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

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Radio Silence? Try Phone Silence

I never thought I’d become one of those people who get itchy when their phone doesn’t plonk with a message notification often enough. I’m largely a loner, both in person and online so I’ve never really cared whether I was talking to enough people, whether that meant I was part of a chat thread or keeping a texting conversation going.

But in the last year I think I’ve become way more aware of the silence of my phone than I would like.

Part of that is just because I’ve been really taking the time to analyze my relationships or lack thereof in the last year. Part of it is because I’ve increased my online presence and have gotten used to a certain amount of pings and dings coming from my phone. (That probably says something about my generation, but that’s another topic entirely.)

A sort of static has formed in my brain. A creeping, hovering sort of white noise that throws a pall over all my interactions. I haven’t exactly been the most mental/emotionally healthy these past several months. This constant hum, nagging in the background of all my thoughts, taunts me on the regular basis, and when phone silence ensues it sometimes can reach a fever pitch.

It’s not an actual audible sound.  

I’ll just notice “Huh, I haven’t gotten a reply on a thread or received a message from so and so in a while,” and the static rises from its subconscious slumber.

“Huh, there’s this sort of hollow feeling in my chest I can’t find the name for.”

I’ve been working out my relationships with people and trying to decide how much is too much interaction, and more importantly in my case, how little is not enough. For most of my life this hasn’t been much of a concern, but I guess I’ve reached quarter life crisis and am re-evaluating my path in life.  Hardly anybody ever talks about the dissonance that comes in your early to mid-twenties where you’re no longer a goofy college kid so you can’t act out in irresponsible ways, but you don’t quite feel like an adult either, so you feel like a fraud donning your shiny suit to work.

Like,

“Hahaha, everyone.  Not to worry.  I have my adult name-tag on, therefore I must know what I’m doing…mustn’t I?  I mean, that’s how it works, right?  Guys?…”

Everyone is obsessed with adolescence and how hard the poor teenagers have it because they suddenly want to nail everything that moves.  That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.  How about us poor saps, who maybe have our degrees, and if we’re lucky a job to match, but we’ve been stuck in our books or between someone’s bosoms so long we forgot to learn how to actually connect with people?   You know, like on an actual meaningful level.

Not just high-fiving about the killer time we had at the bar last night, or feigning pleasant small talk whilst casting lusty glances at each other’s resumes.

If you’re lucky you come out of college with a few lifelong friends and maybe even a significant other.  But even then, things happen, people move away.  And if you’re not lucky, well, good luck with that one buddy.  Now you have to go about the sticky business of creating a new inner circle of friends from scratch.  It’s like you’re neither here nor there.  You’re not really so connected to your family anymore because you’re supposed to be your own person by now.  But you don’t really have time and/or energy to go socialize after work so you get that pack animal quality time in either.

Externally, I’m quite successful. I’ve hit all the major milestones when it comes to education and career. But internally, it’s a bit of a wasteland. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I’m very spiritually grounded and I have a great relationship with my family so those are solid things. However, life in your twenties makes you come face to face with your interpersonal skills like nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m functional.  My work relationships are cordial, my volunteer connections friendly, but a depth of connection is lacking that suddenly feels very pressing.

Some people choose to worry about finding a significant other right away.  They immediately start to preen and paint their feathers to try and snag the first sucker that comes along.  The goal is to convince them to spend inordinate amounts of time with them, if not the rest of their lives.  Me, I’m just trying to figure out humans in general.  

It seems there are few people worth really connecting with, or at least that they’re really hard to find.  I’d like my intimate circle of friends to do some expanding, but people can be really shallow and there’s not a large pool to pick and choose from.  I have a feeling a lot of the worthwhile people are busy nursing their own static, so we keep missing each other.  

You have to be so intentional at this point in life if you want to forge new relationships, because if you don’t get lucky at work, you have to plan excursions where you’ll run into new people.  Most times I’d rather stay at home and read, firmly glued to a cup of hot cocoa.  I guess I’m being an idiot because I want to have my cake and eat it too (while sipping hot cocoa).

