honest I’ve been pretty skeptical of the integrity of my future relationships since the time I was young, so I’m surprised there is something to long for.  When memories hit I usually can’t tell if I want to cry or laugh.

These usually sound the same these days so it’s becoming hard to tell the difference. And I find that I’m so tired that I don’t much care that I can’t distinguish. All I know is that something from the soul is working its way out of my body and chosen to take the form of creepy weep/giggles. I can’t do much to prevent it from crawling its way out and honestly don’t mind. I’ve learned that stifling monsters just prolongs the process of metamorphosis, and then you have even greater demons you’re confronting instead of beautiful butterflies. Not fun. So out it comes.

I know I’m being dramatic, but happiness and pain often feel the same nowadays, since the one always seems to closely follow the other.  I’m not depressed, but my emotions are fuzzy.

Like sometimes all I can remember is the time you sat watching me eat ice cream because you didn’t feel like eating sweets and I was too much of a prick to actually ask whether you wanted to go for ice cream even though we hadn’t seen each other in months.  My thoughts are like that last sentence: dense, complicated and drawn out.

And every time my left knee aches I remember the time I smacked it against the computer desk as you smirk-glared at me from the hallway. You were probably satisfied I was in pain because I’d forgotten to print my concert ticket and we were already late.  We were almost all the way out of my development before you thought to ask, and you probably only thought to ask because you knew as annoyingly clever as I can be, forgetting to bring the concert ticket to the show we’d been eagerly awaiting for months is totally something I would do.  What can I say?  It was my first concert. I was still green and I’m glad I spent that time with you. Even though the fond memory is torturing me right now.

Oh no. Here they come. The if only’s.

If only I hadn’t screwed up so badly by simply being the person I was.  I wonder what our souls will look like in ten years and how far apart.

“What a waste to be so alone. 🎶”

~LDA

Little Surprises

Sometimes, I leave money in random places just so I can be happy when I unexpectedly find it.

It’s like little surprise gifts from myself.

I’ll be finally cleaning a portion of my dresser or opening a cabinet for a cup of water and there it is just lying there, five or ten bucks.  It’s silly but it’s the nicest feeling.

If you haven’t ever tried this, you should.  It can cheer you up on a day when no one else will.  Or better yet, leave a little compliment for yourself folded into a pocket or book you plan to read.  Sometimes a little encouragement from yourself is all you need.  

 

~LDA

My Quiet Life of Desperation

Sometimes I question whether I’m missing some piece of mental machinery every human is supposed to have.  Some essential brain cog of empathy or social deftness that would enable me to understand other people’s actions, or more importantly, my own.

 

It’s like this.  I’m confronted with a situation any ordinary person would see as easy to deal with and my mind runs a million miles a minute trying to put the pieces of this great social puzzle together in order to come up with the appropriate response.  My heart’s tearing me one way, telling me to run, run as fast I can, and my mind’s gently coaxing me in the opposite direction saying I should stay and fight the panic.

 

“We can do this,” my brain whispers.  “It’s just a couple variables plugged into some great social algorithm we have yet to discover.  Just crack the code, crack the code…”

 

I want to choose to fight, but more often than not it’s flight that I choose after a couple of feeble jabs.

 

It’s not that I’m some big social pariah or even that one could tell I’m having a hard time dealing with the occasional social situation, but it’s clear as day to me of course.  I’ll feel like I’m in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where the driver’s ed. teacher, Mrs. Puff, tries to teach Spongebob to drive through a simple obstacle course.  There’s always someone in my brain screaming “Floor it! FLOOR it!”  

 

It’s frustrating.

 

Luckily my socio-emotional car wrecks don’t end in any physical casualties that heal by the very next t.v. episode.  But I still have to deal with emotional wreckage.

 

No.

I’m being dramatic. 

 

Wreckage is too strong a word for it.  It’s not as if I slap people and insult their mothers every time I feel socially gangly and awkward. 

 

I might just give a one word response to an essay-like question or offer a cold one-handed wave rather than a warm two-armed hug.  Just little things.  But these little things can make a big difference when it comes to relationships, and I feel at a loss when I have to deal with the after-effects with no sane explanation for my actions.

 

I mean, what do I say?

 

“Sorry, I was having a mini-emotional breakdown, but I’m better now.  We still good?”

 

Maybe I’m still just being dramatic and even the average ‘Normal Guy’ has these breaks in reason, but I wouldn’t know.  I’ve never considered myself “normal.” 

 

~LDA

So Apparently I’m a Naked Mole Rat

I stand here,

toothbrush dangling from fingertips,

staring at myself in the mirror.

I stand here for five minutes straight, with my face wet from rinsing, trying to convince myself that I think I’m beautiful. Just the way I am. Right now. In this moment. Water soaked mustache and all.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did that throw you off? I’m a girl, so I’m not supposed to have a mustache, right?

Wrong.

I do. And so do most women though we might try to hide it. Don’t get me wrong. My stache isn’t long enough to cuaf into curly points or anything, but it’s there. A little dark layer of peach fuzz who especially likes to come out to play when my face is wet. It’s not too noticeable otherwise  (unless you’re mere inches from my face), but when it is, it IS, if ya’ know what I mean. It kinda slaps you in the face and demands to be looked at. Almost as if someone’s pressed zoom on a camera and the focus just happened to land smack dab in the middle of my upper lip.

Quite frankly, it’s distracting. Or at least I think so. I imagine someone leaning in to kiss me and then recoiling in sudden disgust. AWKWARD.

“Naw, naw. You’re fine,” I tell myself. “This is your natural face. It’s just the media that’s got you convinced you need to change. If a guy can’t handle you and all your ‘ugly’ he can’t handle you anyway.”

But then I stand there making kissy faces for another five minutes, trying to get the positive concept of myself that’s in my heart become true in my brain. I still haven’t succeeded. Somewhere along the line, us women got convinced that any and all hair is the bane of our existence and now we’re plagued with the constant removal of it.

Remove some hair here, cut a patch there, rip off all those babies over there. Never mind the unnecessary pain it causes you!

It’s pretty ridiculous.

I made the societal compromise of removing my leg and armpit hair a long time ago because even as a little girl who was just developing into a woman, I was told which changes in my body were acceptable and which were not. At the ripe old age of thirteen I mowed down those leg hairs with zeal for the sheer convenience of not being pointed and laughed at. Even though I couldn’t for the life of me see the need, I swallowed the idea that my body was unacceptable as it was like Nair flavored Tic Tacs.

“So I look ugly and gross like this,” I thought. “That’s okay. I can change it at least.” So I did. And I continue to every couple days.

But up to this point, I’ve been able to stand by one little shred of self respect for my natural body by leaving my shadow of a mustache alone. A declaration of “this is where I draw the line.”

So why is it that just because I’m faced with the prospect of another human being coming close to my face, the self esteem brownie points just shiver off of me with ease? Is my resolve really that shallow? I mean, sheesh! Isn’t my body mine? Why should I have to cower in fear as someone judges my body? Almost as if it’s some offering I have to beg to be accepted.

“Oh, please, master! Tell me you’re not repulsed by the piece of humanity that is my body hair!”

I mean, really?

I realize body hair, especially facial hair, is sort of seen as the mark of a developing male, but where and when in the medical textbooks did we erase the part where female hair production increases during puberty as well?

Female facial hair. It’s a thing, men.

Why do you insist on asking us to play this little charade where we pretend we’re naturally hairless, and “oh, I just woke up this way”?

We’re human. Grow up.

When the facade of what you think a woman should look like begins to affect us so badly that most of us women feel like we’re basically forced to spend countless hours (not to mention dollar bills) on hair removal, I think there’s a problem.

Why should I have to pretend I’m some kind of wig wearing naked mole rat with eyebrows that just happened to be on fleek?

I’m not a naked mole rat, guys. I’m a female human.

And guess what? I’m also beautiful just the way I am and I’m going to keep telling myself that until all the brainwashing fades away and it sinks in.

~LDA