I need people in order to feel fulfilled in life, but I’d really rather do without them if I could help it.  They come along with so many disappointments and unnecessary detours.

So much effort is required, so much re-positioning, so much pain.

I’m told it’s worth it.

Nah, actually, I’m bluffing.  I know from experience it’s worth it too.  It’s just hard to work up the courage to get on the confounded phone.

But my phone won’t start pinging on it’s own, now will it?

~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

You Hate the People You Love, Just Admit It

People assume that hate is the opposite of love because they are both such extreme emotions, but that is so not the case.

Think of emotions as a spectrum of human experience. On one extreme there is love, conqueror of differences, healer of souls. In the middle there is hate, a twisted form of love. Love gone wrong and dark, if you will.

So then what is on the other extreme?

Well, let’s think about it. The reason why we assume love is on one end of the spectrum is because its affects are so explosive and passionate. “Surely this must be an extreme,”we posit, and correctly so, thus placing it on one end. But then we look at hate and think “Hm, similar affects. Volatile, fiery.” And while that is true, we misunderstand.

An extreme should not be measured by how extreme it is, but by how oppositional it is to its antithesis. If one extreme is the peak of feeling and compulsion, shouldn’t the other be opposite of that? Lack of feeling, disinterest, genuine indifference? This is the reason why in reality it is not hate which is on the other extreme of human experience, but apathy.

The worst thing someone whom you love can say to you is, “I don’t care.”

Not “I hate you.”

At least with hate there is a sense of involvement and clear emotional attachment, even if negatively so. With “I couldn’t care less,” there is an acute sense of loss, a severing of a deep connection. It’s a way of saying, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

The worst kind of feeling is no feeling, numbness. Whether you’re giving or receiving it.

That’s why depressed people feel they have to do something as drastic as committing suicide. At least then they will finally feel something, even if it is a final something.

Sometimes, people feel worried when they find themselves thinking negative things like, “I really hate you,” when confronted with problems in a relationship. They’ve been told that because they love this person they should never feel anything as extreme as hate towards them. Or maybe they’ve just convinced themselves that this is the case.

Well, take heart! That’s natural.

Sometimes, as human beings we fluctuate towards the middle of our handy dandy spectrum. Conflict has that sort of effect on us. By nature we are weak when we don’t get what we want. Our intense feelings have turned dark and dour. “Wah wah, things aren’t going so well.” But most times the meter floats back to the love zone.  If we’re lucky.

It is only when you start to feel nothing that you should get worried. That means you no longer have any investment in the other individual, or at the very best, you’re on your way to apathy. In which case, your relationship is in great danger. Turn back! Unless you’re involved with an abusive person who you shouldn’t be associating with anyhow. In that case, full speed ahead.

The next time you catch yourself thinking, “Gosh, I really hate you,” about your significant other, sigh and go, “What a relief!”

Because if we’re honest, we all hate those we love just a little bit. At least some of the times. It’s because they hold so much sway over us. That extreme emotion called love has the effect of causing us to relinquish some of our self control to another person. We find ourselves doing things that are not in the least in our favor, except for the fact that it makes the other person happy, which in turn makes us happy. This power over us, though given willingly, has the tendency to make us a little bitter. We humans are really touchy about our autonomy, so we sometimes forget who made the decision to hand some of it over in the first place, once we feel things are not going quite as planned.

We all hate those we love if we’re doing it right. This means we are still invested.

~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

Caller ID

I think back to the time when landlines were still a thing and you were considered fancy if you had caller ID.

I mean, when you think about it, it marked the end of an era when caller ID came around. It used to be you had to pick up the phone not knowing whether or not you wanted to talk to the person on the other end. Nowadays it’s practical to have caller ID, helpful even. But it’s so boring when you think about it.

Picking up the phone used to be an adventure!

Do I want to talk to this person calling? Is it the long awaited response to the job interview I had last week, or a call from my nana who’ll most likely be nagging me about whether or not I’ve gotten a job yet? If it is my nana will I be able to wiggle my way out of the conversation fast enough before I snap at her? Should I risk not picking up at all? It does sort of have a nana type ring to it…What am I thinking?! I can’t miss this job opportunity! That’s completely counterintuitive!

Surprise. It was nana.

I feel like a lot of our daily lives have become so efficient that they require so much less of us and I’m not entirely sure it’s always a good thing.

Think of the mental and social acrobatics we miss out on in not agonizing over the identity of a phone call. This requires such mental strength in decision making, such social acuity when engaging in the roulette-esque situation of it all.

Or is that just me? Being a person who doesn’t care for phone calls, has very little tact when getting away from social situations, and generally takes 10-15 minutes when making trivial decisions like what they’ll have for dinner.

Is caller ID maybe not that big of a deal?

Hm. Maybe just me.

~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 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

Not In Kansas Anymore

I find that these days I am often surprised that I have a reflection. It’s not that I have lost my sense of self. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Recently I did experience an awakening that made me aware of what a lack of self I had. It’s not that I didn’t have an identity. I did. We all do, it’s how we get around and drink things without people going, “Hey, why’s that coffee mug floating in the air?”

It’s just that the self that I identified with did not match up with my true self enough to ring true.

Haha. That sentence was a mess.

What I’m trying to say is, I had been wearing a mask for so long just to avoid being invisible that I was surprised to discover there was actually a face underneath the mask when I took it off. And even more surprised that I don’t completely hate it.

It was difficult, shedding a mask that I’d worn for so long that it was practically chemically bonded with my skin. It was really difficult. Especially since the mask bore such close resemblance to my real face that I often forgot I was wearing one. Now this is about to sound completely contradictory, but I’m not one to be fake. I’ve hated the idea of posers and fake people since I was young enough to understand how humans often default to interacting with each other. From a very young age I understood that I thought differently from other people in the sense that I saw very little need to put on a show for the sake of reputation. I was what I was and I gave you the option to take it or leave it and that was that. I’ve never wasted my time much with people who wanted me to act a certain way or were obviously preoccupied with having me believe they were a certain way. The idea of relating with such people has always been boring to me. It’s such a false interaction. Why bother with the energy? It’s much more interesting to deal with people who accept the way they are and challenge you to accept it too.

The problem with the identity I had before is that in my attempt to stay as raw as possible I lacked the flexibility to change in response to others. I wanted people to accept the way I was but was quite unwilling to let them affect me in return, which is unfair. I think the reason I became this way is because I had experienced so many exchanges with dishonest people that I had become jaded. I had been let down so many times by the possibility of authentic people that I decided I would force people to accept me the way I was before I was willing to accept them. And I think the really sick thing about my condition was that it’s not that I wasn’t willing to take. I was completely willing to take anything people had to offer me in the way of relationship. I just wasn’t willing to take and accept them as a person in return. It was a trust issue.

Even though I’m pretty perceptive when it comes to reading people, I’m pretty dumb when it comes to reading their actions in the context of emotional and social cues. I would be able to see if a person was showing their true self for the most part, but then be very unsure of what they wanted from me. A question I often ask myself is, “What does this person hope to gain from this interaction?” People’s motives are often so double-sided and shallow that I didn’t trust that it was worth nurturing a relationship with them. And if I don’t trust what they can give me, then why bother offering myself in return?

As I encouraged this way of thinking and being in myself, I developed this thin, almost translucent mask that said I accepted myself so entirely that I didn’t need other people. It’s strange because it was a mask more for myself than for showing to other people. I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and believe that I wasn’t this intensely lonely creature who longed for meaningful connection. I did a good job too, because I believed it. For a really long time.

I’ve recently gone through some serious bumps in the road that have led me to re-evaluate how I handled some of my most precious relationships (of which there are not many) in the past. I’ve gone through and am still going through this spiraling cycle of regret about how I could have loved better had I just not been afraid to be vulnerable and taken off my mask.

Even though the regret is still hitting me hard, I’ve pushed forward enough to realize that the thing to do is not to waste time reminiscing, but to strive to do better in the here and now. Even harder is to realize that I have to let go of those people I will not get a second chance with, because they have the right to say no.

So I’m all naked and gross now, like a snail who has lost it’s shell, but then realized it’s been a slug all along.

It’s nerve-wracking. I mean, really quite terrifying to try to approach the world with an open point of view after all this time hiding under a shell. And I’m honest enough with myself now to be able to admit that I’m terrified after being blasted into the sky by this tornado of a thing we call life.

It’s weird to walk past a mirror and be startled. Like, “Whoa, what was that? Oh, yeah, that’s just me. That’s how I actually look like.”

It’s even weirder to find I’m not invisible after taking off my mask. Not necessarily that I love everything I see. There’s still so much that I know needs changing. But I breathe a little sigh of relief when I realize, “Ah, I can work with that. Those frown lines can turn into laugh lines with some effort.”

It’s surprising to find I’m actually glad I’m not in Kansas anymore.

~LDA

Unrequited Love

When you’re in a relationship with someone, (be it romantic or platonic), the most comfortable arrangement is to feel like they like you just as much as you like them.  I used to think that most times that’s how it pans out if you’re careful, but I know now that oftentimes feelings in a relationship are uneven regardless. Most times the way the scale is balanced is unclear until key events slap you in the face and make this clearly known.  Like maybe he decided that flirting with the waitress while you sit alone at the bar is an acceptable way to start a date, or you realize on a night out that this girl’s laugh is a little too obnoxious for you and if she mentions the word literally one more time you’re going to literally connect your knuckles to her face.

Well, every now and then you get into a relationship where it is blatantly obvious that this is the case from the beginning, and you’re on the disinterest receiving end.

You want with all your heart for them to be as interested in you as you are in them, but you can tell that the attraction is lopsided, if not one-sided.

You’re sitting there having this intense amount of intrigue in the person, but you can tell that they are only mildly curious about you at best.  You can’t quite figure out what about you is serving as a complete turnoff to the awesomeness that is you and this bothers you.  Eventually, you’re left there ruminating so long about how you can change their level of interest in you that you start thinking things that should never even enter your mind.  You actually begin thinking about what ways you can change yourself to fit the desires of the other person, (which is crazy because you’re you and that’s amazing and no one in the world should make you feel otherwise).

The brainstorming starts turning into crazy talk:  “Why don’t they like me?  Is it my style?  My hairdo?  My love of all things yellow?  Ohmigerd, no.  They figured out my left leg is half a centimeter shorter than my right one didn’t they?  I knew someone would figure it out one day!  What am I supposed to do now?  That’s not exactly fixable.  Well…maybe if I nick a piece of my heel off here…” Then you realize how ridiculous you sound so you start to reassure yourself that you’re lovable the way you are, but then you start to remember things that went wrong in past relationships, and you begin thinking maybe your ex’s dislike of your Disney plushie collection and penchant for singing along with television jingles isn’t all that unreasonable.

That’s when the worst question sets in.

I’m lovable aren’t I?…Pssh, of course I am…

Wait…AREN’T I?!

Now, it’s not always so severe of a case.  You may not question your worth to such an extreme degree, but the self esteem questions come tumbling in nonetheless, if not crashing in.  It really sucks.  My advice to you when you’re faced with the possibility of these obviously lopsided relationships:

Run the other way.

No matter how fantastic the other person really may be, they’re not worth losing your mind over.

And if you’re on the other side of the equation where you’re seeing that some person is latching onto you that you really don’t care to engage with, let them down easily but clearly to spare them some grief.  Or better yet, take the time to genuinely look them in the eye before you do.  It just might turn out they could become one of the people you love most in the world if you just stop holding yourself back and be honest with yourself.   

~LDA